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Flash Gordon

Alex Raymond created, wrote and drew the character of Flash Gordon from his first appearance in 1934 until he enlisted in the Marines to fight in World War II. Flash was inspired by and created to compete against fellow science-fiction hero Buck Rogers.

Flash Gordon first appeared as a Radio serial in 1935, The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon. Flash Gordon was played by Gale Gordon, later famous for his television roles in Our Miss Brooks, Dennis the Menace, The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy.

The three Flash Gordon cliffhanger serials are considered classics by serial fans today and feature former Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon. Though Crabbe is the best known of the actors who has played Flash other actors have taken on the role. Steve Holland was cast as Flash for all 31 episodes in the 1954-55 Flash Gordon television series. In 1967, a low-budget Turkish adaptation of the comic was made, called Flash Gordon's Battle in Space with Hasan Demirtag as the title character. The animated New Adventures of Flash Gordon (NBC 1979 - 1982) starred Robert Ridgely (1931 - 1997) as Flash Gordon. Ridgely also voiced the part of Prince Barin. As an actor Ridgley guest starred on TV series such as Maverick, Sea Hunt, Lawman, Bonanza, WKRP in Cincinnati, Coach, Night Court, Wings, and Designing Women. His voice work credits include: Strawberry Shortcake, The Incredible Hulk and Dexter's Laboratory.

The 1980 Flash Gordon movie cast Sam J. Jones as Flash and though not a success at the time of release, it has since become a cult classic and features a soundtrack by the rock band Queen. Lackluster boxoffice and a falling out between Jones and the producer Dino De Laurentiis helped to scrap a planned Flash trilogy.

The film saw Flash reinvented as a quarterback rather than a polo player as in the original comics and was co-written by Michael Allin (Enter the Dragon) and Lorenzo Semple Jr. (known for the 1966 Batman movie as well as Papillon, The Parallax View, The Drowning Pool, Three Days of the Condor and Never Say Never Again). Jones had made his first film appearance in the 1979 Blake Edwards romantic comedy 10 with Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews and Bo Derek. This allowed him to beat out Kurt Russell and Arnold Schwarzenegger for role of Flash, and as Buster Crabbe before him, Jones dyed his hair blonde for this part. In 2007, Jones played the prisoner Krebb in the Sci Fi Channel original television series Flash Gordon. He also had extended cameos (as himself, with his blond Flash Gordon hairstyle) in both the 2012 comedy film Ted and its 2015 sequel, Ted 2. In 2019, Jones is featured in the documentary "Life After Flash", along with cast, crew and fans including Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Mark Millar, Robert Rodriguez and Stan Lee.

Defenders of the Earth (1985) is an American animated television series featuring characters from three comic strips distributed by King Features Syndicate - Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Mandrake's assistant Lothar - opposing Ming the Merciless in the year 2015. Supporting characters include their children Rick Gordon (son of Flash), L.J. (son of Lothar), Kshin (adopted son of Mandrake), and Jedda Walker (daughter of the Phantom). The show lasted for 65 episodes; there was also a short-lived comic book series published by Star Comics (an imprint of Marvel Comics). The closing credits credit Rob Walsh and Tony Pastor for the main title music, and Stan Lee for the lyrics. Flash was voiced by actor Lou Richards in the series. Richards TV and film credits include: Hawaii Five-O, Project U.F.O., Fantasy Island, WKRP in Cincinnati, Archie Bunker's Place, Gloria, The Love Boat, Highway to Heaven, JAG, The X-Files, CSI: Miami, Hulk, ER, 24, Mad Men and NCIS.

A 1997-98 animated series featured a teenage Flash Gordon (first name Alex) who meets Dale during a skateboard contest, shortly before Ming's army attempted its first invasion on Earth. Canadian actor and voice actor Toby Proctor played Flash. Proctor has also apeared in Police Academy: The Series, Earth: Final Conflict, Nikita, Lost Girl and Heroes Reborn.

Eric Johnson was Steven "Flash" Gordon in the 2007 American-Canadian live action TV series. Johnson has also apeared in Smallville, Rookie Blue, Fifty Shades Darker and The Knick.

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon

Born Clarence Linden Crabbe II (February 7th, 1908 – April 23rd, 1983), but known professionally as Buster Crabbe, was an American two-time Olympic swimmer and film and television actor. He won the 1932 Olympic gold medal for 400-meter freestyle swimming event (beating Jean Taris of France by a tenth of a second), which launched his career on the silver screen and later television. He starred in a variety of popular feature films and movie serials released between 1933 and the 1950s. He is also the only actor to portray the top three syndicated comic-strip heroes of the 1930s: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers.

Crabbe is credited in some films as "Larry Crabbe" or "Larry (Buster) Crabbe". His role in the Tarzan serial, Tarzan the Fearless (1933), began a career in which he starred in more than a hundred films. In King of the Jungle (1933), Jungle Man (1941), and the serial King of the Congo (1952), he played typical "jungle man" roles. He starred in several popular films at this time, including The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi (1933), alongside Betty Grable, and Search for Beauty (1934).

In 1936, he was selected over several stars to play Flash Gordon. He also starred as Buck Rogers for Universal, playing the role with his natural dark hair, unlike his blonde hair for Flash Gordon. In 1939 Crabbe reunited with Grable for a lead role in the mainstream comedy Million Dollar Legs.

Crabbe starred at the Billy Rose's Aquacade at the New York World's Fair during its second year (1940), replacing fellow Olympic swimmer and Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller. During World War II, Crabbe was put under contract by Producers Releasing Corporation for lead roles from 1942 to 1946. He portrayed a Western folk-hero version of Billy the Kid in 13 films, and Billy Carson in 23, along with Al St. John as his sidekick.

As a 34-year-old married man, Crabbe had a draft deferment, but made Army training films for the field artillery at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, along with St. John. Crabbe also played some jungle roles for the studio. Following the war, Crabbe appeared opposite Weissmuller as a rival in two jungle films, Swamp Fire (1946) and Captive Girl (1950). For his final multi-chapter movie serial, Crabbe returned to the jungle playing the role of Thun'da in King of the Congo (1952).

Crabbe starred in the syndicated television series, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion (1955 to 1957) as Captain Michael Gallant; the adventure series aired on NBC. His real-life son, Cullen Crabbe, appeared in the series as the character "Cuffy Sanders". Crabbe was frequently featured in archival footage in the children's television program, The Gabby Hayes Show. Prior to his playing "Captain Gallant", Crabbe had hosted the local New York City-based children's film wraparound television series, The Buster Crabbe Show. It was set against the backdrop of a ranch foreman's bunk house and featured Crabbe engaging his viewers with games, stories, craftmaking, hobbies, informational segments, and interviews with guest performers and personalities. This was in-between the reruns of old movie serials, westerns, and comedies. The Buster Crabbe Show was seen weekday evenings on WOR-TV (Channel 9) in New York City from Monday, March 12th, 1951, to Friday, October 3rd, 1952. The series name was changed to Buster's Buddies! and returned to the NYC airways on WJZ-TV (Channel 7) (now WABC) on Monday, September 21st, 1953. The WJZ TV version of the series included a studio audience of kids, becaming more of a kids' variety show. Despite the addition of the studio audience and Crabbe's personality, Buster's Buddies! was not a hit, and it was canceled on Friday, March 26th, 1954.

Crabbe made regular television appearances, including one on an episode of the 1979 series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, in which he played a retired fighter pilot named "Brigadier Gordon", in honor of Flash Gordon. When Rogers (Gil Gerard) praises his flying, Gordon replies "I've been doing that sort of thing since before you were born". Rogers (who was born more than 500 years earlier) responds "You think so?" to which Gordon replies "Young man, I know so". In fact, Crabbe had been playing "Buck Rogers" since long before Gerard was born.

Crabbe's Hollywood career waned somewhat in the 1950s and 1960s. The ever-industrious Crabbe became a stockbroker and businessman during this period. Building on his past achievements as an Olympic swimmer he opened the Southern California swimming pool-building company and a swim camp, called Camp Meenahga in Florida. During this period, Buster joined the swimming pool company Cascade Industries in Edison, New Jersey. In his capacity as Vice President of Sales, promoter, and spokesman for Cascade, "the world's first 'package pool' company", he attended shopping mall openings and fairgrounds, combining the promotion of his swim camps and Cascade's vinyl liner for in-ground swimming pools. A pool line was named after him, and swimming pools were sold by "Buster Crabbe Dealers" throughout the eastern seaboard and southern states from 1952 until 1990.

Though he followed other pursuits, he never stopped acting. However, his career in the 1950s, and later, was limited to low-budget films, notably westerns, such as Gunfighters of Abilene (1960), Arizona Raiders (1965), and The Bounty Killer (1965). He appeared as the father of a young swimmer in the comedy Swim Team (1979) and as a sheriff in the horror film Alien Dead (1980), followed by The Comeback Trail (1982), one year before his death. Crabbe also appeared in television commercials for Hormel Chili and Icy Hot. Through Icy Hot, he was actively involved in arthritis education.

In the 1950s, two published comic book series were named after him. Eastern Color published 12 issues of Buster Crabbe Comics from 1951 to 1953, followed by Lev Gleason's four issues of The Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe in 1954.

In 1965, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. During his senior swimming career, Crabbe set 16 world and 35 national records. He continued swimming through his sixties and in 1971 set a world record in his age group. In 1975, marketing guru Jeffrey Feinman landed a five-book deal for Crabbe with Playboy Press. His first book, Energistics, is an exercise program for seniors. It sold quite well and went through several printings.

In 1933, he married Adah Virginia Held (1912–2004) and gave himself a year to make it as an actor. If he didn't, he would start law school at USC. Crabbe and his wife had two daughters, Sande and Susan, and a son, Cullen. In 1957, Sande died of Anorexia nervosa; she weighed 60 pounds at the time of her death at age 20. He was the maternal grandfather of the college football coach Nick Holt.

Buster Crabbe died in 1983, at age 75, of a heart attack at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is interred at Green Acres Memorial Park in Scottsdale.

Dale Arden

Dale Arden is a fictional character, the fellow adventurer and love interest of Flash Gordon and a prototypic heroine for later female characters, including Princess Leia and Padme Amidala in Star Wars. Flash, Dale and Dr. Hans Zarkov fight together against Ming the Merciless. Dale is Flash Gordon's constant companion in his adventures, as well as his one true love. The emperor Ming the Merciless is immediately attracted to her and the early strips were basically based on Flash’s heroic efforts to rescue Dale from Ming's many attempts to marry her.

Dale Arden is introduced in the first Flash Gordon story, July 7th, 1934, as simply "a passenger" on the plane Flash is flying on. After the plane is hit by a meteor, Flash saves Dale by parachuting to the ground. The two are then abducted by Dr. Zarkov, who takes them on his rocket to the planet Mongo. In the 1930s comic strips, Dale often comes into conflict with other female characters who desire Flash romantically (such as Princess Aura and Queen Azura).

In the 2011 Dynamite Comics Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist, Dale Arden is a cartographer and researcher for the State Department in 1934. As in Raymond's original story, she and Flash are abducted by Zarkov and brought to Mongo. In the later Dynamite Comics Flash Gordon series, Dale Arden is a modern-day science journalist with a special interest in the space program, as well as a feminist. She travels with Zarkov and Flash on the former's Z-Plane to Mongo.

Dale's broadcast debut was in a Hearst Radio series that ran from April to October 1935. The actress who played her is unknown. Dale was first portrayed on film by Jean Rogers in the film serials Flash Gordon (1936) and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938). In the 1940 serial, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, Dale was portrayed by Carol Hughes.

Irene Champlin took the role for the 1954 Flash Gordon television series. Champlin was praised for transforming Arden from the typical damsel in distress of the serials into a trained scientist and a quick thinker who often saved Flash and Zarkov from perishing.

Meltem Mete portrayed in Dale in the 1967 Turkish film Flash Gordon's Battle in Space (AKA Baytekin – Fezada Çarpisanlar in Turkish). Here Dale is depicted as a spy who helps Flash. Diane Pershing provided the voice for the character in the 1979 Filmation series. Filmation's version of the character was a newspaper reporter.

In 1980, Dale was portrayed by Melody Anderson in the film Flash Gordon, produced by Dino De Laurentiis. In this version of the story, Dale is a New York travel agent. Anderson was a Canadian actress who started out as a print journalist and an on-air reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Turning to acting her credits include Welcome Back, Kotter, Archie Bunker's Place, Battlestar Galactica, Dallas, T. J. Hooker, CHiPs, The A-Team and The Fall Guy. She also had recurring roles on St. Elsewhere and Jake and the Fatman and was the female lead of the NBC 1983 series Manimal. Her last television appearance was in 1995 as a guest star in the short-lived CBS revival of Burke's Law. After retiring from acting Anderson became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states of New York and California, with private practices in Manhattan and West Los Angeles.

During the course of the 1980s Marvel animated series Defenders of the Earth, Dale is captured and killed by Ming, but her consciousness is left trapped inside a crystal Flash uses to power the Defenders' base on Earth, Monitor. Dale is reborn as the heart of the base, Dynak.

Lexa Doig voiced Dale in the 1996 animated series Flash Gordon and Gina Holden portrayed Dale in the 2007 Flash Gordon television series.

Jean Rogers as Dale Arden
Flash Gordon, 1936 and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, 1938

Jean Rogers (March 25th, 1916 – February 24th, 1991) was an American actress who starred in serial films in the 1930s and low–budget feature films in the 1940s as a leading lady. She is best remembered for playing Dale Arden in the science fiction serials Flash Gordon (1936) and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938).

Rogers was born Eleanor Dorothy Lovegren in Belmont, Massachusetts. Her father was an immigrant from Malmö, Sweden. She graduated from Belmont High School and had hoped to study art, but in 1933 won a beauty contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures that led to her career in Hollywood. Rogers starred in several serials for Universal between 1935 and 1938, including Ace Drummond and Flash Gordon.

Rogers was one of seven women chosen out of 2,700 passengers on excursion boats and ferries who were interviewed for roles in Eight Girls in a Boat. The group began work in Hollywood on September 3rd, 1933. By 1937, Rogers was the only one of the seven featured as an actress.

Rogers was assigned the role of Dale Arden in the first Flash Gordon serial. Rogers' sported, long blonde hair, and revealing costumes and was was rescued from one situation after another by Flash while being lusted after by the the evil Ming the Merciless (Charles B. Middleton). While filming the series in 1937, her costume caught fire and she suffered burns on her hands. Co-star Crabbe smothered the fire by wrapping a blanket on her. In the first serial, Arden competed with Princess Aura (Priscilla Lawson) for Gordon's attention. Rogers' character was fragile, diminutive, and totally dependent on Gordon for her survival; Lawson's Princess Aura was domineering, independent, voluptuous, conniving, sly, ambitious, and determined to make Gordon her own. The competition for Gordon's attention is one of the highlights of the film. In Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, the second serial, Rogers sported a totally different look. She had dark hair and wore the same modest costume in each episode. Rogers matured after the first serial, and no sexual overtones are seen in Trip to Mars. Rogers told writer Richard Lamparski that she was not eager to do the second serial and asked her studio to excuse her from the third.

Despite starring in serial films, Rogers felt she was not going to improve her career unless she could participate in feature films. She played John Wayne's leading lady in the 1936 full-length motion picture Conflict (left) and co-starred with Boris Karloff in the horror film Night Key the following year. During the 1940s, Rogers appeared solely in feature films, including The Man Who Wouldn't Talk (1940) with Lloyd Nolan, Viva Cisco Kid (1940) with Cesar Romero as the Cisco Kid, Design for Scandal (1941) with Rosalind Russell and Walter Pidgeon, Whistling in Brooklyn (1943) with Red Skelton, A Stranger in Town (1943) with Frank Morgan, Backlash (1947), and Speed to Spare (1948) with Richard Arlen. Still, she was unhappy with the studios, possibly because she was relegated to B-movie productions on a lower salary. She decided to freelance with companies such as 20th Century Fox and MGM. Her last appearance was in a supporting role in the suspense film The Second Woman, made in 1950 by United Artists.

Rogers married Dan Winkler in 1943 and died in Sherman Oaks in 1991 at the age of 74 following surgery.

Editors note here. I was very young when I first saw the original Flash Gordon serial broadcast on one of our local TV stations. I remember hurrying home from school so I wouldn't miss it. It was my Star Wars before there was a Star Wars and my very first "must watch" TV program predating everything else in The Neat Stuff Hall of Fame except maybe Superman. Movies weren't even on my radar yet, there were no VHS tapes or DVDs back then and I was too young to go to the theatre, and it would be still be a few years before I discovered the Universal monsters on the weekend late show. So Flash Gordon is one of my first TV memories and Jean Rogers as Dale Arden (especially the blonde version of Dale in the first serial) has to be my first TV crush. I didn't know must about girls (AKA women) back then (some would say I still don't) but I knew if I were Flash I would certainly risk certain death at the hands of Ming the Merciless to rescue her.


My Neat Stuff Slideshow - Jssor Slider, Slideshow with Javascript Source Code


Carol Hughes as Dale Arden
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe 1940

Carol Hughes (born Catherine Mabel Hukill, January 17th, 1910 – August 8th, 1995) was an American actress best known for her leading roles opposite Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, and for her role as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).

Hughes was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Charles, an upholsterer, and Mable Hukill. Both of her parents were born in Chicago but her mother's grandparents were from Germany. She was raised in a rented house at 2122 Pearl Court in Chicago along with a cousin, Pearl Hukill. As a teenager, she was drawn to acting and participated in school plays.

At the age of 14, she began acting and dancing in short musical comedies with an Oshkosh stock company. The following year, she appeared as Katie Conway in the Conway Sisters team, having learned to sing and play piano. In the late 1920s, she teamed with Frank Faylen to form the comedy dancing and singing team of Faylen and Hughes in which she played the "dumb girl" Kitty Hughes. In 1928, the 18-year-old Hughes married Faylen and by the early 1930s, they were performing together in stock and vaudeville shows throughout Illinois and Wisconsin.

In 1935, Hughes and Faylen moved to Hollywood to attempt movie careers. Hughes began her film career playing bit parts in George White's 1935 Scandals (1935) and Ceiling Zero (1936). After being signed on as a contract player by Warner Bros. in 1936, her first name was changed to Carol and she began to appear in credited speaking roles, mostly in B movies. By 1937, she was appearing in leading roles in films such as Meet the Boy Friend, Marry the Girl, Renfrew of the Royal Mounted, and The Westland Case.

In 1938, Hughes transitioned to Western films appearing opposite Gene Autry in Gold Mine in the Sky (1938), Man from Music Mountain (1938), and Under Fiesta Stars (1941), and opposite Roy Rogers in Under Western Stars (1938). In 1940, she landed one of her best-known roles as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).

Throughout the early 1940s, Hughes appeared in leading roles in Top Sergeant Mulligan (1941), The Miracle Kid (1941), My Son, the Hero (1943), She's for Me (1943), and The Beautiful Cheat (1945). As the decade progressed, however, she appeared increasingly in minor roles in films such as The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), Every Girl Should Be Married (1948), and Mighty Joe Young (1949). In 1947, Hughes returned to the stage to perform in Trouble for Rent.

Hughes made brief returns to Western films in leading roles in Home in Oklahoma (1946) with Roy Rogers, and Stagecoach Kid (1949) with Tim Holt (the latter film featured her last major screen role). Minor roles followed in D.O.A. (1950) and Scaramouche (1952). In the last years of her film career, Hughes appeared mainly in RKO film shorts and one television series episode.

Hughes' husband Frank Faylen continued working as a character actor in films and television through the 1970s. He appeared in supporting roles in numerous films, including The Pride of the Yankees (1942), The Lost Weekend (1945), Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) in the role of Ernie the cabdriver, Road to Rio (1948), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1965), and Funny Girl (1968). He is best-known today for playing the father Herbert T. Gillis in the television series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). Hughes and Faylen raised two daughters, Catherine (or Kay) and Carol, both of whom became actresses. Their daughter Kay was the first wife of Regis Philbin. Their daughter Carol appeared in the television series Leave It to Beaver (1962–1963) and The Bing Crosby Show (1964–1965). Hughes and Faylen remained married for 57 years until his death in 1985.

Carol Hughes died on August 8th, 1995, in Burbank, California, at the age of 85. She is buried next to her husband in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California.

Ming the Merciless

Ming the Merciless is a character who first appeared in the Flash Gordon comic strip in 1934. He has since been the main villain of the strip and its related movie serials, television series and film adaptation. Ming is depicted as a ruthless tyrant who rules the planet Mongo. In the comic strip, when the heroic Flash Gordon and his friends land on the fictional planet Mongo, they found it was ruled by an evil Emperor, a despot who quickly becomes their enemy. He was not named at first, only being known as "the Emperor" until several issues later, when his name was revealed to be Ming.

The capital of his empire is named Mingo City in his honour. In addition to his army, Ming is shown to have access to a wide variety of science fiction gadgets, ranging from rocket ships to death rays to robots. Though evil, he has his weaknesses, which include a desire to marry Flash's beautiful companion, Dale Arden. Ming's daughter Princess Aura is as evil as he is when the series begins, but is eventually reformed by her love for Flash, and later for Prince Barin of Arboria. Later comic strips introduced Ming's son, Kang the Cruel and another son, Ming II. A 1957 story "The Time Pendulum", features a Ming from the future, Ming XIII, who travels back in time to kill Flash.

In the 2011 Dynamite Comics Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist, Ming is shown as attempting to invade Earth in the year 1934 and is also shown as working with the Third Reich to conquer the planet. The prequel, Merciless: The Rise of Ming depicts Ming's ascent to power over Mongo. Merciless depicts Ming as the son of Emperor Krang, and the husband of Auranae, who becomes Princess Aura's mother. In the later Dynamite Flash Gordon comic, King's Watch (unconnected to the events in Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist) Ming uses a dimensional portal to send his troops to the planet Earth. In the sequel story (Flash Gordon: The Man From Earth), Dale Arden learns that Ming uses special "Quantum Crystals" to expand his lifespan, and Flash views a Mongo propaganda video which reveals Ming's full title as "Ming Gorzon-Hydraxus of Seledarqu".

Ming first appeared on radio in the 1935 adaption, The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon. Bruno Wick played Ming the Merciless. In the Flash Gordon movie serials (begining in 1936) Ming was portrayed by actor Charles B. Middleton. Ming's makeup and costuming were designed to resemble Fu Manchu, a fictional "supervillain" popularized in earlier Hollywood films and in a series of novels first published in England in 1913. In Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) Ming takes on a Hitler-like persona with references to him as "Dictator" and his wearing of elaborate military uniforms.

Swedish actor Max von Sydow played Ming in the 1980 film with Sam J. Jones as Flash. Max von Sydow is known numerous memorable roles include Knight Antonius Block in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and as the Three-eyed Raven in HBO's Game of Thrones (2016), for which he received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. He has also starred in The Exorcist, Three Days of the Condor, Voyage of the Damned, Conan the Barbarian, Never Say Never Again, Dune, Ghostbusters II (voice of Vigo), Minority Report, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and of course Strange Brew with Doug and Bob McKenzie, (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis).

In 1979 animated version of Flash Gordon. Ming's voice was provided by Vic Perrin in the pilot movie; in the series he was replaced by Alan Oppenheimer, who would later go on to voice Skeletor in He-Man.

In the 1986 Defenders of the Earth animated series Ming (left) is portrayed as having green skin and pointed ears and is voiced by Ron Feinberg (Barney Miller, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Mission: Impossible, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Belle's Magical World and The Transformers).

In the 1996 animated series with a teenage Flash, Ming looks even more reptilian: he is a green, pointy-eared, sharp-toothed scaly alien, which cause the heroes to call him a "lizard". In this version, Ming is presented as a more light-hearted, comic relief type of character. Ming is played by voice actor Ray Landry who is also known for X-Men: Mutant Academy, Babar, The Adventures of Tintin and Beetlejuice.

In the 2007 Sci-Fi Channel television series, Ming is portrayed by John Ralston as a clean shaven blond Caucasian. This version of Ming the Merciless is a media-savvy tyrant, who controls the planet through a monopoly on the production of clean water. He uses this control to extort wealth and obedience from the populace. He dresses in a quasi-military garb and seems to have some sort of militaristic position in addition to his role as a Water Baron and emperor.

Charles B. Middleton as Ming the Merciless

Charles B. Middleton (October 3rd, 1874 – April 22nd, 1949) was an American stage and film actor. During a film career that began at age 46 and lasted almost 30 years, he appeared in nearly 200 films as well as numerous plays. He is perhaps best remembered for his role as the villainous emperor Ming the Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940.

Born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Middleton worked in a traveling circus, in vaudeville, and acted in live theatre before he turned to motion pictures in 1920. Middleton's success as a character actor, however, did not become firmly established until the sound era in films. His ominous baritone voice proved ideal for villainous roles, and he became an ideal foil for comedy stars Harold Lloyd, Eddie Cantor, Wheeler & Woolsey, and Laurel and Hardy.

He was cast in Warner Bros.' 1931 film Safe in Hell as well as in Warners' 1932 hit The Strange Love of Molly Louvain opposite Ann Dvorak and Richard Cromwell. In Pack Up Your Troubles, he portrays a villainous welfare association officer, the foil of Laurel & Hardy. He is also the district attorney in Cecil B. DeMille's 1933 film This Day and Age; and he appears opposite The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (also 1933), performing as the stern prosecutor of Freedonia. In Universal Pictures' classic 1936 screen version of the musical Show Boat, he is Sheriff Ike Vallon, the official who tries to arrest Julie La Verne (Helen Morgan) and her husband for being illegally married.

Since Middleton's facial features generally resembled those of Abraham Lincoln, he was cast to portray Lincoln in the 1933 public-service short The Road Is Open Again. Four years later, in an uncredited role in the comedy Stand-In, he appears as an actor dressed as Lincoln who complains of being typecast as the former president. Middleton's association with Lincoln did not end there, although in the 1940 feature film Abe Lincoln in Illinois, he performs not as Abe but as Thomas, Lincoln's father.

Middleton also has prominent roles in many serials from 1935 to 1947 but is especially well known for his characterization of Ming the Merciless. Some of the other serials in which Middleton can be seen include Dick Tracy Returns, Daredevils of the Red Circle, and Jack Armstrong. He also portrays the ranch foreman Buck Peters in the 1935 movie Hopalong Cassidy Enters, which is the first entry in that long-running Western series.

Middleton died of a heart attack in Los Angeles just two months after the 1949 release of The Last Bandit, the last film in which he appeared. His grave site is located in Hollywood Forever Cemetery and is situated next to the grave of his wife of many years, vaudeville performer, stage and film actress Leora Spellman. Although sixteen years his junior, Leora Spellman predeceased her husband by four years, dying in 1945 in Los Angeles, California from a heart attack.

Dr. Zarkov

Dr. Hans Zarkov is a fictional character appearing in the Flash Gordon comic strip and the following serials, films, television shows and comic books. Zarkov is a brilliant scientist who creates a rocket and abducts Flash and Dale Arden at gunpoint and forces them to come with him to the planet Mongo to fight against Ming the Merciless. In later versions of the story becomes Zarkov becomes a more sympathetic character who works with the heroes to become a regular companion. In the original comic strip, he was first thought to have died when his ship crashed into the planet Mongo. It is later revealed that Ming's minions pulled him out of the wreckage. Zarkov's character in the 1980s DC comic was handled the same way.

The 1996 Flash Gordon comic book published by King Features has Zarkov perform his traditional role of assisting Flash in his adventures. It also resolves the discrepancy in the serials about Zarkov's first name, by giving the character's full name as Hans Alexis Zarkov. In the 2011 Dynamite Comics comic Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist, Doctor Hans Zarkov is a Russian émigré, suffering from clinical paranoia, living in Switzerland. He abducts Flash and Dale and takes them to Mongo on board his rocket, here named Copernicus.

Zarkov was first portrayed in the Flash Gordon film serials by Frank Shannon. He is identified as "Alexis Zarkov" in the 1938 serial Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars. The character was later portrayed by Joseph Nash in the 1954 Flash Gordon TV series.

In 1977, Zarkov appeared as a scientist bent on saving the Earth and introducing immense alien powers to the Earth in the Super Friends season 2 episode 11 titled "Forbidden Powers." In this episode, Flash Gordon and Dale Arden are replaced by Batman and Wonder Woman.

Alan Oppenheimer provided the voice for the character in the 1979 Filmation animated series, New Adventures of Flash Gordon. The issue of Zarkov forcing the heroes to accompany him to Mongo is avoided by changing the story by having Flash and Dale come to his underground laboratory during a dangerous meteor shower that sets off a deadly volcanic eruption that traps the visitors even as it threatens to kill them. Thus Zarkov's rocket is the only means to escape certain death and they board willingly. After which, Zarkov apologizes that he cannot drop the pair off before continuing to Mongo and they immediately agree to help him once he explains his mission.

In 1980, Chaim Topol (billed only as "Topol" and best known for Fidler on the Roof and For Your Eyes Only) portrayed the character in the film Flash Gordon produced by Dino De Laurentiis. This version of Zarkov is a former NASA scientist, who was fired and dismissed because of his "mad" theories about an alien attack on Earth.

Paul Shaffer is the voice of Dr. Hans Zarkov in the 1996 animated series. Shaffer is a Canadian singer, composer, actor, author, comedian and multi-instrumentalist who served as David Letterman's musical director, band leader and sidekick on the entire run of both Late Night with David Letterman (1982–1993) and Late Show with David Letterman (1993–2015).

Jody Racicot portrayed the character in the 2007 Flash Gordon television series.

Frank Shannon as Dr. Zarkov

Francis Connolly Shannon (July 27th, 1874 – February 1st, 1959), better known as Frank Shannon, was an Irish actor and writer.

A stage actor and silent film pioneer, Shannon made his screen debut in 1913's The Artist's Joke. He later appeared in dozens of films through the mid-1920s, including The Prisoner of Zenda (1913) and Monsieur Beaucaire (1924). Shannon then returned to the stage until beckoned back to Hollywood in 1931 and played a few substantial supporting parts, including Captain McTavish in Warner Bros.' Torchy Blaine series from 1937 to 1939, but he is most fondly remembered as the brilliant scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940. He also had uncredited roles in the Batman serial (1943) and The Phantom serial (1943). He worked afterwards as a writer for the TV-series Tales of the Texas Rangers between 1955 and 1958.

Shannon died in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California at the age of 84. He is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.

Princess Aura

Princess Aura is a fictional character in the Flash Gordon comic strips and serials. She is the daughter of the series' villain, Ming the Merciless, and the lover of Prince Barin, the rightful heir to the throne of Mongo, and is banished with him to the forest world of Arboria.

In 1936, Princess Aura was portrayed by Priscilla Lawson in the Flash Gordon film serial. In 1940, the role was portrayed by Shirley Deane in the third Flash Gordon serial, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.

Melendy Britt provided the voice of Princess Aura in the 1979 Filmation animated series. She was portrayed as Ming the Merciless' daughter, who at first assists her father in battling Flash and company, but turns against him and joins the rebel forces of Mongo. She also has an elite guard of female warriors under her command known as the Witch-Women. After Ming is removed from power, the Witch-Women remain in Princess Aura's service. Princess Aura also initially resents Dale Arden and rejects Prince Barin's affections, but would become the former's friend and the latter's love interest as the series progressed. Consequently, her attraction to Flash is downplayed and does not resurface after her desertion of her father.

In 1980, Princess Aura was portrayed by Ornella Muti in the film Flash Gordon produced by Dino De Laurentiis and is shown to have numerous lovers. She saves Flash from death with the help of one of her lovers, a royal doctor who revives Flash after Ming tries executing him in a gas chamber.

In the 1996 Flash Gordon animated series, Princess Aura is a sympathetic character, who often defies her father because of her attraction to Flash, or for the sake of her mother. In this version, Aura has green skin, but is otherwise perfectly human, even though her father Ming is reptilian.

Anna Van Hooft portrayed Princess Aura in the 2007 Flash Gordon television series. She is once again portrayed as a sympathetic character. Unlike the comic, she has a brother and her mother is alive. She vainly seeks her father's approval but Ming, like most other characters on the show, regards her with a mixture of pity and contempt. She also has a crush on Flash and a rivalry with Dale who looks down on her as a "royal little brat".

Priscilla Lawson as Princess Aura
Flash Gordon, 1936

Priscilla Lawson (born Priscilla Jones Shortridge, March 8th, 1914), was an American actress best known for her role as Princess Aura in the original Flash Gordon serial (1936).

Born in St. Paul, Indiana, Lawson was the daughter of Elmer Shortridge, a railroad yard foreman and machinist, and his wife, Elizabeth Hess. Lawson was a professional model by her early twenties and was named Miss Miami Beach in 1935, after which she was employed as an Earl Carroll chorus girl at the Miami Casino. This gained her a contract with Universal Studios, which used her in a variety of small roles.

In 1936 she was cast in the serial Flash Gordon as the voluptuous daughter of the villain, Ming the Merciless. Princess Aura's rivalry with Dale Arden for Flash Gordon's affection was one of the centerpieces of the serial and gained Lawson cult figure status.

Roy Kinnard wrote in Science Fiction Serials: "Lawson's notable physical assets were responsible for incurring the wrath of censors" in the filming of Flash Gordon. Co-star Jean Rogers told Kinnard that censors ordered retakes of Chapter 1 of the serial with Lawson "wearing slightly less revealing garb."

She was married to Gerald A. Lawson (1906-1933), a furniture salesman, on March 8th 1932; he died the following year of croupous pneumonia. She later married Alan Curtis (1909-1953), an American movie actor, in November 1937. They divorced in 1940 and Lawson's screen career ended in 1941.

After her second marriage ended, Lawson enlisted in the Women's Army Corps during World War II. A rumor circulated that she lost a leg in an accident while serving in the Army. Another version is that she lost a leg in a 1937 car crash. However Jean Rogers, who played Dale Arden in the first two Flash Gordon serials with Lawson denied that she had ever lost a leg. In later life, Lawson managed a stationery shop in Los Angeles, California, and worked for two pottery companies as a finisher.

On August 27th, 1958, Lawson died at 44 in Monrovia, California, due to cirrhosis and upper gastrointestinal bleeding caused by a duodenal ulcer. She was interred at Live Oak Memorial Park in Monrovia.

Shirley Deane as Princess Aura
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, 1940

Shirley Deane (born Shirley Deane Blattenberger; March 16th, 1913 – April 26th, 1983) was an American film actress. Born to Jesse H. Blattenberger and his wife Zola (née Redden), she was raised by her maternal grandmother. Deane was best known as an actress for playing "Bonnie Jones" in 20th Century Fox's Jones Family series of films.

Vivacious, sunny, blue-eyed Shirley Deane first trained as a dancer from the age of seven and learned to play the piano. She began her professional career on stage in San Francisco and arrived in Hollywood via winning a dancing beauty contest. Signed by 20th Century Fox primarily on the strength of her singing voice, she spent several years training in 'stock school' and assigned mainly extra work. Graduating to featured roles, her first significant speaking part was in Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936), appearing as a platinum blonde. She was then picked from fourteen other hopefuls for a lead in a comedy-drama about newly-weds, The First Baby (1936). This, in turn, led to her becoming a fixture in the series of low-budget, family-oriented Jones Family films, a modest rival to MGM's popular Hardy family. Jed Prouty and Spring Byington headed the small-town clan, Shirley often second-billed as Bonnie, the eldest daughter. With the end of the series came the end of her contract with Fox. Her final lead was in a minor crime drama, Undercover Agent (1939). After that, she appeared in the supporting cast, as Princess Aura, in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). Ironically, though Shirley's singing voice appears to have been a major asset, it was used in the movies just once, warbling a number in a minor Gene Autry western, Prairie Moon (1938).

With her movie career on the wane after a mere four years of moderate success, Shirley turned towards radio, appearing on Kraft Music Hall and Lux Radio Theatre. For most of the 1940's, she performed on stage on the East Coast, guested as occasional vocalist with swing bands and sang at USO canteens. Her contribution to the war effort also consisted of putting together musical reviews and selling war bonds and stamps in theatre lobbies between shows. However, after 1952, Shirley essentially forsook her show business career and devoted herself to raising a family. She died in April 1983 of cancer in Glendale, California, at the age of seventy, only three days after her Flash Gordon co-star Buster Crabbe.

Prince Barin

Prince Barin is a character in the Flash Gordon stories. He is king of a region of Mongo called Arboria and later becomes the ruler of Mongo after Ming's overthrow. Barin becomes one of Flash's best friends, and is deeply in love with Princess Aura. In his appearance, Barin resembles the character of Robin Hood.

Prince Barin was first portrayed by Richard Alexander in the 1936 Flash Gordon film serial. He reprised the same role in the 1938 sequel Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars. In the 1940 sequel Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, the role was portrayed by Roland Drew.

Alan Oppenheimer provided the voice of Prince Barin in the 1979 Filmation animated series. Barin was depicted as a master archer, armed with arrows encasing any item they strike in ice. In 1980, Prince Barin was portrayed by Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill, Jane Eyre, Hot Fuzz, Rocketeer) in the film Flash Gordon produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Steve Bacic portrayed Prince Barin in the 2007 Flash Gordon television series.

Richard Alexander as Prince Barin
Flash Gordon, 1936 and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, 1938

Richard Alexander (below left with Princess Aura 1936) (November 19th, 1902 - August 9th, 1989) was an American film character actor. Born in Dallas, Texas, Alexander appeared in numerous film serials such as Flash Gordon, Zorro Rides Again and films like Babes in Toyland, The Gladiator, as well as a leading role in All Quiet on the Western Front. Richard Alexander died at age 86 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California.

Rowland Drew as Prince Barin
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, 1940

Roland Drew (above right with Princess Aura 1940) or Walter Goss (August 4th, 1900 - March 17th, 1988) was an American actor born in 1900 in New York City. Drew made his first film in 1926 and continued to work until the 1940s. He enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army in September 1942 during World War II.

Noted primarily as Dolores del Río's leading man in Ramona in 1928, another of his prominent film roles was as Dr. Robinson in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer a decade later. His other appearances include From Nine to Nine, Hitler, Beast of Berlin, Bermuda Mystery, and Two O'Clock Courage. He also gained fame as Prince Barin in the 1940 film serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. He would later retire from acting and became a dressmaker and lived to age 87.

Queen Azura

Queen Azura first appears in the Flash Gordon comic strip in "The Witch Queen of Mongo", as the leader of the blue-clad Magic Men. Azura rules the land from her castle, Syk. As most women on Mongo do, she takes a special interest in Flash Gordon. She drugs him with Lethium, which wipes away his memory, and then convinces him that he is her consort.

In the 1938 serial Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, Azura rules the planet Mars, teaming up with Ming the Merciless to destroy Earth with her Nitron beam. She displays several magical abilities, chiefly the power to teleport herself and others but also a degree of telekinesis and the power to transform people into figures of living clay, condemned to live in darkened caves.

No scientific explanation is ever offered for Azura's abilities. The source of her magic is the white sapphire she wears and there is also a black sapphire which acts as protection from her magic. The origin of these sapphires is unknown.

In the 1979 Filmation's animated series, Azura is the queen of Syk. She is portrayed as a blue skinned beautiful evil woman. She tries to get Flash as her lover and husband, but in vain. Azura returns in two episodes of the Sci Fi Channel Flash Gordon TV series in (Secrets and Lies and Revolution - Part 2). In this series Azura is played by Jody Thompson and is the leader of the Zurn.

Beatrice Roberts as Queen Azura
(Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, 1938)

Alice Beatrice Roberts (March 7th, 1905 – July 24th, 1970) was an American film actress born in New York City. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Colin M. Roberts, and she attended Winthrop High School.

She entered several beauty pageants including the 1924 and 1925 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey (as Miss Manhattan, 1924, and Miss Greater New York, 1925). She won the "Most Beautiful Girl in Evening Gown" award each time. In 1916, Roberts was selected as the most beautiful girl at an annual Movie Ball contest in Boston.

Roberts went to Hollywood in 1933 and between then and 1946, she appeared in nearly 60 films, including Tall Timber (1937) and Love Takes Flight (also 1937), in which she starred opposite Bruce Cabot. Despite her considerable beauty and gracious bearing, she was never able to command leading roles during her career at MGM. Instead, she was cast (often on loan to other studios) as lowly-billed nurses, maids or secretaries. Many of her roles were small and uncredited. Her most notable role was that of Queen Azura in Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, a 1938 serial.

Her last movie contract was with Universal, and her final appearances were in Criss-Cross and Family Honeymoon. Her acting career never became the success she had dreamed of and she left Hollywood in 1949.

She was married from 1919 to 1923 to LeRoy Robert Ripley, American cartoonist, entrepreneur, and amateur anthropologist who is known for creating the Ripley's Believe It or Not! newspaper panel series, radio show, and television show which feature odd facts from around the world. Louis B. Mayer noticed her when she appeared as a guest in a party scene in San Francisco [1936]. Mayer was in love and Roberts had a relationship with the MGM studio chief over the next few years. In the 1940s, Roberts married John Wesley Smith. Roberts died in 1970 at age 65 in Plymouth, Massachusetts from pneumonia.


In the comic strip Sonja is the sister of the rebel leader, Count Bulok. Flash Gordon and Bulok break Sonja out of the Mingo City prison. She instantly falls in love with the daring and handsome Flash ("The Outlaws of Mongo"). When she's rejected by Flash, she visits Ming the Merciless and offers to help him regain his throne ("The Tyrant of Mongo"). In the comic Sonja was protrayed as a clueless sexpot who threw herself at Flash which never sat well with Dale was always jealous of Sonja whenever Alex Raymond drew them in the same story. Sonja started out as an ally of the Earthpeople in the Outlaws of Mongo sequence from 1937 to 1938. But repeatedly-spurned by Flash Sonja would free Ming after Flash had finally captured him. Sonja makes a deal with Ming to be crowned Emperess of Mongo if he regained his throne. After he does, Ming the Merciless has bride new bride Sonja executed.

In the serial Sonja's background is never fully revealed. When first seen in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, she is an attendant to Princess Aura in the kingdom of Arboria. However, it is soon made clear that Sonja is actually loyal to Ming the Merciless and has been leaking intelligence from Prince Barin's castle back to the Emperor by means of messenger birds.

Sonja returns as the Verden ice smuggler's wife in the Flash Gordon Sci Fi Channel series in 2007 (Episode 2: Pride). She is played by Tiffany Lyndall-Knight.

Anne Gwynne as Sonja
(Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, 1940)

Anne Gwynne was an American actress and model who was known as one of the first scream queens because of her many appearances in horror films. Gwynne was also one of the most popular pin-ups of World War II. She is actor Chris Pine's grandmother.

Gwynne was born Marguerite Gwynne Trice on December 10th, 1918 in Waco, Texas, the daughter of Pearl and Jefferson Benjamin Trice, an apparel manufacturer. After her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, she attended Stephens College, where she studied drama.

While accompanying her father to a convention in Los Angeles, Gwynne obtained a job modeling for Catalina Swimwear. She soon began acting in small theaters and appeared in a newsreel and a charity short. In June 1939, she signed a contract with Universal and was immediately put to work in Unexpected Father. Universal cast her in a variety of genres including film noir and musical comedy. She made a number of Westerns at the studio, including two she numbered among her favorite projects; Men of Texas with Robert Stack and Broderick Crawford and Ride 'Em Cowboy with Abbott and Costello (both 1942). She is remembered by fans of horror for her work in several pictures made in the 1940s. Her first horror film was Black Friday (1940) in which she played Boris Karloff's daughter. House of Frankenstein (1944) was the last horror picture she did at Universal. She also had an uncredited role in the 1940 The Green Hornet serial and played Tess Trueheart in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome in 1947.

Gwynne was a television pioneer, appearing in TV's first filmed series, Public Prosecutor (1947–48); she was a member of the regular cast, playing Pat Kelly, the district attorney's secretary.

Gwynne married Max M. Gilford in 1945. The couple had two children, Gregory and Gwynne. Her daughter (Gloria) Gwynne Gilford (born July 27, 1946) also became an actress (Beware! The Blob, 1972), Masters of the Universe, 1987) and married actor Robert Pine (C.H.I.P.S). They have two children, actress Katherine Pine and actor Chris Pine (Star Trek, 2009, Wonder Woman (2017).

Gwynne died March 31st, 2003 of a stroke following surgery at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.


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