Frank Gorshin

Frank Gorshin

Infobox actor
name = Frank Gorshin

imagesize = 150px
caption = Gorshin as the Riddler, from the "Batman" TV series.
birthname = Frank John Gorshin, Jr.
birthdate = birth date|1933|04|05
birthplace = Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
deathdate = death date and age|2005|05|17|1933|04|05
deathplace = Burbank, California, U.S.
restingplace = Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA
spouse = Christina Randazzo (1961–2005 [his death] ) [ [ NNDB] ]
yearsactive =

Frank John Gorshin, Jr. (April 5, 1933May 17, 2005) was an American actor and comedian. He was perhaps best known as an impressionist, with many guest appearances on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show" (with host Steve Allen). His most famous acting role was as The Riddler in the "Batman" live action television series.


Early life

Gorshin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Roman Catholic parents Frances, a seamstress, and Frank Gorshin, Sr., a railroad worker. [ [ Frank Gorshin Biography (1934?-) ] ] cite web |url= |title=Star Files: Frank Gorshin |accessdate=2007-11-27 |] cite web |url = |title = Obituary: Frank Gorshin |accessdate = 2007-11-27 |date = 2005-05-19 |publisher = Daily Telegraph] At the age of 15, he took a part-time job as a cinema usher at the Sheridan Square Theatre.cite web |url = |title = Official Frank Gorshin Website: Biography |accessdate = 2007-11-27 |last = Martin |first = Terry |format = webpage |publisher = John Stacks Productions] 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 had 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 was posted in Korea. He served for a year and a half as an entertainer attached to Special Services. His service number was 52314745; nearly all of Gorshin's official military records were destroyed in the 1973 National Archives Fire. While in the Army, Gorshin met Maurice Bergman, who later introduced him to Hollywood agent Paul Kohner.


When Gorshin left the Army, he returned to public performance, and in 1956, he became a prolific film actor. He also appeared as an actor and a guest on television shows, including twelve guest spots on the "Ed Sullivan Show" (his first being the same night The Beatles and Davy Jones debuted, early in 1964). He 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. 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 39 hours without sleep. He was on his way to a Hollywood screen test for the part of 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.

Gorshin's first memorable film role was in "Bells are Ringing" (1960), playing the Method Actor while doing a Marlon Brando impression.

In 1966, he took on the role of The Riddler, for which he received an Emmy nomination. In 1968, he filmed his other Emmy-nominated role in an episode of "Star Trek". He continued to make films and perform his nightclub act, with occasional breaks in the early 1970s to appear in Broadway shows. On the Nickelodeon anthology series "Are You Afraid of the Dark?", he played the evil sorcerer Brother Septimus in "The Tale of the Carved Stone", which aired in 1993.

He was nominated for an Emmy (Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy) for his most famous role: as The Riddler in the "Batman" live action television series, in which he was clad in a bowler hat and iridescent green body suit decorated with question marks, and frequently uttered his now-famous high deranged cackle, inspired by Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in 1947's "Kiss of Death". He also had a memorable role in the 1969 "" episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" as the half-whiteface, half-blackface Bele, for which he was again Emmy-nominated. Prior to that, he was a dramatic actor, often playing "tough guys" like those played by one of his favorite target of impressions, James Cagney, whom he was said to resemble. He did take a comic turn, though, as the bassist Basil (paired with singer Connie Francis) in 1960's "Where The Boys Are", and played a boss-behind-bars for laughs in Otto Preminger's 1968 comedy "Skidoo".

Gorshin also played a villain in the television series "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century". In the feature-length episode "Plot to Kill a City," he played interplanetary assassin Seton Kellogg, a master of planning who leads his gang, the Legion of Death, to force a worker to sabotage an antimatter reactor near New Chicago in order to obliterate the entire area. Kellogg is aided by an alien bodyguard, Varek (played by Anthony James), who is capable of altering his molecular structure to pass through walls, a result of radiation absorbed when "his homeworld thought they'd won a nuclear war."

He made several appearances on CBS's "Ed Sullivan Show" during the 1960s, including the February 9, 1964 broadcast in which The Beatles made their American debut. He appeared on Broadway, in "Jimmy" (1970) and "Guys and Dolls" (1971). In 2002, he portrayed comedian George Burns on Broadway in the one-man show "Say Goodnight, Gracie". [ [ A review of Gorshin as George Burns, 2002, with photograph] ]

Gorshin's varied career even included appearing as the cantankerous King Gama in the opera Princess Ida in 1982 as part of the PBS series "The Compleat Gilbert and Sullivan." He also costarred in Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys" as the gruff superior to Madeleine Stowe's psychiatrist, and appeared as a mobster kingpin in "The Meteor Man".

Gorshin also played the strict legendary Harvard Law School Professor, John H. Keynes, in the 2004 Korean Drama "Love Story in Harvard".

Gorshin played the role of Smiley Wilson on the ABC soap opera "The Edge of Night" in 1983. The show used his talents to mimic other performers in the plot.

Death and final performances

Gorshin died on May 17, 2005 of lung cancer, emphysema, and pneumonia. He is interred at the Roman Catholic Calvary Cemetery in the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh.

His final performance was in "Grave Danger," an episode of the CBS-TV series "", which aired two days after his death. The episode was dedicated to his memory. While he was known for his impressions, his role on "CSI" was as himself.

Gorshin died one day after Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig's 68th birthday, and on the same day that the TV movie "" was released on DVD in North America. Gorshin appeared as himself (parodying his role as the Riddler) in this 2003 special that reunited the original stars of the "Batman" series. Gorshin also voiced villain Hugo Strange in an episode of "The Batman" animated series, which aired in the series' second season on the WB. Gorshin died a few days before the newest incarnation of The Riddler first appeared in "The Batman". After Gorshin's death, Strange was voiced by Richard Green. Gorshin also voiced the characters Marius and Lysander in the computer role playing game "Diablo II".


* "The Proud and Profane" (1956)
* "Hot Rod Girl" (1956)
* "Between Heaven and Hell" (1956)
* "Runaway Daughters" (1956)
* "The True Story of Jesse James" (1957)
* "Dragstrip Girl" (1957)
* "The Delicate Delinquent" (1957)
* "Invasion of the Saucer Men" (1957)
* "Portland Expose" (1957)
* "Tank Battalion" (1958)
* "Night of the Quarter Moon" (1959)
* "Warlock" (1959)
* "Bells are Ringing" (1960)
* "Studs Lonigan" (1960)
* "Where the Boys Are" (1960)
* "The Great Imposter" (1961)
* "Ring of Fire" (1961)
* "The George Raft Story" (1961)
* "Sail a Crooked Ship" (1961)
* "That Darn Cat!" (1965)
* "Ride Beyond Vengeance" (1966)
* "The Munsters" (1966)
* "Batman" (1966)
* "Skidoo" (1968)
* "Record City" (1977)
* "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" (1979))
* "Underground Aces" (1981)
* "The Uppercrust" (1981)
* "Hot Resort" (1985)
* "Uphill All the Way" (1986)
* "Hollywood Vice Squad" (1986)
* "The Gnomes' Great Adventure" (1987) (voice)
* "Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers" (1989)
* "Midnight" (1989)
* "Sweet Justice" (1992)
* "The Hollywood Beach Murders" (1992)
* "Body Trouble" (1992)
* "Amore!" (1993)
* "The Meteor Man" (1993)
* "Hail Caesar" (1994)
* "The Big Story" (1994) (short subject) (voice)
* "" (1995) (Cameo)
* "Twelve Monkeys" (1995)
* "From Hare to Eternity" (1996) (short subject) (voice)
* "Superior Duck" (1996) (short subject) (voice)
* "Threshold" (1997)
* "Bloodmoon" (1997)
* "Better Than Ever" (1997)
* "After the Game" (1997)
* "Pullet Surprise" (1997) (short subject) (voice)
* "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs" (1997)
* "" (1997) (documentary)
* "The Rules (For Men)" (1999)
* "The Art of Murder" (1999)
* "All Shook Up" (1999)
* "Man of the Century" (1999)
* "Final Rinse" (1999)
* "Game Day" (1999)
* "Castlerock" (2000)
* "Luck of the Draw" (2000)
* "The Curio Trunk" (2000) (short subject)
* "High Times' Potluck" (2002)
* "Manna from Heaven (film)" (2002)
* "Mail Order Bride" (2003)
* "" (2003)
* "The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park" (2004)
* "Angels with Angles" (2005)
* "Firedog" (2005) (voice)
* "Buckaro" (2005) (judge)

tage appearances

* "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)
* "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)
* "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)


* "I don't think of myself as being funny. But life takes strange turns." ["People" Magazine, January 1996]
* "What does it all mean?" [His gravestone, 2005]


External links

* [ Official Website]
* [ yahoo group]
* [ The Riddler # 1 - Frank Gorshin]
* [ MTV: Influential 'Batman' Riddler Frank Gorshin Dies At 72]

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