Frank Gorshin, the impressionist best known for playing the Riddler on TV’s Batman, died Tuesday at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif., his agent and longtime friend, Fred Wostbrock, told the Associated Press Wednesday. ”He put up a valiant fight with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia,” Christina, his wife of 46 years, said in a statement.
Gorshin appeared on Batman from 1966 to 1969 and was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of a bowler-wearing villain with a high-pitched cackle. ”I fooled around with all kinds of different laughs and then I found out that when I do laugh I get this high-pitched laugh and I thought, ‘This is what I’m going to use,”’ Gorshin told AP Radio in 1997.
In addition to dozens of B-movie and TV appearances, Gorshin also brought a new impression — of George Burns — to Broadway in 2002 in the one-man show Say Goodnight Gracie. He also holds the distinction of being the act that followed the Beatles on their historic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. When AP asked him about the difficult timing, he said, ”I looked out the window of my dressing room and said, ‘Look at all the kids that came to see me!”’
Gorshin’s final performance will air Thursday — a guest spot on a Quentin Tarantino-directed episode of CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.