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Rare Photos: LIFE Behind the Scenes of TV's Original "Batman"

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These days movie-goers eager for another Batman experience are excited about The Dark Knight Rises, but in 1966 it was all about the ZOWIE and POW factor of the small screen Batman.

LIFE has released some previously unpublished images from a 1966 visit to the set of "Batman," capturing stars Adam West and Burt Ward at work and rest, and note that Batman wasn't always the brooding, deeply dark Gotham of contemporary film, but rather a comic-book color-explosion of, well, goofiness.

"Batman" wasn't shot on the mean streets of NYC in the middle of the night; it was pure L.A. studio fodder mixed with some choice locations, like the Bronson Caves, mostly as establishing exteriors.

Here are some fun facts we've gathered about the series:

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  • Clint Eastwood was initially chosen to play the villain Two-Face, but the villain never appeared on the show.
  • The Batman theme song has been covered by the Kinks and the Who, and was the first song Prince learned to play on the piano.
  • Batman was a magnet for celebrities at the time: Ethel Merman, Liberace, Burgess Meredith, Vincent Price and others made guest appearances on the show.
  • The Batmobile was originally a $250,000 prototype made by Ford -- but it never went into production and was bought by the studio for just $1.
  • The exterior shots of Bruce Wayne's manor were taken at a house on San Rafael Ave. in Pasadena.
  • The National Safety Council, upon seeing that the Batmobile did not have seatbelts, lobbied the show to have them in -- thus the sequence of Batman and Robin "buckling up" before speeding out of the Batcave.
  • Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, Cary Grant and Robert F. Kennedy were all fans of the show and wanted guest spots, but never appeared, as writers couldn't find roles for them.
  • Batman received the worst audience test results in ABC history -- but the network went ahead with the show anyway, because it was already so expensive.
  • Robin says 352 different variations of "Holy ______, Batman!"
  • Mickey Rooney turned down an offer to play the villainous Penguin -- a role that would later be played by Burgess Meredith.
  • After the show went to air, there were incidents of children "flying" (jumping) out of windows like Batman -- prompting Adam West to record a PSA discouraging kids from trying to fly, and demonstrating that he couldn't do it himself.

LAist's Sam Brodey contributed to this story

Previously
Rare Photos: LIFE at Paramount Studios, 1970