Frank Gorshin: American actor and comedian (1933 - 2005)
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Frank Gorshin
American actor and comedian

Frank Gorshin

Frank Gorshin
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actor and comedian
Was Actor Voice actor Stage actor Film actor Television actor
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 5 April 1933, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Death 17 May 2005, Burbank, Los Angeles County, California, U.S.A. (aged 72 years)
Star sign Aries
The details (from wikipedia)


Frank John Gorshin Jr. (April 5, 1933 – May 17, 2005) was an American character actor, impressionist, and comedian. He was perhaps best known as an impressionist, with many guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and Tonight Starring Steve Allen. His most famous acting role was as the Riddler on the live-action television series Batman.

Early life

Gorshin was born on April 5, 1933, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Catholic parents Frances, a seamstress, and Frank Gorshin Sr., a railroad worker. He was of Slovenian ancestry. His father, Frank Sr., was a second-generation Slovenian-American whose parents emigrated to America from Slovenia. His mother, Frances or Fanny, née Prešeren, came to the United States as a young girl from Regrča Vas, near Novo Mesto, the main city of Lower Carniola, in Slovenia. Both of his parents were active in Pittsburgh's Slovenian community. They sang in the Slovenian Singing Society Prešeren, named after the great Slovenian poet France Prešeren. In an interview, Frances said that her son, being the product of a Slovenian home, spoke mostly Slovene before going to school. At the age of 15, he took a part-time job as a cinema usher at the Sheridan Square Theatre. He memorized the mannerisms of the screen stars he saw and created an impressionist act. He was still in high school when he obtained his first paid employment, which he secured as the prize in a Pittsburgh talent contest in 1951: a one-week engagement at Jackie Heller's New York nightclub, Carousel. His parents insisted that he take the engagement, even though his 15-year-old brother had been hit by a car and killed just two nights before.

After graduation from Peabody High School, Gorshin attended the Carnegie Tech School of Drama (now known as Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh. When not studying, he worked in local plays and nightclubs.

In 1953, Gorshin was drafted into the United States Army and posted to Germany. He served for a year and a half as an entertainer attached to Special Services. While in the Army, Gorshin met Maurice Bergman, who later introduced him to Hollywood agent Paul Kohner. Gorshin's Army service record was later destroyed in the U.S. National Personnel Records Center fire of 1973.


Gorshin performing with Lou Rawls in 1977

When Gorshin left the Army, he returned to public performance, and in 1956, he became a prolific film actor. He also appeared on various television series, including the role of Hank Butts, with Michael Landon cast as Jim Mason, in the 1958 episode "Shadow of Belle Starr" of the syndicated Western series Frontier Doctor, starring Rex Allen. In 1959, he was cast in three episodes as Seaman Pulaski on Jackie Cooper's CBS military sitcom/drama Hennesey. Thereafter, Gorshin played roles in ABC's crime drama The Untouchables. He guest-starred twelve times on CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show, the first having been on June 17, 1962. On February 9, 1964, the same night that The Beatles and Davy Jones debuted, he also appeared. In 1965 Gorshin had a guest-starring role in the long-running ABC military series Combat! (Season #3, Episode 28), in which he played Pvt. Gavin, a tank operator who had failed tanker school, and Pvt. Wharton, who took false credit for the heroism of his dead friend, but redeemed himself later, saving Sgt. Saunders.

Gorshin was a popular act at nightclubs, notably those of Las Vegas, where he was the first impressionist to headline the main showrooms. He was also the first impressionist headliner at the Empire Room of New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Among his most popular impressions were of Burt Lancaster (exaggerating Lancaster's hand gestures) and Kirk Douglas (exaggerating Douglas' gritted teeth), as well as Marlon Brando (spoofing his squint), as well as simulating bodily and facial resemblances, and pitch-perfect imitations of voice, accent, and vocal inflections and mannerisms.

Gorshin's slender athletic build, wide mouth, and pale eyes under strong brows were ideal characteristics for screen henchmen. In 1957, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car after driving from Pittsburgh for thirty-nine hours without sleep and subsequently, the vehicle crashed. He was on his way to a Hollywood screen test for the role of Petty Officer Ruby in Run Silent, Run Deep. He sustained a fractured skull and spent four days in a coma; a Los Angeles newspaper incorrectly reported that he had been killed. The role went to Don Rickles.

Gorshin's first film role was Between Heaven and Hell. In the late 1950s, Gorshin had roles in B-movies such as Hot Rod Girl (1956), Dragstrip Girl (1957) and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957). In 1960, he was featured in Bells are Ringing, playing the Method Actor while doing a Marlon Brando impression. As a dramatic actor, he often played "tough guys" like those played by one of his favorite targets of impressions, James Cagney, whom he was said to resemble. He did take a comic turn, though, as the hipster jazz bassist Basil (paired with singer Connie Francis) in Where the Boys Are (1960), as a bumbling kidnapper in the Hayley Mills vehicle That Darn Cat! (1965), and as a boss-behind-bars for laughs in Otto Preminger's comedy Skidoo (1968).

In 1962, Gorshin was cast as Billy Roy Fix in the episode "The Fire Dancer" of the NBC modern Western television series Empire, starring Richard Egan as the rancher Jim Redigo.

He was nominated for an Emmy Award (Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy) for his best remembered role as The Riddler on ABC's 1960s live-action television series Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Gorshin's portrayal of the character included a high-pitched, deranged cackle, inspired by that of Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in Kiss of Death (1947). He played the Riddler in ten episodes of the series as well as the theatrical movie, although John Astin made one appearance in the role on an occasion when Gorshin was unavailable. He reprised the role in the 1979 television movie Legends of the Superheroes.

Gorshin also had a memorable role in the 1969 Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" as the bigoted half-whiteface, half-blackface alien Bele from the planet Cheron. Contrary to popular rumor and several news articles, Gorshin did not receive an Emmy nomination for this role.

In the early 1970s, Gorshin appeared on Broadway in Jimmy (1969) and Guys and Dolls (1971).. He made numerous guest-starring appearances on such television series as The Name of the Game (1969) Ironside (1974), Hawaii Five-O (1974), Get Christie Love! (1975), Charlie's Angels (1977) and Wonder Woman (1977). In 1979, he played interplanetary assassin Seton Kellogg in a two-part episode of the television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century titled "Plot to Kill a City".

In 1982, Gorshin acted and sang the role of irascible King Gama in a TV production of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Princess Ida (as part of the PBS series The Compleat Gilbert and Sullivan, and subsequently in live performance at other venues.

He also appeared as the villainous Dan Wesker in the miniseries Goliath Awaits (1981); and played the role of Smiley Wilson on the ABC soap opera The Edge of Night (1981–82), where he used his impersonation talents to mimic other performers on the series. During this decade, he also guest starred in episodes of series such as The Fall Guy (1984), Murder, She Wrote (1988) and Monsters (1989).

During the 1990s, he featured as a mobster kingpin in The Meteor Man (1993), played the evil sorcerer Brother Septimus in "The Tale of the Carved Stone" episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1993), voiced the character of Reverend Jack Cheese in an episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show (1995). Notably, he appeared in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995) as the gruff superior to Madeleine Stowe's psychiatrist.

In his final years, Gorshin portrayed comedian George Burns on Broadway in the one-man show Say Goodnight, Gracie (2002), which was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award for best play and was reunited with several of his Batman colleagues in the television movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, in which he appeared as himself. Gorshin died on the day of the telefilm's DVD release. He played the strict legendary Harvard Law School Professor, John H. Keynes, in the Korean drama Love Story in Harvard (2004), and voiced villain Hugo Strange in three 2005 episodes of The Batman animated series. He also voiced the characters Marius and Lysander in the computer role playing game Diablo II.

Gorshin's last television appearance was in "Grave Danger", an episode of the CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation which aired two days after his death; the episode, which was directed by Quentin Tarantino, was dedicated to his memory. While he was known for his impressions, his role on CSI was as himself.

Personal life

On April 8, 1957, Gorshin married Christina Randazzo. They had one son, Mitchell, and later separated but remained married until his death.


Gorshin's final live appearance was a Memphis performance of Say Goodnight, Gracie, in which he portrayed George Burns. He finished the performance and boarded a plane for Los Angeles on April 25, 2005. After he experienced severe breathing difficulty during the flight, the crew administered emergency oxygen. An ambulance met the plane upon landing and transported him to a Burbank hospital, where he died on May 17, 2005, at age 72 from lung cancer, complicated by emphysema and pneumonia. Gorshin had been a heavy smoker for most of his adult life, consuming up to five packs of cigarettes a day. Adam West once claimed that "Frank could reduce a cigarette to ash with one draw." When he did nightclub performances or live shows, audiences were warned not to attend if they disliked smoking, as he often smoked onstage.

He is interred at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh.


Year Title Role Notes
1966 Batman: The Movie The Riddler
1993 The Meteor Man Anthony Beyer (Drug Lord)
1995 12 Monkeys Dr. Fletcher
1994 The Big Story Cub Reporter / Editor / Older Reporter (voice) Short
1996 Superior Duck Daffy Duck & Foghorn Leghorn (voice) Short
1997 From Hare to Eternity Yosemite Sam (voice) Short
2003 Mail Order Bride Russian Doctor
2003 Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt Himself TV Movie
2005 Firedog (voice)
2006 The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park Burdus
  • The Proud and Profane (1956) as Harry (uncredited)
  • Hot Rod Girl (1956) as Flat Top
  • Between Heaven and Hell (1956) as Pvt. Millard - Co. G (uncredited)
  • Runaway Daughters (1956) as Tommy Burns
  • The True Story of Jesse James (1957) as Charley Ford
  • Dragstrip Girl (1957) as Tommy Burns
  • Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) as Joe Gruen
  • The Delicate Delinquent (1957) as Wise Guy on Street (uncredited)
  • Portland Expose (1957) as Joe
  • Tank Battalion (1958) as PFC 'Skids' Madigan
  • Torpedo Run (1958) as Sub Crewman (uncredited)
  • Night of the Quarter Moon (1959) as Racist Punk (uncredited)
  • Warlock (1959) as Billy Gannon (uncredited)
  • Millionaire Doctor Joseph Frye (1959) as Hal
  • Bells are Ringing (1960) as Blake Barton
  • Studs Lonigan (1960) as Kenny Killarney
  • Where the Boys Are (1960) as Basil
  • The Great Imposter (1961) as Barney
  • Ring of Fire (1961) as Frank Henderson
  • The George Raft Story (1961) as Moxie Cusack
  • Sail a Crooked Ship (1961) as George M. Wilson
  • That Darn Cat! (1965) as Iggy
  • Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966) as Tod Wisdom
  • Skidoo (1968) as The Man
  • Record City (1978) as Chameleon
  • Death Car on the Freeway (1979) as Ralph Chandler
  • Underground Aces (1981) as Fred Kruger
  • Goliath Awaits (1981) as Dan Wesker
  • The Uppercrust (1981) as Harry Werner, alias Nash
  • Treasure Island (1982) as Ben Gunn
  • Princess Ida (1982, TV Movie) as King Gama
  • Hot Resort (1985) as Mr. Green
  • Uphill All the Way (1986) as Pike
  • Hollywood Vice Squad (1986) as Walsh
  • The Gnomes' Great Adventure (1987) as Holler/Carlo/Omar/Prince Gustav (voice)
  • Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers (1989) as Doc
  • Midnight (1989)
  • Singapore Harbor (1989)
  • Body Trouble (1992) as Johnny Zero
  • The Hollywood Beach Murders (1992) as Zoran
  • Sweet Justice (1992) as Billy Joe Rivas
  • Amore! (1993) as Asino
  • Hail Caesar (1994) as Pete Dewitt
  • Mr. Payback: An Interactive Movie (1995) as Himself (Cameo)
  • Pullet Surprise - Looney Tunes Short - (1997) as Foghorn Leghorn (voice)
  • Bloodmoon (1997) as Chief William Hutchins
  • Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997) as Cain Ball
  • Threshold (1997)
  • Better Than Ever (1997) as Will
  • After the Game (1997) as Benny Walsh
  • Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight (1997) (documentary)
  • Man of the Century (1999) as Roman Navarro
  • Final Rinse (1999) as Chief
  • Game Day (1999) as Sam Segal
  • The Rules (For Men) (1999)
  • The Art of Murder (1999) (uncredited)
  • All Shook Up (1999) as Sheriff Dudston
  • Castlerock (2000) as Mack
  • Luck of the Draw (2000) as Sterling Johnson
  • Beethoven's 3rd (2000, Video) as Uncle Morrie Newton
  • The Curio Trunk (2000, short subject) as Harold Belfast
  • High Times' Potluck (2002) as The Slim Man
  • Manna from Heaven (2002) as Ed
  • Love Story in Harvard (2004) as Professor John Keynes
  • Angels with Angles (2005) as George Burns / Shelleen
  • The Best of Frank Gorshin (2005, Video) as Himself
  • Buckaro (2005) as Judge


Year Title Role Notes
1966-1967 Batman The Riddler 10 Episodes
1969 Star Trek Bele Episode: "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
1976 Rudolph's Shiny New Year Sir 1023 / Quart (voice) TV Movie
1977 Wonder Woman Hoffman/Toyman Episode: "The Deadly Toys"
1979 Legends of the Superheroes The Riddler Episode: "The Challenge"
1995 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Sharpie Lawyer Episode: "Whine, Whine, Whine"
1995 The Ren & Stimpy Show The Reverend Jack Cheese (voice) Episode: "Reverend Jack Cheese"
1997 Johnny Bravo Barney Stone / Clovy (voice) Episode: "Blarney Buddies"
2005 The Batman Professor Hugo Strange (voice) 3 Episodes
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1956, "The Decoy") (Autograph seeker)
  • Navy Log (1957) - episode - Operation Lend Lease Adti: Amscray - Captain Ray Duncan
  • The Restless Gun (1957) - episode - Duel at Lockwood - Cowboy with Singer
  • The Silent Service (1958) - episode - The Thresher Story - Torpedoman 1st Class Larkin
  • Hennesey (1959) - 3 episodes - Seaman Pulaski, Shore Patrol, USN
  • The Detectives (1959) - episode - The Streger Affair - Billy McGirth
  • Have Gun - Will Travel (1959) - episode - Sons of Aaron Murdock - Marty (Bully)
  • Frontier Doctor (1959) - episode - Shadow of Belle Starr - Hank Butts
  • Mr. Lucky (1960) - episode - The Last Laugh - Jerry Musco
  • The Untouchables (1962) - episode - The Pea - Herbie Catcher
  • Naked City (1963) - season 4, episode 19 - Beyond This Place There Be Dragons
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1964, "The Second Verdict") (1964)
  • The Regis Philbin Show (1964) - episode - Episode #1.23 - Himself
  • Combat! (1963-1965) - 2 episodes - The Medal and The Hell Machine
  • A Man Called Shenandoah (1966) - episode - The Clown - Otto
  • Password All-Stars (1966) - episode - 11-25-1966 - Himself (Celebrity Contestant)
  • The Munsters (1966) - episode - Herman, the Tire Kicker - Fair Deal Dan
  • Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966) - Tod Wisdom
  • The Roger Miller Show (1966) - episode - Episode #1.14 - Himself
  • The Danny Kaye Show (1966) - episode - Episode #4.11 - Himself
  • The Red Skeleton Hour (1966) - episode - What Did You Do in the Dump, Daddy? - Nasty McMean
  • The Dean Martin Show (1966) - episode - #2.3 & #2.21 - Himself
  • The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show (1966) - episode - Episode #1.11 - Himself
  • Garrison's Gorillas (1967) - episode - Thieves' Holiday - Destin
  • The High Chaparral, "Stinky Flanagan" (1969)
  • The Movie Game (1969) - episode - 12-9-1969 - Himself
  • Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1969-1971) - episodes - #2.17 & #5.5 - Himself (Guest Performer)
  • The Virginian (1970) - episode - Follow the Leader - Dutch Miley
  • O'Hara, U.S. Treasury (1971) - episode - Operation: Bribery - Little Willie
  • Police Surgeon (1971) - episode - Borrowed Trouble
  • The Merv Griffin Show (1971) - episode - Salute to Horror - Himself
  • The Hollywood Squares (1971-1972) - 5 episodes - Guest Appearance
  • The Interns (1971) - episode - The Challenger
  • Hawaii Five-O (1974) - episode - Welcome to Our Branch Office - Stash
  • Movin' On (1974) - episode - Good for Laughs - Tucker J. Paulsen
  • Ironside (1974) - episode - What's New with Mark? - Dorian
  • Police Woman (1975) - episode - Glitter with a Bullet - David Griffin
  • S.W.A.T. (1975) - episodes - Ordeal & Strike Force - Johnny Rizi
  • Sky Heist (1975) - TV Movie - Ben Hardings
  • The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Sammy Davis Jr. (1975) - TV Special - Himself
  • The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Jackie Gleason (1975) - TV Special - Himself
  • Dinah! (1976) - episode - Episode #2.138 - Himself
  • Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) - TV Movie - Sir 1023 (voice)
  • Charlie's Angels (1977) - episode - Angels at Sea - Harry Dana
  • Greatest Heroes of the Bible (1978) - episode - The Story of Moses: Parts 1 & 2 - Ocran
  • Legends of the Superheroes (1979) - Special - The Challenge - The Riddler
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979) - episode - The Plot to Kill a City: Parts 1 & 2 - Seton Kellogg
  • A Masterpiece of Murder (1986)
  • Murder, She Wrote (1988) - episode - Mourning Among the Wisterias - Arnold Goldman
  • The New Hollywood Squares (1988) - episode - 5-30-1988 - Guest Appearance
  • The Late Show (1988) - episode - 4-28-1988 - Himself
  • Comic Book Collector (1990) - Documentary short - Himself
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1994) - episode The Tale of the Carved Stone - Brother Septimus'
  • VH-1 Where Are They Now? (1999) - TV Series documentary - episode - Superheroes -Himself
  • Biography (2000) - episode - Adam West: Behind the Cowl - Himself
  • Black Scorpion (2001, "Crime Time") (Clockwise)
  • The 57th Annual Tony Awards (2003) - TV Special - Himself
  • Biography (2004) - episode - Catwoman: Her Many Lives - Himself
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2005) - episode - "Grave Danger" - Himself
  • Dr. Vegas (2006) - episode - For Love or Money - Edgar Rhodes (Last appearance)


Year Title Role Notes
2000 Diablo II Marius / Lysander (voice)

Stage appearances

  • What Makes Sammy Run? playing Sammy Glick at Valley Music Theatre (Los Angeles) (1966)
  • Jimmy playing James J. Walker at Winter Garden Theatre (Broadway) (1969)
  • The Prisoner of Second Avenue playing Mel Edison at Parker Playhouse (Florida) (1973)
  • Whodunnit standing in as Andreas Capodistriou at Biltmore Theatre (Broadway) (1982)
  • On the Twentieth Century playing Oscar Jaffe on a tour of the United States (1986)
  • Ah, Wilderness! playing Nat Miller at American Heartland Theatre (Kansas City, Mo.) (1987)
  • Best of Burlesque, sketch comedy and impressionist, Showboat Dinner Theater, Clearwater, FL (1994)
  • Guys and Dolls as a performer in Las Vegas (1995)
  • The Sunshine Boys as Willie Clark on a tour of the United States (2001)
  • Say Goodnight, Gracie as George Burns at Helen Hayes Theatre (Broadway) (2002)
  • STAR TREK original series.


  • "The Riddler", composed by Mel Torme, B-side "Never Let Her Go" composed by David A. Gates 1966
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