Director Leslie H. Martinson, who worked on more than 100 television series during his prolific career and helmed Batman: The Movie in 27 days between the first two seasons of the wildly popular 1960s ABC show, has died. He was 101.
Martinson, who seemingly directed episodes of every TV program from The Roy Rogers Show in 1953 to the late 1980s syndicated comedy Small Wonder, died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, his family announced.
Martinson also helmed several features, including the John F. Kennedy naval tale PT 109 (1963), starring Cliff Robertson, the beach comedy For Those Who Think Young (1965) and the light-hearted Raquel Welch adventure Fathom (1966).
Moving easily from genre to genre, the Boston native with the wicked New England accent put his stamp on TV Westerns (Maverick, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot), crime stories (Mannix, Ironside, 77 Sunset Strip), action (Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman), drama (Dallas, Eight Is Enough) and comedy (The Brady Bunch, Love, American Style, Diff’rent Strokes).
Martinson’s credits range from some of television’s most popular hits, including Fantasy Island,CHiPS, Cannon and Barnaby Jones, to such long-forgotten shows as Dusty’s Trail, The Alaskansand The Chicago Teddy Bears.
It’s hard to find a series that doesn’t bear his name on at least one episode.
“If you want to be a director, you can start studying before you’re anywhere near a set,” Martinson said during a 2003 interview with the Archive of American of Television. “Every time you watch a television show, you’re learning your craft. You don’t watch a show for entertainment, you watch to study.”
Though Martinson directed only two installments of Batman — the first-season two-parter in which The Penguin appears to go straight — he was asked to bring the series to the big screen to capitalize on its surging popularity. Batman: The Movie was shot in less than four weeks and reached theaters in July 1966, about two months after the end of season one.
A jam-packed, pop-art explosion, the movie pitted Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) against four of the Dynamic Duo’s most devious adversaries — The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, in for Julie Newmar) and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin).
The 20th Century Fox film has an 80 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with the general critical consensus being that “Batman: The Movie elevates camp to an art form — and has a blast doing it, every gloriously tongue-in-cheek inch of the way.”
He had a way with other superheroes as well, directing episodes of The Green Hornet andWonder Woman.