Jill St. John
Catwoman precursor; first femme fatale of the 1966 Batman series
Born: 19 August 1940 (as Jill Oppenheim) in Los Angeles, CA, USA
Before there was a Catwoman on the 1966 Batman television series, there was a Mole.
And this first femme fatale's name was Molly.
Born Jill Arlyn Oppenheimer, the actress, Natalie Wood and Stefanie Powers all attended the same dance class as youngsters in the late 1940s. All three women had long-term relationships with actor Robert Wagner. And of those three, Ms. St. John and Ms. Wood were married to Mr. Wagner (at different times, of course).
Jill St. John began her acting career in the late 1940s in her native Los Angeles, California. She appeared in the 1949 TV series Sandy Dreams and in the radio drama One Man's Family. Admitted to UCLA at age 14 because of her high IQ, she dropped out in 1956, when she began to resume her acting career. That career really started in 1957 with roles in both television and the movies, beginning with a role on The Christophers on 31 March. She had notable roles in The Lost World (1960), The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961), Tender Is The Night (1962) and Who's Minding The Store (1963).
By 1966, Ms. St. John who was already a seasoned actress by this point, starred in the pilot episode of Batman, "Hi Diddle Riddle"/"Smack in the Middle," where she received higher billing than Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler. This was unusual, because "molls" normally did not receive such billing, but Ms. St. John was already well known by then.
Also, her donning the Robin costume was a precursor for other ladies in the comics:
- Carrie Kelley, who was Robin in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns , the Batman story that helped to re-establish Batman as "The Dark Knight."
- Spoiler, who served as Robin briefly in 2004, and who dies in the "War Games" story arc in DC Comics.
- And even Barbara Gordon donned Robin’s outfit in the graphic novel Batman: Thrillkiller, set in 1961-63. She sports red hair and a curvy figure not unlike Ms. St. John’s, and her hair cut for the Robin role would roughly correspond to the time (circa 1962) when the actress began to wear her hair shorter.
Jill St. John also deserves special mention because she was Batman 's first femme fatale in the 1966 series, preceding Catwoman by two months. And both characters seemed to meet their ends in the same manner, in their respective episode.
Ms. St. John's career continued on through the 1960s and early 1970s. She played leading lady Tiffany Case in the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. She was the one Gothamite to cross over into the world of 007 until Halle Berry did so, with Die Another Day (2002) and Catwoman (2004).
Jill St. John and Robert Wagner met for the first time in 1954; 13 years later, they worked on two movies together, Banning and How I Spent My Summer Vacation. The two performers finally united in 1982 and married eight years later. Her career slowed greatly after that, and her last completed film was made in 2002. She came out of retirement in 2014 to play Mrs. Claus in Northpole, which air on the Hallmark Channel at Christmas time, though rather sporadically. She otherwise keeps a very low profile.
This section updated 22 January 2017.