13 QUICK THOUGHTS: The Magnificence of Burgess Meredith’s PENGUIN

Burgess Meredith was born Nov. 16, 1907. Here’s our birthday tribute…

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UPDATED 11/16/19: This first ran on Burgess Meredith’s birthday in 2015. Perfect time to present it again — in slightly edited form. Groovy! — Dan

The other day, I wrote about how it took me until adulthood to really appreciate Cesar Romero’s Joker. (Check it out here, if you like.) Well, the same holds true for Burgess Meredith’s Penguin.

Actually, more so, because I didn’t even like the Penguin all that much as a kid. He just didn’t seem like much of a threat to Batman.

Oh, how wrong I was. I just didn’t understand. Because the Penguin, it turns out, was the shrewdest of them all.

Burgess Meredith was born 112 years ago. Sure, he was Mickey from the Rocky movies — and a million other things as a gifted character actor — but really, truly, he was the Penguin.

And here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS on why he was one of the greatest:

1. Burgess Meredith gave the Penguin intelligent craftiness, just what was needed when you’re dealing with an arch-villain who is clearly not a physical match for Batman.

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2. He was the smartest of the Big Four. The Riddler challenged Batman, the Joker annoyed him and Catwoman made the Caped Crusader hot under the cowl. But none of them quite frustrated him the way the Penguin did.

3. So in retrospect it makes all the sense in the world that it was the Penguin who was calling the shots in the 1966 movie.

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4. The writers clearly knew what they were doing by always having a script ready for whenever Meredith was available.

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5. Still, I thought the writers stretched things even more than usual when they set the Penguin up as a mayoral candidate or movie mogul.

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6. This. (And wanna see what it looks like today? Click here.)

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7. I think it was hilarious when they put the Penguin in a mask. (Same with the Joker.)

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8. That giant umbrella in his first two-parter was great. Right out of the comics. (Literally so.)

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9. This.

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10. These.

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11. I really want to go to the Penguin’s restaurant, don’t you?

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12. Man, I loved this team-up when I was a kid. It doesn’t really hold up as well as it used to, but it felt like a special event at the time.

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13. Danny DeVito? OK. Colin Farrell? Intriguing. But no one will ever top Burgess Meredith, who brought the character to life as if he walked off a comics page.

MORE

— Dig This UP-CLOSE LOOK at an Original PENGUIN Costume. Click here.

— Dig This UP-CLOSE LOOK at the Original 1966 PENGUIN SUB. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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6 Comments

  1. I loved that he thought if he married Barbara Gordon, he would be “imumed” to the crimes he was committing

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  2. The Penquin is my favorite Batman villain. He’s smart and can roast other heroes and villains alike! Even in the Filmation 1968 Batman animated series, The Penquin is written so smartly (Mainly by writer Bill Keenan).

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  3. Is it me or was the Batman: The Animated Series Penguin an extension of what Mr. Meredith brought out of the comics? The whole fitting in, and the high society thing. On one level he’s a dastardly fiend, on another, he’s kind of a tragic figure…

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  4. What a “waugh waugh waugh”-nderful way to remember Burgess Meredith and his great portrayal of the Penguin.

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  5. Love Meredith. As I’ve said many times, one of the greatest acting bits in movie history is him sitting in the background, not saying a word as Rocky reads bad poetry to Adrian in the hospital in Rocky II. Even the scenes where he’s blurred in the background, asleep, is a master class in acting.

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