November 10th, 2014
Burt Ward is probably the most famous Robin of all-time, but the role was also excellently portrayed by 1949 Batman & Robin serial star Johnny Duncan.
Born in 1923 on an 80 acre farm 100 miles north of Kansas City, I contacted this living legend earlier this spring. To my surprise, he had just finished the week long task of cutting the grass on the same farm where he was born. At 91 years old, he was mowing the lawn for the last time, as he was preparing it for sale. It was a job he had dutifully performed almost his entire life.
When Mr. Duncan answered the phone, a lively, friendly, energetic, kind and wonderful man greeted me. After explaining my intentions, he spent the better part of an hour talking about filming, life in Kansas City during the depression, and the itchy wool costume he wore during the filming of the Batman & Robin serials which he immediately threw out after the filming. He had had enough of the irritation the heavy wool costumes caused in the summer heat. He left them laying on the floor of the set and simply walked away.
Douglas Croft has the distinction of playing Robin the first time in the 1943 Series starring Lewis Wilson as Batman. The franchise was revived again in 1949, and Robert Lowery starred with Duncan as the 2nd Batman.
Per my discussions with Mr. Duncan, he told me he was offered to co-star with Adam West for the 1966 series. Offered $750 a week for the role, at the advice of his agent, Duncan now having motion picture experience demanded $1,500 per episode. No return phone call was ever made, and Burt Ward was given the role. He did receive one conciliatory phone call from Adam West expressing his desire to have worked with him.
MEARS had 3×5 cards, card sized photos, and 16×20 prints autographed during the private signing. Custom Johnny Duncan holograms with the May 13th, 2014 date were added to each item to document the date of the signing. The expert staff of JSA has also authenticated each signed photo. The signatures were all bold and beautiful, with no betrayal of the signature that may be expected by a 91 year old signer.
Working with Mr. Duncan was quite a pleasure, and his work as an early Robin should be seen by all.
Troy R. Kinunen