Audiences today know Batman, the ‘60s-era television series, for its campy style and all-American innocence — preaching about eating your veggies and drinking your milk. But during its time, Batman was a major pop culture phenomenon where celebrities from the big and small screens clamored to make an appearance. Today marks the birthday of Batman himself, star Adam West, who had a talent for tongue-in-cheek comedy. Here are the stars who joined West on the series — Hollywood giants you probably didn’t realize played a part in making the television show an extraordinary success.
Vincent Price as Egghead
Master of the macabre Vincent Price channeled his ghoulish screen image to play a villain who was obsessed with eggs. In real life, Price was a gourmet cook, cooking TV show host, and published cookbook author, so it wasn’t too big of a stretch.
Ida Lupino as Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft
Pioneering filmmaker Ida Lupino disguised herself as an alchemist, occultist, and supercriminal on the TV series.
Eli Wallach as Mr. Freeze
Known for his role as Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Sergio Leone’s iconic spaghetti western, and his debut performance in Baby Doll, directed by Elia Kazan and written by Tennessee Williams, Eli Wallach appeared on Batman only because his children pushed him to go for the part. Mr. Freeze was played by two other actors during the show’s run — George Sanders and Otto Preminger, both stars who appeared in Hitchcock films.
Liberace as Chandell
Zsa Zsa Gabor as Minerva
Batman writers played to the Hungarian-born star’s exoticism and man-eating persona (she’s currently on husband number nine) by casting her as a jewel thief who uses her spa business to fleece her clients.
Joan Collins as The Siren
The English actress, best known for her villainous role on the TV series Dynasty, played a character who seduced men with her singing.
Carolyn Jones as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds
TV’s Morticia Addams played a villainess who tried to steal the Bat-Diamond (what powers the Batmobile) by seducing all in her path.
Milton Berle as Louie the Lilac
The Joker isn’t the only Batman enemy to wear purple. Louie the Lilac always had a fine jewel-toned suit on. He dealt in the illegal perfume trade and kept a mutant breed of lilacs to gain the upper hand — like his lapel flower that hypnotized people or his lilacs that favored human flesh. He also tried to use Gotham’s flower children against Batman (this was the ’60s).
Bruce Lee as Kato
The Green Hornet (Van Williams) and his sidekick Kato, played by Bruce Lee, teamed up with the Dynamic Duo in a crossover episode. This was the late 1960s, before Lee’s international fame kicked off with films like 1973’s Enter the Dragon. Lee also appeared in one of Batman’s famous “window cameos,” where special guests popped out of windows while Batman and Robin scaled buildings. See more photos from Lee’s time on the series over here.
Tallulah Bankhead as Black Widow
Tallulah Bankhead wanted to amuse her grandchildren, so the Old Hollywood libertine turned Black Widow bank robber had a spot on the series. It would turn out to be her final screen performance.
Roddy McDowall as Bookworm
Planet of the Apes star, passionate film preservationist, and everyone’s celebrity BFF Roddy McDowall played a bookish villain who modeled his crimes after famous literary plots. In real life, McDowall was a huge bibliophile and collected texts about Hollywood and Broadway history (over 1,000 in his collection).
Art Carney as Archer
Honeymooner and Academy Award-winning actor Art Carney dressed like Robin Hood for his role as the Archer — who also robbed from the rich to give to the poor.
Ethel Merman as Lola Lasagne
The “First Lady of the musical comedy stage,” Ethel Merman (Gypsy, Annie Get Your Gun, Anything Goes) teamed up with the Penguin on the series, using her deceased husband’s racing horses in a scam. Lola Lasagne was never seen without her parasol — a reference to Merman’s role in It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
Shelley Winters as Ma Parker
Star of The Diary of Anne Frank, A Place in the Sun, The Poseidon Adventure, and countless other films, Shelley Winters played a country bumpkin-type baddie who uses her children as her most lethal weapon. Sporting names like Pretty Boy, Machine Gun, Mad Dog, and Legs, Ma Parker had a skewed maternal instinct.
Olga, Queen of Cossacks
Anne Baxter, star of The Razor’s Edge and All About Eve, was one of the few actresses to play two different villains during the series run — Zelda the Great and Olga, who had a thing for Vincent Price’s Egghead and was happy to let him do all the dirty work while she collected the rewards.