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    The One Line That Solidified Burt Ward As The World’s First Robin In Batman

    The scene that West and Ward had to enact for their audition was, by West’s recollection, a short one. Batman and Robin merely had to discuss the dastardly dealings of the Penguin (presumably still not cast at that time, but who would eventually be played by Burgess Meredith), and West knew that whoever played Robin had to fit certain criteria. “The casting of Robin was obviously very important to us,” West wrote, “since he had to have the build and energy of a 15-year-old, but with adult sensibilities and wit to sell the character.” Ward — then going by his real name of Bert “Sparky” Gervais, Jr. — was given an audition because of his experience selling real estate to a Fox executive. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know.

    Luckily, Ward also knew a lot about performing. During his screen test with West, Ward, with complete confidence, shouted out one of Robin’s catchphrases: “Holy popcorn, Batman!” West loved it:

    “As Burt said that last line, he slammed his fist into his palm with punishing enthusiasm. As he did, I knew Batman had a Robin. The chemistry was right, Burt had nailed the character, and his Robin would be able to show all the youthful exuberance my Batman wouldn’t be able to.”

    Some of West’s and Ward’s early screen tests can be found online, and it’s astonishing how good they are when compared to their also-considered counterparts played by Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell. They can sell the absurdity. Waggoner and Deyell were playing the parts too up-the-middle. It reveals just how subtly and perfectly West and Ward understood the material. The show they made is, as a result, one of the best ever.

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