Lorenzo Semple Jr., creator of the ’60s “Batman” TV series and scribe on thrillers “The Parallax View” and “Three Days of Condor,” died on Friday in his home in Los Angeles, according to reports. He had turned 91 on Thursday.
The screenwriter also had an extensive film writing career after leaving TV, including 1973’s Steve McQueen-Dustin Hoffman pic “Papillon,” 1975’s “The Drowning Pool” and Jessica Lange-starrer “King Kong.” (1976) Recently, Semple worked on a YouTube series called “Reel Geezers,” in which he and former studio exec Marcia Nasatir reviewed films.
Semple created “Batman,” starring Adam West as the Dark Knight and Burt Ward as Robin, in 1966, and it quickly became a hit. He also wrote the July 1966 “Batman” movie. Though he only wrote the first four episodes of the skein, he served as script or story consultant on the rest of the series.
“I think ‘Batman’ was the best thing I ever wrote, including those big movies,” he told the Archive of American Television in 2011. “As a whole work, it came out the way that I wanted it to and I was excited by it. I once went down to a fancy wine tasting benefit in Princeton. When people found out I wrote ‘Batman’ they mobbed me! I was astounded, but that was the way it was.”
In a 2008 guest piece for Variety, Semple remembered producer William Dozier’s pitch to the network, and how it immediately took off.
“Bill eloquently pitched the script and its high-camp POW!! BLAM!! WHAMMO!! style, those onscreen graphics already written in,” he wrote. “The network was a bit flabbergasted, so different was this from their usual pilot, but they got it.”
“For a time, Hollywood’s brightest stars vied for a chance to appear in the 30-second cameos Bill so shrewdly inserted,” he went on. “Despite efforts to juice it up with a Batgirl and a Batcycle and other ornaments, the series was a one-trick pony at heart, and barely staggered through a second season.”
Though “Batman” was known for a lovable campiness, his work took on a more serious tone as he moved to film. He wrote the script for cult film “Pretty Poison” (1968), which would win the New York Film Critics Circle Award. He would go on to co-write political thriller “The Parallax View” (1974) starring Warren Beatty.
He also penned a script for Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of Condor” starring Robert Redford, though was eventually let go as David Rayfiel stepped in.
Semple was a member of the WGA, and taught a class at New York University’s TISCH School for the Arts in the ’80s.
Semple’s survivors include his daughter Maria, writer-producer who worked on “Mad About You,” “Suddenly Susan” and “Arrested Development,” as well as his wife Joyce, two children and six grandchildren.