May 24, 2005 by

Frank Gorshin


Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Military

fgorshin.jpgFrank Gorshin, a veteran actor and impressionist who was best known for playing the Riddler on the 1960s TV series “Batman,” died on May 17 of cancer. He was 72.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Gorshin was the son of Yugoslavian immigrants. One of three children, he worked as an usher at a local theatre in his teens and won his first talent contest singing Al Jolson songs. The prize: Opening for Alan King at Jackie Heller’s Carousel nightclub. Two days before he was meant to go on, Gorshin’s brother died in a car accident. His parents insisted he honor his performance commitment, however, and in between shows Gorshin spent time with his family at the funeral parlor. The gig gave him his start in show business.
Gorshin attended the Carnegie Tech School of Drama and performed in area nightclubs. After serving in the U.S. Army as an entertainer during the Korean War, he moved to Hollywood and found steady work as a comedian and bit player in films. Gorshin’s big break came in 1956 when he landed a job impersonating stars like James Cagney, Jackie Gleason, Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Karloff and Burt Lancaster on “The Steve Allen Show.” In 1964, he performed on the same “Ed Sullivan Show” that featured the American television debut of The Beatles.
Over the next three decades, Gorshin appeared in more than 80 films, including “That Darn Cat!” “The Great Imposter” and “12 Monkeys.” He acted in two soap operas (“The Edge of Night,” “General Hospital”), and did voice work for cartoons (Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck) and video games (“Diablo II”).
Although he was known as “the man with 100 faces,” Gorshin found enduring fame playing the Riddler on the hit TV show, “Batman.” Wearing an emerald green skin-tight costume covered in question marks, he turned the character into a favorite arch nemesis for Gotham City’s Caped Crusader. In his spare time, Gorshin headlined shows at the MGM Grand, The Sahara and The Aladdin in Las Vegas.
He made his Broadway debut in 1969 as the star of the musical “Jimmy.” Then in 2002, Gorshin portrayed George Burns in the acclaimed, one-man production of “Say Goodnight Gracie.” He used no prosthetics, and only a small amount of make-up, to play the late comedian.
Gorshin received two Emmy nominations during his career for playing Adam West’s foil on “Batman,” and Commissioner Bele on the original “Star Trek” series. Ironically, one of his final performances was playing himself in a guest appearance on the CBS drama, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
Listen to a Sound Clip From “Batman”

10 Responses to Frank Gorshin

  1. David Steiner

    He played an angry young man in 1961 in “Ring of Fire,” a so-so movie I happened to be interested in at the time because it was filmed near Portland, OR where I lived, and two people I knew were in the movie. Gorshin wasn’t one of them, but whenever I see the movie now I’m reminded that he had much more range than as an impressionist and The Riddler. And “Invasion of the Saucer Men” (1957)is priceless.

  2. Jack Margo

    No one looked as good in a body suit laden with question marks than Mr. Gorshin. Jim Carey, eat your heart out…you paled in comparison.

  3. John Renczkowski

    I watched Mr. Gorshin on Ed Sullivan, his movies, Batman and his final performance on CSI. He was always entertaining even when he was dying from cancer. Always the professinal entertainer. And from what I understand, always the gentleman. He was loved by many and will be missed by all. Rest in peace, Frank…

  4. maryann simmons

    Dear Frank: Very glad I got to meet you twice in my life. The last time was last year when you were the best George Burns ever and my husband and I chatted with you after the show. You were the greatest and will be missed! Rest in peace – see you soon. Maryann

  5. John Hutchings

    I never met Frank, but loved his Riddler character. Over Astin and Carrey, Gorshin gets my vote for best. RIP, Frank I’ll miss you.

  6. Elaine M.

    I have a small tribute site to Frank Gorshin – listed in the URL section above. I was a fan from the 60’s when I first saw him on BATMAN, I loved (and still love) The Riddler. I also had the pleasure of seeing Frank several times in plays and on-stage doing stand-up routines in Las Vegas, NV and at CHILLER THEATER EXPO in NJ. Frank – YOU WERE THE BEST! I love you! Elaine

  7. Barry H

    I was much saddened to learn of the death of Frank Gorshin who in my opinion was the greatest impressionist that I have ever seen. His too infrequent appearances on British TV when he did his ‘Kirk’ and ‘Burt’ and ‘Wayne’ et al, will remain with me for the rest of my life. My one regret is that I have no video or film footage of these shows to show the present generation how a truly great performer did it. If anyone can help please post here. Meantime, Frank, may you rest in peace with my thanks for your contribution to my life.

  8. David Rubin

    In reviewing the stars who passed in 2005, I came across the name of Frank Gorshin.
    Mr. Gorshin was one of the best character actors who ever graced a stage or television. I became acquainted with him as the Riddler in the old Batman t.v. series and fell in love with his work then. He will always be THE Riddler for me.
    It was always a great lift to see Mr. Gorshin on anything that I happened to catch him in and his death saddens me greatly. Another piece of a fond childhood memory is gone and I shall miss him greatly.
    Rest in Peace Frank. You will be sorely missed.

  9. jamie teadgold

    i was absolutely gutted that he had passed away, when i saw him on the awards the one thing i will remember him in is Iggy from “That Darn Cat” and the Riddler from “Batman” his sprit will live on in the work he did, but sadly samewere up in heaven Frank is looking down and you’ll probably hear him from time to time, he’s saying “You’ve got me Batman” and he’s probably singing his famous song “Oh its a lonely time, its a lonely time” from “That Darn Cat”, Frank where ever you are I will always remember you as the Riddler from Batman and Iggy from “That Darn Cat”. Frank, you will always be sadly missed.

  10. David Baron

    Dear Frank, I first noticed you in “Where the Boys are”. You were hilarious in the swimming pool scene. I feel honored to have met you in Las Vegas (“Guys & Dolls”). You definitely were a class act. You’ll be missed by all that knew you. As an impressionist you have no equal. God Bless You.

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