Gunsmoke's Milburn Stone and Batman's Madge Blake were cousins whose parents drastically disagreed on acting as a respectable job

She didn't start acting until she was 50, but "Doc" had her back and helped her catch Gene Kelly's eye!

When producers were first putting together the campy Sixties TV show Batman, they realized something was missing.

It didn't seem right to have Batman and Robin living together as the bachelor Bruce Wayne and the growing boy Dick Grayson. They decided Robin needed a maternal figure looking out for him.

They decided what they needed was Madge Blake to play Robin's Aunt Harriet, his well-intended but imperceptive caretaker.

Madge Blake was one of those character actors who burns into your memory. Whether she was playing Robin's aunt or Larry Mondello's mom on Leave It to Beaver, there was something indelible she brought to each role, so fans likely smile to see her pop up prolifically in classic movies and TV shows.

It may surprise you then to know that Blake was a late bloomer as an actor.

Raised in a very strict family, Blake wanted to be an actor from a very young age, but her Methodist minister father forbade it. He didn't think that acting was a proper profession — which is wild, because there was actually an outrageously respectable actor in Blake's family.

Milburn Stone is best-known for playing Doc on Gunsmoke. To Blake, he was best-known as her cousin, the son of her mother's brother.

Stone didn't appear in movies and TV until the 1930s, but he'd been a stage actor since 1919. At that early point in his career, he was 15 years old and Blake, denied the right to try, was 20.

As Stone's star rose, Blake made peace with her father's wishes. She got married to James Lincoln Blake, and in 1940, she helped her husband build the detonator that launched the Manhattan Project's nuclear weapons.

It wasn't until after that history-making project was completed that Blake hit the books and started studying acting.

Finally, at the age of 50, she was ready to disregard her dad's wishes and follow her heart to Hollywood.

Her cousin Milburn absolutely had her back, introducing her around in the hopes she'd get cast.

And get cast, she did! She got cast in bit parts in movies and television in the early 1950s. Best of all, she caught Gene Kelly's eye, appearing in all his movies after 1951, including playing a gossip columnist in Singin' in the Rain.

On TV, she was cast in recurring roles on Leave It to Beaver, The Real McCoys, The Joey Bishop Show, and Batman. She also appeared in the pilot for Dennis the Menace.

By the time Blake joined the cast of Batman, she was 15 years into her career. Playing Robin across from her Aunt Harriet, Burt Ward was just beginning his acting career, but he said Blake was still far more nervous than he was. In an interview with The Spectrum, Ward said sometimes she would get so nervous filming that if he got close to her, she would reach out to steady herself and not let go.

"Madge Blake was so sweet, but you had to watch out for her!" Ward joked.

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murgatroid45 17 months ago
I don't suppose her husband was related to Amanda?
ToddHuber 27 months ago
Can't believe no one remembers her as the President of the Jack Benny Fan Club, Pasadena chapter
cinamac 41 months ago
Some of my favorite tv characters were Mrs. Mondello and Mrs. Rayburn!
Wiseguy 41 months ago
Why does the email link to this article display the words "Take Quiz"?
MichaelGreene 41 months ago
For those looking for a pre-"Doc" view of Milburn Stone, you can check out the first episode of the 2nd season of the original Dragnet series. In this one, Joe Friday (played by Jack Webb) tries to talk a would-be leaper from a 10th floor ledge of a building in Los Angeles(shot in the days when the Los Angeles skyline consisted of the City Hall...and nothing else). Milburn Stone plays a police captain who's Friday's commanding officer. The episode first aired in September of 1952, and can be found on YouTube.
VinnieVinson 41 months ago
That was a nice article. Aunt Harriet appeared in the Batman stories BEFORE the TV show was developed. She was probably created by editor Julius Schwartz after the apparent death of faithful butler Alfred. Eventually, Alfred "got better," and Aunt Harriet left.
jh4306 41 months ago
robin didn't need aunt harriet to take care of him he had alfred and bruce to take care of ladies allowed in the batcave ya'
cripplious jh4306 23 months ago
She was brought into the comics because prudes thought it was too gay for Bruce to be a single man being a foster parent.
Andybandit 41 months ago
Good story even though I don't know who these people are. I love watching gunsmoke.
OK, let me see if I understand you right: You claim you are a regular viewer of Gunsmoke, but have no inkling as to who Milburn Stone was? Even after reading this article, you are still clueless?!?!
Since you didn't mention one way or the other I will assume that you have never seen Batman either, correct? {Hence the reason for not knowing who Madge Blake was.}
Some people who insist that they like Gunsmoke will write the name as "Gun Smoke." Some people are not very observant.
Barry22 41 months ago
She worked on the bomb?! You go, Aunt Harriet!
harlow1313 Barry22 41 months ago
Sadly, it is embarrassing to be human.

I believe I would have preferred to have been born a turkey vulture, floating like a black kite in the blue, blue sky. Carrion as far as the eye can see.
Wiseguy harlow1313 41 months ago
Yeah, it's embarrassing to be of the same species as you.
harlow1313 Wiseguy 41 months ago
Brilliant retort! Right back at you.
harlow1313 41 months ago
Had Milburn shaved, and Madge grown one, the two would've been interchangeable.
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