Frank John Gorshin Jr. (April 5, 1933 – May 17, 2005) was an American actor, comedian and impressionist. He made many guest appearances on television variety and talk shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show, Tonight Starring Steve Allen, The Dean Martin Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Frank Gorshin
Gorshin as the Riddler, 1966
Frank John Gorshin Jr.

(1933-04-05)April 5, 1933
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMay 17, 2005(2005-05-17) (aged 72)
Resting placeCalvary Catholic Cemetery
EducationCarnegie Mellon University
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • impressionist
Years active1956–2005
Christina Randazzo
(m. 1957)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1953–1954

As an actor, he played the Riddler on the live-action television series Batman and was nominated for an Emmy Award for the performance.

Early life edit

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.[1][2][3] 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.[4][5] At the age of 15, he took a part-time job as a cinema usher at the Sheridan Square Theatre.[6] 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.[6]

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.[6]

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.

Career edit

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 12 times on CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show, with his first appearance being on June 17, 1962. He appeared on the show on February 9, 1964, the same night The Beatles and Davy Jones made their debut.[7] 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. In another episode in 1965 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.[6] He was also the first impressionist headliner at the Empire Room of New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.[6] 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 was in a car crash when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car after driving from Pittsburgh for 39 hours without sleep. 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 he had been killed.[6] The role went to Don Rickles.[8]

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).

In 1962, Gorshin was cast as Billy Roy Fix in the episode "The Fire Dancer" of the NBC modern Western television series Empire, starring Richard Egan as the rancher Jim Redigo.

He was nominated for an Emmy Award (Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy) for his 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). Gorshin disliked the Riddler's original unitard costume from the comics, and had a green business suit and bowler hat marked with question marks created as an alternative, a variant of which would be later adapted in the comics itself. He played the Riddler in ten episodes of the series as well as the theatrical film, although John Astin made two appearances in 1967 in the role 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 in an episode entitled "Ring Around The Riddler". He reprised the role in the 1979 television film 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.[9]

Gorshin performing with Lou Rawls in 1977

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.[10]

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 & Stimpy Show (1995). Notably, he appeared in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995) as the gruff superior to Madeleine Stowe's psychiatrist. Gorshin also provided the voice of Daffy Duck and Foghorn Leghorn in the 1996 Looney Tunes short Superior Duck as well as voicing Foghorn and Yosemite Sam in 1997's Pullet Surprise and From Hare to Eternity, respectively.

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[11][12] and was reunited with several of his Batman colleagues in the television film 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.

Personal life edit

On April 8, 1957, Gorshin married Christina Randazzo. They had one son, Mitchell, and later separated but remained married until his death.[8]

Death edit

Gorshin's final live appearance was a Memphis performance of Say Goodnight, Gracie, in which he portrayed 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 Gorshin was transported to a Burbank hospital, where he died three weeks later, on May 17, 2005, aged 72 from lung cancer, complicated by emphysema and pneumonia.[13] Gorshin had been a heavy smoker for most of his adult life, consuming up to five packs of cigarettes a day. His Batman co-star Adam West once claimed that "Frank could reduce a cigarette to ash with one draw." When Gorshin appeared in nightclubs or other live performances, audiences were warned not to attend if they disliked smoking, as he often smoked onstage.

Gorshin is interred at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh.

Filmography edit

Film edit

Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Proud and Profane Harry Uncredited
1956 Hot Rod Girl Flat Top
1956 Between Heaven and Hell Private Millard - Company 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
1957 Portland Expose Joe
1958 Tank Battalion PFC 'Skids' Madigan
1958 Torpedo Run Sub Crewman Uncredited
1959 Night of the Quarter Moon Racist Punk Uncredited
1959 Warlock Billy Gannon Uncredited
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
1966 Batman Edward Nigma / Riddler
1968 Skidoo The Man
1978 Record City Chameleon
1981 Underground Aces Fred Kruger
1981 The Uppercrust [de] 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
1989 Midnight Ron Saphier
1989 Singapore Harbor
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)
1993 Amore! Asino
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, short
1997 From Hare to Eternity Yosemite Sam Voice, short
1997 Bloodmoon Chief William Hutchins
1997 Twilight of the Ice Nymphs Cain Ball
1997 Threshold
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 Final Rinse Chief
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
2000 Castlerock Mack
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
2005 Buckaro Judge
2005 Firedog Voice
2006 The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park Burdus

Television edit

Year Title Role Notes
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Page Episode: "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 The Millionaire Hal Episode: "The Doctor Joseph Frye Story"[14]
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! Private Wharton Episode: "The Medal"
1963 Naked City Alan Starkie Episode: "Beyond This Place There Be Dragons"
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Lew Rydell Season 2 Episode 30: "The Second Verdict"
1964 The Regis Philbin Show Himself Episode: "Episode #1.23"
1965 Combat! Private 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 Edward Nigma / 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) 2 episodes
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 Television film
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, television film
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"
1979 Legends of the Superheroes The Riddler Episode: "The Challenge"
1979 Death Car on the Freeway Ralph Chandler Television film
1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Seton Kellogg Episode: "The Plot to Kill a City"
1981 Goliath Awaits Dan Wesker Television film
1982 Treasure Island Ben Gunn Television film
1982 Princess Ida King Gama Television film
1986 A Masterpiece of Murder Pierre Rudin Television film
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"[15]
1997 Johnny Bravo Barney Stone, Clovy Voice, episode: "Blarney Buddies"[15]
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 Television special
2003 Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt Himself Television film
2004 Love Story in Harvard Professor John Keynes Television film
2004 Biography Himself Episode: "Catwoman: Her Many Lives"
2005 The Batman Hugo Strange Voice, 3 episodes[15]
2005 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Himself Episode: "Grave Danger"
2006 Dr. Vegas Edgar Rhodes Episode: "For Love or Money"
2006 Dreamweaver Mr. Rem Television film

Video games edit

Year Title Role Notes
2000 Diablo II Marius / Lysander Voice[15]

Stage appearances edit

Discography edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Frank Gorshin Biography (1934-)". Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  2. ^ "Star Files: Frank Gorshin". Retrieved November 27, 2007.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Frank Gorshin". The Daily Telegraph. London. May 19, 2005. Archived from the original on November 4, 2007. Retrieved November 27, 2007.
  4. ^ Gobetz, Edward (July 16, 2015). "Frank Gorshin". Slovenian American Times. Cleveland.
  5. ^ Bergan, Ronald (May 20, 2005). "Frank Gorshin". The Guardian. London.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Martin, Terry. "Official Frank Gorshin Website: Biography". John Stacks Productions. Archived from the original on January 29, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ Frank Gorshin on Ed Sullivan February 9, 1964 on YouTube
  8. ^ a b "Frank Gorshin". Archived from the original on June 11, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  9. ^ "Frank Gorshin". Television Academy.
  10. ^ Koznin, Allan (January 18, 2000). "Music Review: A Graceful Surrender for Gilbert and Sullivan's Uppity Feminist". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "2003 Tony Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on March 16, 2006.
  12. ^ Buckley, Michael (October 8, 2002). "A review of Gorshin as George Burns, 2002, with photograph". Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  13. ^ McKinley, Jesse (May 19, 2005). "Frank Gorshin, 'Batman' Riddler, Dies at 72". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Gianakos, L.J. (1980). Television Drama Series Programming: A Comprehensive Chronicle, 1947-1959 (in Basque). Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-1330-4. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d "Frank Gorshin (visual voices guide)". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved October 15, 2023. A green check mark indicates that a role has been confirmed using a screenshot (or collage of screenshots) of a title's list of voice actors and their respective characters found in its opening and/or closing credits and/or other reliable sources of information.
  16. ^ "Frank Gorshin – The Riddler" at Discogs

External links edit