Tribute By Monica Sullivan
Frank Gorshin burst onto the national scene as a hip young comic with a special gift for capturing the essence of Kirk Douglas. He appeared a dozen times on the “Ed Sullivan Show” as a headliner. As an actor, he paid his dues in “B” films like Ed Cahn’s “Invasion of the Saucer Men” & “Dragstrip Girl,” both released in 1957. The titles endure, but who remembers anyone besides Gorshin in those films today? Gorshin played supporting roles in “A” films, too, like Richard Fleisher’s “Between Heaven & Hell” with Robert Wagner, Irving Lerner’s “Studs Lonigan” co-starring Jack Nicholson, Robert Mulligan’s “The Great Impostor” opposite Tony Curtis & “That Darn Cat” starring Hayley Mills.
The part that won him a 1966 Emmy nomination & assured him of enduring fame was “The Riddler,” which he played first in the hit “Batman” series & later on the big screen. Until Jim Carrey superceded his “Riddler” interpretation in 1995, Gorshin’s mere presence in a film drew instant chuckles from loyal “Batman” fans. By the 1970’s & 1980’s, both “Batman” & Ed Sullivan were long gone, so Gorshin could be seen in telefeatures like the Stefanie Powers vehicle “Sky Heist” or in “Underground Aces” with Melanie Griffith or in “Hot Resort” featuring Bronson Pinchot or in “Hollywood Vice Squad” opposite Carrie Fisher.
The titles say it all, but Gorshin kept working then & keeps working today, always with the drive & intensity of a beginner who’s got nothing to lose & everything to give. Sometimes, he’s in a classy feature like Terry Gilliam’s “Twelve Monkeys” & sometimes he’s way down on a cast list of little known actors in a martial arts flick like “Bloodmoon.” You can see Gorshin in the work of good directors like Robert Townsend (“The Meteor Man”) or wannabe directors like Anthony Michael Hall (“Hail Caesar”). It appears to be a career without plan or design & in many ways it is, but Gorshin hangs in there slugging it out & if ever a great director decided to Do Something with all the talent Gorshin has to spare, it’d definitely be a cinematic moment worth waiting for.
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/23/00
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