Leslie H. Martinson, who directed the very first feature-length Batman movie, died today at his home in Los Angeles. He was 101.
A former columnist for The Boston Evening Transcript, a trip to California inspired him to get into the movie business. After a few years working his way from MGM’s mail room to their script department, he decided that he wanted to try his hand at directing. A move to television was in order, and by 1953 he was directing episodes of Cowboy G-Men and City Detective.
His first brush with genre media is arguably Topper, the story of a man who was haunted by a couple of cheerful ghosts. There then followed a slew of work on various detective shows, dramas, and a sizeable chunk of the seemingly endless parade of westerns that filled the late 50s-early 60s.
After directing the Batman two-parter “The Penguin Goes Straight” (followed by the inevitable “Not Yet, He Ain’t”), he and writer Lorenzo Sample, Jr were picked to create Batman: The Movie (1966), which was shot between the first and second seasons of the series. He then moved on to direct episodes of The Green Hornet and Wonder Woman, both the late-70s Lynda Carter series and an earlier one-shot comedy pilot meant to capitalize on the then-popularity of Batman. Bionic superheroes The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman also came under his directorial hand.
Other Sci-Fi/Fantasy shows he worked on included Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Powers of Matthew Star, Manimal, Fantasy Island, and the robot-based sitcom Small Wonder.
Mr. Martinson is survived by his wife, Connie.
(Kelly Luck still thinks it’s the best Batman movie. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.)