Frank Gorshin, Impressionist-Actor Who Played George Burns on Broadway, Dead at 72

Obituaries   Frank Gorshin, Impressionist-Actor Who Played George Burns on Broadway, Dead at 72 Frank Gorshin, the actor, comedian and impressionist known for playing the frisky Riddler in the 1960s TV series "Batman," died May 17 after a battle with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia, a spokesman said.
Frank Gorshin
Frank Gorshin

Mr. Gorshin, 72, appeared in Broadway's Say Goodnight, Gracie in 2002-03, and in a national tour of it, playing the late comedian George Burns — complete with gravelly voice, cigar and receding silver hairpiece.

For his performance in Say Goodnight, Gracie Mr. Gorshin was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and won the Outer Critics Circle Award.

The actor's film appearances included "12 Monkeys" and "Batman: The Movie," as well as "Bells Are Ringing" with Judy Holliday.

According to his recent bio, Pittsburgh native Mr. Gorshin's first professional job came at age 17 when he won a talent contest, his prize being a one-week engagement at Jackie Heller's Carousel nightclub where Alan King was headlining. He studied at Carnegie Mellon and after two years in the Army during the Korean conflict, serving in Special Services as an entertainer, he returned to civilian life and landed a job in the Paramount films "The Proud and the Profane," "Bells Are Ringing" (playing a Brando-like young actor), "Where the Boys Are" and "Ring of Fire."

The role of the arch-villain The Riddler — the criminal with the question marks stitched into his costume — on "Batman" earned him an Emmy Award nomination and got him noticed more than anything had before. Mr. Gorshin received his second Emmy nomination as a guest star in a classic "Star Trek" episode.

On stage, he made his Broadway debut in 1970 as the star of the musical Jimmy, based on the life of New York Mayor Jimmy Walker. He also starred in touring or stock and regional companies of What Makes Sammy Run; Promises, Promises; Peter Pan; Prisoner of Second Avenue; Deathtrap; Doubles; Ah, Wilderness!; On the 20th Century; Breaking Legs; Guys and Dolls; and most recently The Sunshine Boys co-starring with Dick Van Patten. He also appeared in New York City in Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida.

He is heard on a Nonesuch/Roxbury studio recording of the Gershwins' Girl Crazy, playing taxi driver Gieber Goldfarb, who drives a fare from Manhattan to Arizona and finds himself elected Sheriff. The recording includes Gorshin doing impressions of Maurice Chevalier, Eddie Cantor and others in a reprise of "But Not for Me." (The part was originated in 1930 by comic actor Willie Howard.)

Other film credits include "The Meteor Man," "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs," "Luck of the Draw," "Castle Rock," "Beethoven's 3rd," "Manna From Heaven," "Back to the Bat Cave" (for CBS) and "The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park," directed by Christopher Coppola.

One of his final TV appearances is in a May 19 episode of TV's "CSI," titled "Grave Danger," directed by Quentin Tarantino. He plays himself in the episode.

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