Arguably blonde Tisha Sterling was one of the most gorgeous gals to ever go up against Gotham City’s crime fighting duo. As Ma Parker’s not-too-bright daughter Legs, she just reveled in her mama’s nefarious crimes even though she was looked down upon for being a girl. Sterling at first is clad in Daisy Mae cut-offs to show off her shapely gams, but they are hidden under a tight fitting prison uniform for all of episode two.

“The Greatest Mother of Them All” and “Ma Parker,” which originally aired on October 5 & 6, 1966, were two of the most violent Batman episodes ever. A spoof on the real life vicious thirties thug Ma Barker, Shelley Winters’ Ma Parker was a machine gun toting mother from hell who with her brood rob the women at the Mother of the Year awards. Ma loves her boys, but keeps putting daughter Legs down for being useless (“Girls just don’t belong in crime!”). This makes Legs even more determined to be just as mean as her brothers Pretty Boy, Machine Gun, and Mad Dog. After each bullet riddled crime, one of the Parker boys is captured. Soon Batman and Robin nab Ma and Legs at a nursing home and escort the felonious family off to the Big House. However, that was the old lady’s plan all along as she takes over the pen with help from some crooked guards, one of whom sets a bomb to go off in the Batmobile when it goes over 70 mph.

Though Robin whines he is starving and wants Batman to speed up, the law abiding crime fighter doesn’t and suspects a trap based on what the prison guard said. After stopping the car and finding the dynamite, they head back to the prison, Robin’s hunger be damned. There they are ambushed by Ma and her boys who hook the Dynamic Duo up to two electric chairs. Ma then leaves Legs or as she is now known prisoner 35-23-34 to watch them fry, but Batman outwits the half-wit by playing into her insecurities (“I’m as good as any boy even if Ma doesn’t think so!”) getting her to think Ma is double-crossing her. Left alone, Batman is able to get a message to Alfred who has the city cut off the electricity to the jail. After surprising the Parkers, a fight ensues and this time Ma and her brood really wind up behind bars for good.

Lovely Tisha Sterling holds her own playing opposite the scene-chewing Winters and an unbilled Julie Newmar as Catwoman who appears in episode two. Too bad she doesn’t get a good capture scene at the end as she just slips away while Batman and Robin arrest Ma. To read more about Sterling who starred in such movies as Village of the Giants, Coogan’s Bluff with Clint Eastwood, and Norwood with Glen Campbell, read my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema now available in revised soft cover edition. Below are her remarks about working on Batman from it:

“Shelley Winters was a bitch and was a holy terror to me.  She didn’t want to be there—then she slipped and hurt her back on the set which made her angry.  After I became a much more serious actress and we re-connected [on the 1971 TV-movie A Death of Innocence], she loved me.  And I still love her to this day.  She’s a marvelous teacher at the Actors Studio.  And she is a very interesting, fabulous woman.  I love her honesty and forthrightness.  She’s been known to be extremely hard to work with but it’s just Shelley.”

Next Bat Time, Next Bat Channel: Joan Staley as Okie Annie



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