Frank John Gorshin Jr. (April 5, 1933 – May 17, 2005) was an American character actor, impressionist, and comedian. He was perhaps best known as an impressionist, with many guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and Tonight Starring Steve Allen. His most famous acting role was as the Riddler on the live-action television series Batman, a performance for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award and catapulted the character to become a major villain for the superhero.
Frank John Gorshin Jr.
April 5, 1933
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||May 17, 2005 (aged 72)|
Burbank, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Calvary Catholic Cemetery|
|Education||Carnegie Mellon University|
Gorshin was born on April 5, 1933, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Catholic parents Frances, a seamstress, and Frank Gorshin Sr., a railroad worker. He was of Slovenian ancestry. His father, Frank Sr., was a second-generation Slovenian-American whose parents emigrated to America from Slovenia. His mother, Frances or Fanny, née Prešeren, came to the United States as a young girl from Regrča Vas, near Novo Mesto, the main city of Lower Carniola, in Slovenia. Both of his parents were active in Pittsburgh's Slovenian community. They sang in the Slovenian Singing Society Prešeren, named after the great Slovenian poet France Prešeren.
In an interview, Frances said that her son, being the product of a Slovenian home, spoke mostly Slovene before going to school. At the age of 15, he took a part-time job as a cinema usher at the Sheridan Square Theatre. He memorized the mannerisms of the screen stars he saw and created an impressionist act. He was still in high school when he obtained his first paid employment, which he secured as the prize in a Pittsburgh talent contest in 1951: a one-week engagement at Jackie Heller's New York nightclub, Carousel. His parents insisted that he take the engagement, even though his 15-year-old brother had been hit by a car and killed just two nights before.
After graduation from Peabody High School, Gorshin attended the Carnegie Tech School of Drama (now known as Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh. When not studying, he worked in local plays and nightclubs.
In 1953, Gorshin was drafted into the United States Army and posted to Germany. He served for a year and a half as an entertainer attached to Special Services. While in the Army, Gorshin met Maurice Bergman, who later introduced him to Hollywood agent Paul Kohner. Gorshin's Army service record was later destroyed in the U.S. National Personnel Records Center fire of 1973.
When Gorshin left the Army, he returned to public performance, and in 1956, he became a prolific film actor. He also appeared on various television series, including the role of Hank Butts, with Michael Landon cast as Jim Mason, in the 1958 episode "Shadow of Belle Starr" of the syndicated Western series Frontier Doctor, starring Rex Allen. In 1959, he was cast in three episodes as Seaman Pulaski on Jackie Cooper's CBS military sitcom/drama Hennesey. Thereafter, Gorshin played roles in ABC's crime drama The Untouchables. In 1961, Gorshin gave a tour de force performance as an impressionist who kills his fiancée under the influence of one of his celebrity characters in The Defenders. He guest-starred twelve times on CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show, the first having been on June 17, 1962. On February 9, 1964, the same night that The Beatles and Davy Jones debuted, he also appeared. In 1963, Gorshin had a guest-starring role in the long-running ABC military series Combat! as Pvt. Wharton who took false credit for the heroism of his dead friend, but redeemed himself later, saving Sgt. Saunders, as well as in 1965 in which he played Pvt. Gavin, a tank operator who had washed out of U.S. Army Armor tank operations training.
Gorshin was a popular act at nightclubs, notably those of Las Vegas, where he was the first impressionist to headline the main showrooms. He was also the first impressionist headliner at the Empire Room of New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Among his most popular impressions were of Burt Lancaster (exaggerating Lancaster's hand gestures) and Kirk Douglas (exaggerating Douglas' gritted teeth), as well as Marlon Brando (spoofing his squint). He was also popular for simulating bodily and facial resemblances, and pitch-perfect imitations of voice, accent, and vocal inflections and mannerisms. Gorshin's slender athletic build, wide mouth, and pale eyes under strong brows were ideal characteristics for screen henchmen.
In 1957, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car after driving from Pittsburgh for thirty-nine hours without sleep and subsequently, the vehicle crashed. He was on his way to a Hollywood screen test for the role of Petty Officer Ruby in Run Silent, Run Deep. He sustained a fractured skull and spent four days in a coma; a Los Angeles newspaper incorrectly reported that he had been killed. The role went to Don Rickles.
Gorshin's first film role was Between Heaven and Hell. In the late 1950s, Gorshin had roles in B-movies such as Hot Rod Girl (1956), Dragstrip Girl (1957) and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957). In 1960, he was featured in Bells are Ringing, playing the Method Actor while doing a Marlon Brando impression. As a dramatic actor, he often played "tough guys" like those played by one of his favorite targets of impressions, James Cagney, whom he was said to resemble. He did take a comic turn, though, as the hipster jazz bassist Basil (paired with singer Connie Francis) in Where the Boys Are (1960), as a bumbling kidnapper in the Hayley Mills vehicle That Darn Cat! (1965), and as a boss-behind-bars for laughs in Otto Preminger's comedy Skidoo (1968).
He was nominated for an Emmy Award (Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy) for his best remembered role as The Riddler on ABC's 1960s live-action television series Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Gorshin's portrayal of the character included a high-pitched, deranged cackle, inspired by that of Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in Kiss of Death (1947). He played the Riddler in ten episodes of the series as well as the theatrical movie, although John Astin made two appearances in 1967 in the role on an occasion when Gorshin was unavailable. Gorshin was very angry about being replaced by Astin as the Riddler, but he agreed to return to Batman as the Riddler in season 3 entitled Ring Around The Riddler. He reprised the role in the 1979 television movie Legends of the Superheroes.
Gorshin also had a memorable role in the 1969 Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" as the bigoted half-whiteface, half-blackface alien Bele from the planet Cheron. Contrary to popular rumor and several news articles, Gorshin did not receive an Emmy nomination for this role.
In the early 1970s, Gorshin appeared on Broadway in Jimmy (1969) and Guys and Dolls (1971). He made numerous guest-starring appearances on such television series as The Name of the Game (1969) Ironside (1974), Hawaii Five-O (1974), Get Christie Love! (1975), Charlie's Angels (1977) and Wonder Woman (1977). In 1979, he played interplanetary assassin Seton Kellogg in a two-part episode of the television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century titled "Plot to Kill a City".
In 1982, Gorshin acted and sang the role of irascible King Gama in a TV production of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Princess Ida (as part of the PBS series The Compleat Gilbert and Sullivan, and subsequently in live performance at other venues.
He also appeared as the villainous Dan Wesker in the miniseries Goliath Awaits (1981); and played the role of Smiley Wilson on the ABC soap opera The Edge of Night (1981–82), where he used his impersonation talents to mimic other performers on the series. During this decade, he also guest starred in episodes of series such as The Fall Guy (1984), Murder, She Wrote (1988) and Monsters (1989).
During the 1990s, he featured as a mobster kingpin in The Meteor Man (1993), played the evil sorcerer Brother Septimus in "The Tale of the Carved Stone" episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1993), voiced the character of Reverend Jack Cheese in an episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show (1995). Notably, he appeared in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995) as the gruff superior to Madeleine Stowe's psychiatrist.
In his final years, Gorshin portrayed the famous comedian George Burns on Broadway in the one-man show Say Goodnight, Gracie (2002), which was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award for best play and was reunited with several of his Batman colleagues in the television movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, in which he appeared as himself. Gorshin died on the day of the telefilm's DVD release. He played the strict legendary Harvard Law School Professor, John H. Keynes, in the Korean drama Love Story in Harvard (2004), and voiced villain Hugo Strange in three 2005 episodes of The Batman animated series. He also voiced the characters Marius and Lysander in the computer role playing game Diablo II.
Gorshin's last television appearance was in "Grave Danger", an episode of the CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation which aired two days after his death; the episode, which was directed by Quentin Tarantino, was dedicated to his memory. While he was known for his impressions, his role on CSI was as himself.
Gorshin's final role was as a voice actor in the unreleased animated feature film "Firedog".
On April 8, 1957, Gorshin married Christina Randazzo. They had one son, Mitchell, and later separated but remained married until his death.
Gorshin's final live appearance was a Memphis performance of Say Goodnight, Gracie, in which he portrayed the famous George Burns. He finished the performance and boarded a plane for Los Angeles on April 25, 2005. After he experienced severe breathing difficulty during the flight, the crew administered emergency oxygen. An ambulance met the plane upon landing and transported him to a Burbank hospital, where he died on May 17, 2005, at age 72 from lung cancer, complicated by emphysema and pneumonia. Gorshin had been a heavy smoker for most of his adult life, consuming up to five packs of cigarettes a day. Adam West once claimed that, "Frank could reduce a cigarette to ash with one draw." When he did nightclub performances or live shows, audiences were warned not to attend if they disliked smoking, as he often smoked onstage.
|1956||The Proud and Profane||Harry||Uncredited|
|1956||Hot Rod Girl||Flat Top|
|1956||Between Heaven and Hell||Pvt. Millard - Co. G||Uncredited|
|1956||Runaway Daughters||Tommy Burns|
|1957||The True Story of Jesse James||Charley Ford|
|1957||Dragstrip Girl||Tommy Burns|
|1957||The Delicate Delinquent||Wise Guy on Street||Uncredited|
|1957||Invasion of the Saucer Men||Joe Gruen|
|1958||Tank Battalion||PFC 'Skids' Madigan|
|1958||Torpedo Run||Sub Crewman||Uncredited|
|1959||Night of the Quarter Moon||Racist Punk||Uncredited|
|1959||The Story of Doctor Joseph Frye||Hal|
|1960||Bells are Ringing||Blake Barton|
|1960||Studs Lonigan||Kenny Killarney|
|1960||The Great Imposter||Barney|
|1960||Where the Boys Are||Basil|
|1961||Ring of Fire||Frank Henderson|
|1961||The George Raft Story||Moxie Cusack|
|1961||Sail a Crooked Ship||George M. Wilson|
|1965||That Darn Cat!||Iggy|
|1966||Ride Beyond Vengeance||Tod Wisdom|
|1969||’’Star Trek:TOS’’||Commissioner Bele|
|1981||Underground Aces||Fred Kruger|
|1981||The Uppercrust||Harry Werner, alias Nash|
|1985||Hot Resort||Mr. Green|
|1986||Uphill All the Way||Pike|
|1986||Hollywood Vice Squad||Walsh|
|1987||The Gnomes' Great Adventure||Holler / Carlo / Omar / Prince Gustav||Voice|
|1989||Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers||Doc|
|1992||Body Trouble||Johnny Zero|
|1992||The Hollywood Beach Murders||Zoran|
|1992||Sweet Justice||Billy Joe Rivas|
|1993||The Meteor Man||Anthony Beyer (Drug Lord)|
|1994||Hail Caesar||Pete Dewitt|
|1994||The Big Story||Cub Reporter / Editor / Older Reporter||Voice, Short|
|1995||12 Monkeys||Dr. Fletcher|
|1995||Mr. Payback: An Interactive Movie||Himself||Cameo|
|1996||Superior Duck||Daffy Duck / Foghorn Leghorn||Voice, Short|
|1997||Pullet Surprise||Foghorn Leghorn||Voice, Looney Tunes Short|
|1997||From Hare to Eternity||Yosemite Sam||Voice, Short|
|1997||Bloodmoon||Chief William Hutchins|
|1997||Twilight of the Ice Nymphs||Cain Ball|
|1997||Better Than Ever||Will|
|1997||After the Game (aka The Last Hand)||Benny Walsh|
|1997||Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight||Documentary|
|1999||Man of the Century||Roman Navarro|
|1999||Game Day||Sam Segal|
|1999||The Rules (For Men)|
|1999||The Art of Murder||Uncredited|
|1999||All Shook Up||Sheriff Dudston|
|2000||Luck of the Draw||Sterling Johnson|
|2000||Beethoven's 3rd||Uncle Morrie Newton||Video|
|2000||The Curio Trunk||Harold Belfast||Short|
|2002||High Times' Potluck||The Slim Man|
|2002||Manna from Heaven||Ed|
|2003||Mail Order Bride||Russian Doctor|
|2005||Angels with Angles||George Burns / Shelleen|
|2005||The Best of Frank Gorshin||Himself||Video|
|2006||The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park||Burdus|
|1956||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Autograph seeker||Episode: "The Decoy"|
|1957||Navy Log||Captain Ray Duncan||Episode: "Operation Lend Lease Adti: Amscray!"|
|1957||The Restless Gun||Cowboy with Singer||Episode: "Duel at Lockwood"|
|1958||The Silent Service||Torpedoman 1st Class Larkin||Episode: "The Thresher Story"|
|1959||Hennesey||Seaman Pulaski / Shore Patrol / USN||3 episodes|
|1959||The Detectives||Billy McGirth||Episode: "The Streger Affair"|
|1959||Have Gun - Will Travel||Marty (Bully)||Episode: "Sons of Aaron Murdock"|
|1959||Frontier Doctor||Hank Butts||Episode: "Shadow of Belle Starr"|
|1960||Mr. Lucky||Jerry Musco||Episode:"The Last Laugh"|
|1961||The Defenders||Harry Simms||Episode:"The Hundred Lives of Harry Simms"|
|1962||Insight||Alessandro Serenelli||Episode: "The Killer"|
|1962||The Untouchables||Herbie Catcher||Episode: "The Pea"|
|1963||Combat!||Pvt. Wharton||Episode: "The Medal"|
|1963||Naked City||Alan Starkie||Season 4, Episode 19: "Beyond This Place There Be Dragons"|
|1964||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Lew Rydell||Episode: "The Second Verdict"|
|1964||The Regis Philbin Show||Himself||Episode: "Episode #1.23"|
|1965||Combat!||Pvt. Gavin||Episode: "The Hell Machine"|
|1966||A Man Called Shenandoah||Otto||Episode"The Clown"|
|1966||Password All-Stars||Himself (Celebrity Contestant)||Episode - 11-25-1966|
|1966||The Munsters||Fair Deal Dan||Episode: "Herman, the Tire Kicker"|
|1966||The Roger Miller Show||Himself||Episode: "Episode #1.14"|
|1966||The Danny Kaye Show||Himself||Episode: "Episode #4.11"|
|1966||The Red Skelton Hour||Nasty McMean||Episode: "What Did You Do in the Dump, Daddy?"|
|1966||The Dean Martin Show||Himself||Episode: "#2.3 & #2.21"|
|1966||The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show||Himself||Episode: "Episode #1.11"|
|1966-1967||Batman||The Riddler||10 Episodes|
|1967||Garrison's Gorillas||Dustin||Episode: "Thieves' Holiday"|
|1969||Star Trek||Bele||Episode: "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"|
|1969||The High Chaparral||Stinky Flanagan||Episode: "Stinky Flanagan"|
|1969||The Movie Game||Himself||Episode: "12-9-1969"|
|1970||The Virginian||Dutch Miley||Episode: "Follow the Leader"|
|1970||Kraft Music Hall||Himself||Episode: "The Kopykats"|
|1971||The Interns||Joe Calico||Episode: "The Challenger"|
|1971||O'Hara, U.S. Treasury||Little Willie||Episode: "Operation: Bribery"|
|1971||The Merv Griffin Show||Himself||Episode: "Salute to Horror"|
|1969-1971||Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In||Himself (Guest Performer)||Episodes: "#2.17" & "#5.5"|
|1971-1972||The Hollywood Squares||Guest Appearance||5 episodes|
|1972||The ABC Comedy Hour (aka The Kopykats)||Himself, regular cast||7 episodes|
|1974||Dr. Simon Locke||Charlie Kreber||Episode: "Borrowed Trouble"|
|1974||Ironside||Dorian||Episode: "What's New with Mark?"|
|1974||Movin' On||Tucker J. Paulsen||Episode: "Good for Laughs"|
|1974||Hawaii Five-O||Stash||Episode: "Welcome to Our Branch Office"|
|1975||Sky Heist||Ben Hardings||TV movie|
|1975||S.W.A.T.||Johnny Rizi||Episode: "Ordeal"|
|1975||Police Woman||David Griffin||Episode: "Glitter with a Bullet"|
|1975||The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Sammy Davis Jr.||Himself||TV Special|
|1975||The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Jackie Gleason||Himself||TV Special|
|1976||Rudolph's Shiny New Year||Sir 1023 / Quart||Voice, TV Movie|
|1976||Dinah!||Himself||episode - Episode #2.138"|
|1977||Charlie's Angels||Harry Dana||Episode: "Angels at Sea"|
|1977||Wonder Woman||Hoffman / Toyman||Episode: "The Deadly Toys"|
|1978||Greatest Heroes of the Bible||Ocran||Episode: "The Story of Moses: Parts 1 & 2"|
|1979||Legends of the Superheroes||The Riddler||Episode: "The Challenge"|
|1979||Death Car on the Freeway||Ralph Chandler||TV movie|
|1979||Buck Rogers in the 25th Century||Seton Kellogg||Episode: "The Plot to Kill a City: Parts 1 & 2 "|
|1981||Goliath Awaits||Dan Wesker||TV movie|
|1982||Treasure Island||Ben Gunn||TV movie|
|1982||Princess Ida||King Gama||TV movie|
|1986||A Masterpiece of Murder||Pierre Rudin||TV movie|
|1988||Murder, She Wrote||Arnold Goldman||Episode: "Mourning Among the Wisterias"|
|1988||The New Hollywood Squares||Guest Appearance||Episode: "5-30-1988"|
|1988||The Late Show||Himself||Episode: "4-28-1988"|
|1990||Comic Book Collector||Himself||Documentary short|
|1994||Are You Afraid of the Dark?||Brother Septimus||Episode: "The Tale of the Carved Stone"|
|1995||Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman||Sharpie Lawyer a.k.a. Kill, Kill, Kill lawyer||Episode: "Whine, Whine, Whine"|
|1995||The Ren & Stimpy Show||The Reverend Jack Cheese||Voice, Episode: "Reverend Jack Cheese"|
|1997||Johnny Bravo||Barney Stone / Clovy||Voice, Episode: "Blarney Buddies"|
|1999||The Bold and the Beautiful||George the homeless man||TV Serial|
|1999||VH-1 Where Are They Now?||Himself||TV Series documentary, Episode: "Superheroes"|
|2000||Biography||Himself||Episode: "Adam West: Behind the Cowl"|
|2001||Black Scorpion||Benjamin Tickerman / Clockwise||Episode: "Crime Time"|
|2003||The 57th Annual Tony Awards||Himself||TV Special|
|2003||Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt||Himself||TV Movie|
|2004||Love Story in Harvard||Professor John Keynes||TV Movie|
|2004||Biography||Himself||Episode: "Catwoman: Her Many Lives"|
|2005||The Batman||Professor Hugo Strange||Voice, 3 Episodes|
|2005||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Himself||Episode: "Grave Danger"|
|2006||Dr. Vegas||Edgar Rhodes||Episode: "For Love or Money"|
|2006||Dreamweaver||Mr. Rem||TV movie, (final film role)|
|2000||Diablo II||Marius / Lysander||Voice|
- What Makes Sammy Run? playing Sammy Glick at Valley Music Theatre (Los Angeles) (1966)
- Jimmy playing James J. Walker at Winter Garden Theatre (Broadway) (1969)
- The Prisoner of Second Avenue playing Mel Edison at Parker Playhouse (Florida) (1973)
- Whodunnit standing in as Andreas Capodistriou at Biltmore Theatre (Broadway) (1982)
- On the Twentieth Century playing Oscar Jaffe on a tour of the United States (1986)
- Ah, Wilderness! playing Nat Miller at American Heartland Theatre (Kansas City, Mo.) (1987)
- Best of Burlesque, sketch comedy and impressionist, Showboat Dinner Theater, Clearwater, FL (1994)
- Guys and Dolls as a performer in Las Vegas (1995)
- The Sunshine Boys as Willie Clark on a tour of the United States (2001)
- Say Goodnight, Gracie as George Burns at Helen Hayes Theatre (Broadway) (2002)
- "Frank Gorshin Biography (1934-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
- "Star Files: Frank Gorshin". Broadway.com. Retrieved November 27, 2007.
- "Obituary: Frank Gorshin". The Daily Telegraph. London. May 19, 2005. Archived from the original on November 4, 2007. Retrieved November 27, 2007.
- Gobetz, Edward (July 16, 2015). "Frank Gorshin". Slovenian American Times. Cleveland.
- Bergan, Ronald (May 20, 2005). "Frank Gorshin". The Guardian. London.
- Martin, Terry. "Official Frank Gorshin Website: Biography". John Stacks Productions. Archived from the original on January 29, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2017.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- on YouTube
- "Frank Gorshin". Pabook.libraries.psu.edu. Archived from the original on June 11, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
- "Frank Gorshin". Television Academy.
- Koznin, Allan (January 18, 2000). "MUSIC REVIEW; A Graceful Surrender for Gilbert and Sullivan's Uppity Feminist". The New York Times.
- "2003 Tony Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on March 16, 2006.
- Buckley, Michael (October 8, 2002). "A review of Gorshin as George Burns, 2002, with photograph". Theatermania.com. Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
- McKinley, Jesse (May 19, 2005). "Frank Gorshin, 'Batman' Riddler, Dies at 72". The New York Times.
- "Frank Gorshin – The Riddler" at Discogs