Anyone who wants to pick Frank Gorshin out of the cast on ABC’s The Edge of Night might understandably be confused. Depending on the day of the week, he may walk on as a red-neck sheriff, gun-toting thug or mustachioed hairdresser. They’re all permutations of his recurring part as Smiley Wilson, an actor turned con man who employs a gallery of guises (nine are pictured here) in a Byzantine attempt to bilk nasty heiress Raven Whitney out of a $200 million inheritance.
Gorshin, who spent 25 years in Hollywood and is best known to TV audiences for his portrayal of the Riddler in the old Batman series, is delighted. “I look forward to the challenge every day,” he says. “It’s an acting exercise.”
Gorshin believes that because of his abilities as an impressionist, producers often refused to take him seriously. “I always wanted to act, but over the years you get a reputation as a nightclub performer and people only think of you in those terms. It’s been very hard to get work as an actor.”
Born in Pittsburgh, the son of a railroad man, Gorshin broke into show business in New York, where “Al Jolson was my first impression.” Frank now has some 40 characters in his personal repertory company and showcases them at as much as $40,000 a week on the nightclub circuit six months a year.
He left L.A. five years ago and last January came to The Edge of Night for a four-month stint, thanks to a brainstorm on the part of soap writer Henry Slesar. “When plans go awry,” Slesar says with a chuckle, “solutions come from Smiley’s evil, fertile brain.”
Two years ago Gorshin, who is now 48, sold his 33-room Greenwich, Conn, house to Diana Ross for $1.6 million. With wife Christina, 45, and son Mitchell, 17, he moved to nearby Westport, where he tools around in a silver-colored Rolls-Royce bearing a license plate that reads STOLEN. But his greatest current joy is his new gig. “Smiley is me,” says Gorshin, “in attitude if not in experience. He didn’t make it in Hollywood, and he had to flee. Then he got a chance to act.”