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Entertainment Earth

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Neat Stuff Hall of Fame - Adventures of Superman

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THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

Adventures of Superman is an American television series based on comic book characters and concepts created in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The show is the first television series to feature Superman and began filming in 1951 in California on RKO-Path stages and the RKO Forty Acres back lot. It was sponsored by cereal manufacturer Kellogg's. The syndicated show's first and last air dates are disputed but generally accepted as September 19th, 1952 and April 28th, 1958.

The show's first two seasons (episodes 1 to 52, 26 titles per season) were filmed in black-and-white; seasons three through six (episodes 53 to 104, 13 titles per season) were filmed in color but originally telecast monochromatically in first-run syndication. Television viewers did not see Superman in color until the series was syndicated to local stations in 1965.

George Reeves played Clark Kent/Superman, with Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, John Hamilton as Perry White, and Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson. Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane in the first season, with Noel Neill stepping into the role in the second season (1953). Superman battles crooks, gangsters, and other villains in the fictional city of Metropolis while masquerading "off-duty" as Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, Clark's colleagues at the office, often find themselves in dangerous situations which can only be resolved with Superman's timely intervention.

Its opening theme is known as The Superman March. In 1987, selected episodes of the show were released to video. In 2006, the series became available in its entirety on DVD. Hollywoodland was released in 2006, a film dramatizing the show's production and the death of its star George Reeves.

In 1951, California exhibitor and B-movie producer Robert L. Lippert released a 58-minute black-and-white feature starring George Reeves and Phyllis Coates called Superman and the Mole Men with a script by Robert Maxwell (as Richard Fielding) and direction by Lee Sholem. The film prompted the first television season to go into production in August/September of the same year. The series discontinued production, however, and remained unaired until September 1952, when cereal manufacturer Kellogg's agreed to sponsor the show, as the company had previously done with the Superman radio series. The success of the series came as a complete surprise to the cast. The initial feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, was subsequently edited into a two-part story called "The Unknown People" and was televised late in the first season, the only multi-part story of the series.

After the first season's filming was completed, actress Phyllis Coates (right) made other commitments and did not return as Lois Lane for the second season. Noel Neill (who had played the character in the theatrical serials) stepped into the role, and remained until the series' end. The core cast thereafter remained intact with Phillips Tead occasionally joining the regulars in the last seasons as the eccentric recurring character Professor Pepperwinkle. To promote and advertise the show, cast members Reeves, Hamilton and Larson were able to gain extra money by appearing in Kellogg's commercials during the second season. However, Noel Neill was never approached for these because sponsors worried that scenes of Clark Kent having breakfast with Lois Lane would be too suggestive.

From the beginning, the series was filmed like a movie serial with principals wearing the same costumes throughout the show to expedite out-of-sequence shooting schedules and save budgetary costs. For instance, all scenes that took place in the "Perry White Office" set would be filmed back to back, for future placement in various episodes, which was often confusing to the actors. Money was further saved by using Clark's office as Lois's office with a simple change of wall hangings, thus dispensing with additional set construction. Other scenic short-cuts were employed. In the last seasons, for example, few exterior location shoots were conducted, with episodes being filmed almost entirely in the studio. Reeves's red-blue-and-yellow Superman costume was originally brown-gray-and-white so that it would photograph in appropriate gray tones on black-and-white film.

After two seasons the producers began filming the show in color, a rarity for the time. Filming of the color episodes began in late 1954 and were broadcast in monochrome starting in early 1955. Because of the added cost of filming in color, the producers cut the number of episodes per season in half. Each 26-week season would feature 13 new episodes and 13 reruns of the older black-and-white shows. The monochrome prints of the color episodes also had to be treated so that there would be a somewhat similar contrast in the colors of Reeves's new costume to the one from the earlier seasons (with the contrast increasing each season), as the gray tones of the blue and red colors would otherwise have been rendered nearly indistinguishable.

Throughout the last 50 episodes, a lackadaisical attitude toward flubbed lines prevailed, ascribed to morale deterioration among cast and crew with the added expense of color filming and salary disputes. Producer Whitney Ellsworth later admitted: "Sometimes there was just garbage in the rushes, but we were often forced to use what we had, rather than relight the set and go again."

Black-and-White Seasons, 1952 to 1954

Phyllis Coates, like George Reeves, was a popular lead in B features of the period. For the TV series, Reeves asked that Coates receive equal star billing. Coates created a sharp, strong-willed Lois Lane, an enterprising reporter who tries to out-scoop Clark Kent. Jack Larson presents Jimmy Olsen as a Daily Planet intern always investigating the truth behind something wrong, but being caught by the villains. He usually receives help from Superman in the nick of time. In the noir-like early episodes, Superman himself is seen as a semi-mysterious presence, unknown to many of the crooks ("Who's the guy in the circus suit?" asks a villain in "The Riddle of the Chinese Jade"). Eventually, all the crooks knew exactly who he was (often with the bug-eyed exclamation "SOOPAH-man!" when he first appeared). The first season's episodes usually featured action-packed, dark, gritty, and often violent story lines in which Superman fought gangsters and crime lords. Many characters met their deaths in these episodes, some of them shown on screen.

When it came time to reassemble the cast and crew for filming the second season, and Phyllis Coates had committed herself to another project, Noel Neill was brought in as the new Lois and was given secondary billing with Larson, Hamilton, and Shayne. Neill's portrayal was more accessible to the younger television audience, sweeter and more sympathetic than the efficient, hard-as-nails Coates characterization. Bob Maxwell, whose episodes in the first season verged on the macabre, left the show (going on to produce Lassie in 1954). Whitney Ellsworth, already working on the show as an uncredited associate producer and story editor during the initial season, became Superman producer in 1953 and would remain so for the duration of the series. The second-season shows were still fairly serious in nature, retaining the film-noir/crime drama qualities while steering more in a science fiction direction, with Ellsworth tempering the violence significantly. With most of the villains becoming comic bunglers less likely to frighten the show's juvenile viewers and only some occasional deaths, usually off-screen, Kellogg's gave its full approval to Ellsworth's approach and the show remained a success. Sentimental or humorous stories were more in evidence than in the first season. A large portion of the stories, however, dealt with Superman's personal issues, such as his memory loss in "Panic in the Sky".

Color Seasons, 1954 to 1958

With the color seasons, the show began to take on the lighthearted, whimsical tone of the Superman comic books of the 1950s. The villains were often caricatured, Runyonesque gangsters played with tongue in cheek. Violence on the show was toned down further. The only gunfire that occurred was aimed at Superman, and of course the bullets bounced off. Superman was less likely to engage in fisticuffs with the villains. On occasions when Superman did use physical force, he would take crooks out in a single karate-style chop or, if he happened to have two criminals in hand, banging their heads together. More often than not, the villains were likely to knock themselves out fleeing Superman. Now very popular with viewers, Jimmy was being played as the show's comic foil to Superman. Many of these plots had Jimmy and Lois being captured, only to get rescued at the last minute by Superman.

Scripts for the final, sixth season re-established a bit of the seriousness of the show, often with science fiction elements like a Kryptonite-powered robot, atomic explosions, and impregnable metal cubes. In one of the last episodes, "The Perils of Superman" (a takeoff on The Perils of Pauline), there was indeed deadly peril straight out of the movie serials: Lois tied to a set of railroad tracks with a speeding train bearing down on her, Perry White nearly sawed in half while tied to a log, Jimmy in a runaway car headed for a cliff, and Clark Kent immersed in a vat of acid. This was one of three episodes directed by George Reeves himself. Noel Neill's hair was dyed a bright red for this season, though the color change was not apparent in the initial black-and-white broadcasts. ABC-TV aired episodes in its "Fun At Five" series during the 1957-58 season.

Reeves appeared as Superman on an episode of I Love Lucy which aired on January 14, 1957. In the episode, his character is only called "Superman". No mention of George Reeves's real name is ever made until the credit roll. The announcement "Our guest star tonight was George Reeves, star of the Superman series" was deleted from the episode after its first network broadcast. The film was later colorized and rebroadcast as part of an hour long Lucy special on the CBS network on May 17, 2015.

At the request of the US Treasury Department, the production company made a special truncated film (17m, 32s) to promote school savings-stamp plans to children. Shown in grade schools during the 1950s, this is the only "episode" of the series that has entered the public domain. It features Clark Kent/Superman, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane and plays like a normal black-and-white episode of the second season, with series semi-regulars Tristram Coffin (as a government spokesman) and Billy Nelson (as a criminal). It was directed by Thomas Carr. The episode was released on the Season Two DVD box set of The Adventures of Superman.

Cast of Characters

George Reeves as Superman/Clark Kent

Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El, a being from the planet Krypton, is rocketed to Earth in his infancy. He grows to manhood under the foster care of Eben and Sarah Kent. As an adult, he works as a Daily Planet reporter under his human name of Clark Kent. Despite the show's introduction describing Kent as "mild-mannered" and colleagues constantly calling him "timid" and even "spineless", Clark Kent is mildly assertive and authoritative during situations when he is not Superman. He frequently takes charge in emergencies and is not afraid to take reasonable risks. He puts his superpowers to work battling crime in Metropolis and is often called upon to rescue his associates Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. The Superman of the television series developed superpowers beyond his precursors in radio, cartoons, comics, and theatrical serials. On occasion, he separated his molecules to walk through walls, isolating a particular voice over multiple telephone lines long distance while flying, became invisible, and split in two while retaining his traditional powers of X-ray vision, microscopic vision, super-speed, super-hearing, super-breath, super-strength, flying, and a mastery of foreign languages. Both Superman's Kryptonian parents, Jor-El and Lara, and his adoptive Earth parents, the Kents, appear only in the premiere episode, "Superman on Earth".

George Reeves was born George Keefer Brewer in Woolstock, Iowa, to Helen Roberta (Lescher) and Donald C. Brewer. He was of German, English, and Scottish descent. Reeves was raised in Pasadena, California, and educated at Pasadena Junior College. He was a skilled amateur boxer and musician. He interned as an actor at the famed Pasadena Playhouse, and was discovered there. He was cast as Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind (1939) and over the next ten years he was contracted to Warners, Fox and Paramount. Reeves achieved near-stardom as the male lead in So Proudly We Hail! (1943, though listed in the credits as Brent Tarleton), but war service interrupted his career, and after he returned it never regained the same level of leading man status. While in the Army Air Corps he appeared on Broadway in "Winged Victory", and made training films. Career difficulties after the war led him to move to New York for live television. It was television where he achieved the kind of fame that had eluded him in films, as he was cast in the lead of the now-iconic Adventures of Superman (1952).

Although his Superman costume was padded, Reeves himself was actually very athletic and did most of his own stunts for his role in the Adventures of Superman. Episodes routinely required him to jump from significant heights to simulate Superman landing in frame or hitting a springboard with enough force to propel him out of frame. A frequent stunt required Reeves to grab a bar (outside of camera range) and swing in through a window, clearing his own height (over six foot) and landing on his feet. Reeves had mastered this gymnastic move so well that he could perform the stunt and immediately deliver his dialog without the need to cut to another angle.

Reeves personally defended Noel Neill when she replaced Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane in the second season of the Superman TV series when he felt the director was being too harsh with her. He also defended Robert Shayne, who played Inspector Henderson, when Shayne was accused of being a radical during the 1950s witch hunt and was in danger of losing his job. Producer Whitney Ellsworth also defended Shayne along with Reeves.

He was cautious in his interaction with the young children who were fans of Adventures of Superman (1952) because they often tried to test his "invulnerability" by assaulting him. Reeves related the story that at one appearance a young boy came up to Reeves, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at him. The boy had taken the weapon, a Luger that his father had brought home from World War II, to see if "Superman" really was invulnerable. Reeves convinced the boy to give him the gun by saying that someone else would get hurt when the bullets bounced off of "Superman". Although the incident was used in the film Hollywoodland (with Ben Affleck as George Reeves), researchers have never been able to find anything to corroborate the story.

Although some said that he was depressed over being labeled Superman, because he felt that it prevented him from being able to take on more challenging roles, he took the part of "role model" seriously, even to the extent of quitting smoking and not making appearances around children with his girlfriends. When the series ended in 1957 he did land a few other film roles, but he was mostly typecast as Superman, and other acting jobs soon dried up.

During this slump in his career he was even considering an attempt at exhibition wrestling. Then in 1959, the producers of Adventures of Superman decided to film another season's worth of shows in 1960. In addtion to another season of Superman, he was hoping to shoot a film in Spain, and was to be married to Leonore Lemmon (right). The wedding date set for June 19th, 1959. Three days before the wedding Reeves and Lemmon were having a party at his home that lasted past 1 am. Reeves had been drinking and was on pain killers for injuries he suffered in a car accident. He left the party and went up to bed, a shot rang out, and he was found dead, sprawled nude on his bed, with a bullet hole in his right temple. The death was ruled suicide.

However, Reeves' mother and a few others thought the whole thing was suspicious and claimed Reeves was a victim of foul play. Controversy still surrounds his death, due mainly to the his longtime affair with Toni Lanier (aka Toni Mannix), the wife of MGM executive E.J. Mannix. Many of Reeves' friends and colleagues didn't believe that he had committed suicide but that his death was related to the Mannix situation. However, no credible evidence has ever been produced to support that contention.

Hollywoodland is a 2006 American period mystery film directed by Allen Coulter and written by Paul Bernbaum. The story presents a fictionalized account of the circumstances surrounding the death of George Reeves. Joining Ben Affleck as Reeves is Adrien Brody as a fictional character, Louis Simo, a private detective investigating Toni Mannix (played by Diane Lane, who would later play Superman's adoptive mother in Man of Steel). Mannix was involved in a long romantic relationship with Reeves and was the common-law wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Reeves had ended the affair and had become engaged to a younger woman, aspiring actress Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney). Pictured above left: Toni Mannix and George Reeves, above right: Affleck and Lane as Reeves and Mannix in Hollywoodland.

Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill as Lois Lane

Lois Lane is a reporter with the Daily Planet and Clark Kent's associate. She is a well-dressed, competent professional woman. She suspects Kent is Superman and awaits an opportunity to confirm her suspicions. In the Noel Neill episodes, Lois is infatuated with the Man of Steel and dreams of being united in marriage with him. Lois returns to her hometown in one early episode. Played by Phyllis Coates in the first season and thereafter by Noel Neill. She is stated as being 26 years old in the 1957 episode "The Tomb Of Zaharan".

When Adventures of Superman came to television in 1951, veteran movie actors George Reeves and Phyllis Coates (left) took the leading roles for the first season. By the time the series found a sponsor and a network time slot, Coates had committed herself to another production, so the producers called on Noel Neill, who had played Lois Lane in the movies. She continued in the role for five seasons until the series went off the air in 1958. She was scheduled to appear in the seventh season with co-star Jack Larson in 1960, but after Reeves's tragic and sudden death, the seventh season was canceled, officially ending the show. While Phyllis Coates generally distanced herself from the role, Neill embraced her association with Lois Lane, giving frequent talks on college campuses during the 1970s, when interest in the series was revived, endearing herself to audiences with her warmth and humor.

In her teens, Neill (below) was a popular photographic model. While Betty Grable's pin-up was number one among GIs during World War II, Neill's was ranked number two. After she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, it led to appearances in many of the studio's feature films and short subjects. In the mid-1940s, Noel had a leading role in one of Monogram Pictures' wayward-youth melodramas, and she became a familiar face in Monogram features for the next several years, especially in the recurring role of Betty Rogers. She appeared in the last of the original Charlie Chan movies, Sky Dragon (1949), and also played damsels in distress in Monogram Westerns and Republic Pictures serials. Neill sang with Bob Crosby and his orchestra. She also sang at the Del Mar Turf Club, which was owned by Bing Crosby.

In 1945, producer Sam Katzman gave Neill the recurring role of Betty Rogers, aggressive reporter for a high-school newspaper, in his series of "Teen Agers" musical comedies, beginning with Junior Prom in 1946. When Katzman was casting his Superman serial for Columbia Pictures, he remembered Noel Neill's newshawk portrayals and signed her to play Lois Lane. She played the role in the film serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950), with Kirk Alyn portraying Superman/Clark Kent (below).

Neill and her original 1948 Superman serial co-star, Kirk Alyn, enjoyed cameos in the 1978 film Superman as Lois Lane's parents (above right). Their dialog scene was cut for theatrical release, but played in its entirety when the film was broadcast on TV, and later in the 2000 director's cut restoration. Neill and Jack Larson both made guest appearance on the TV series Superboy in the episode "Paranoia" during the show's fourth season. In 2006 Neill played the multi-millionaire dying wife of Lex Luthor (played by Kevin Spacey) in Superman Returns.

Neill was married three times but had no children. Following an extended illness, she died in Tucson on July 3rd, 2016, at age 95.

Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, Phyllis Coates moved to Hollywood as a teenager with intentions of enrolling at UCLA. A chance encounter with Ken Murray in a Hollywood & Vine restaurant landed her in the comedian's vaudeville show, then billed as Gypsy Stell. She started out as a chorus girl and worked her way up to doing skits before moving on to work for veteran showman Earl Carroll and later touring with the USO. In 1944, she receiving a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox. Coates then signed a movie contract with Warner Brothers extending from 1948 to 1956, and she co-starred with George O'Hanlon in the studio's popular Joe McDoakes short-subject comedies in what can be considered the first sitcom.

Coates played a strong-willed Lois Lane in the first twenty-six episodes of Adventures of Superman, in which she was given equal billing with George Reeves (insisted upon by Reeves), even for episodes in which she did not appear. Her powerful "damsel in distress" scream was used to good effect in several episodes. After shooting wrapped on the first season, the Superman producers suspended production until they found a national sponsor. When in 1953 it was possible to film more Superman episodes, Coates was already committed to another series, so Noel Neill replaced Coates.

Coates' Superman fame has obscured the fact that she was one of Hollywood's most consistently employed actresses of the 1950s and '60s. She freelanced steadily, appearing in numerous low-budget features, many of them Westerns, as well as serials and a steady stream of TV appearances, both as a regular in several series and as a guest cast member in others. All this was in addition to the "McDoakes" shorts, in which she continued to appear until Warner Brothers discontinued the series in 1956. Arguably, her best-remembered films of the 1950s are Blues Busters with The Bowery Boys (in which she has a musical number); Panther Girl of the Kongo, a jungle serial in which she starred; and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. She also had television appearances on The Lone Ranger, Perry Mason, Rawhide, Gunsmoke and Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

In the 1960s, when it became clear that Adventures of Superman would continue to enjoy great popularity in syndicated reruns, far beyond the end of its production in 1957, Coates – like many of the other supporting cast members such as Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen) – tried to distance herself from the Superman series, fearing it might limit her opportunities. By the mid '60s, however, she had settled into a comfortable semi-retirement as a wife and homemaker after wedding Los Angeles family physician Howard Press in 1962. She resumed her career after their divorce in 1986, but in the period immediately prior to that divorce, her film and television appearances were infrequent. One notable role was that of the mother of the female lead in The Baby Maker in 1970 – a film directed by James Bridges, the lover and production partner of Jack Larson, who had remained a good friend of Coates' since their work together on Adventures of Superman.

Despite her stated misgivings about being remembered only as Lois Lane, after relaunching her career Coates agreed to appear as Lois Lane's mother (right) in a 1993 episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman at the suggestion of Lois & Clark guest star (and George Reeves biographer) Jim Beaver. The Coates Orphanage in Metropolis, which appears in the Lois and Clark episode "Season's Greedings", is also named for her.

Since Noel Neill had played Lois' mother in the 1978 film Superman, it has become a tradition in Superman adaptations for actresses who have previously played Lois Lane to later play Lois' mother. Teri Hatcher, who played Lois in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, made an appearance in the tenth season of the series Smallville as Lois' mother, Ella Lane.

Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen

Jimmy Olsen is a cub reporter and photographer with the Daily Planet and an associate of Kent and Lane. Jimmy's mother makes an appearance in an early episode. Though boyish in his tastes and sense of humor, Jimmy would occasionally display mature astuteness, courage, and keen judgment.

Jack Larson was born on February 8th, 1928 in Los Angeles, the son of Anita (Calicoff), a Western Union clerk, and George Larson, a milk truck driver. His father was of Swedish and English descent, and his mother was from a Jewish family (from Russia and Germany). He was reared in Pasadena and graduated from Montebello High School in 1945, aged 17, and at times claimed 1933 as his birth year.

Larson found the role of cub reporter Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Superman to be a handicap, because he became typecast as a naive young man. This caused him to do little acting after the show ended in 1958, and instead he focused on behind-the-scenes work, such as writing and production. Larson was always willing to sit for interviews about the Superman series and his connection to it, and in recent years had a number of cameos that paid subtle tribute to his character and the series, including a 1991 episode of the TV series Superboy, alongside Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in Adventures of Superman, and an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as an aged Jimmy Olsen in the episode "Brutal Youth", first telecast on October 20th, 1996.

Larson had a cameo in a late-1990s American Express card commercial with Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman, directed by David Kellogg. He and Neill provided commentary on several Adventures of Superman episodes for the January 2006 DVD release of the 1953 season, and in 2006, he appeared in Bryan Singer's film Superman Returns in a cameo role as "Bo the Bartender". His Adventures of Superman co-star, Noel Neill, also had a cameo as Lex Luthor's elderly wife Gertrude Vanderworth. Both Neill and Larson are pictured below at the at the Warner Bros. premiere of Superman Returns in June 2006.

Larson's last appearence was in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which aired on the NBC network on January 6th, 2010.

Larson was the life partner of director James Bridges from 1958 until Bridges' death in 1993. Bridges directed such films as, The Paper Chase, The China Syndrome, Urban Cowboy and Bright Lights, Big City. Larson died on September 20th, 2015 at the age of 87.

John Hamilton as Perry White

Perry White is the blustering, impatient editor and publisher of the Daily Planet. He is sometimes a participant in the dangerous exploits of Lois and Jimmy as they pursue news stories. He treats crooks and thugs with disdain and lofty contempt (in one episode, he mentions that he was once a crime reporter). Perry's sister Kate appears in the first season episode "Drums of Death"; he has a nephew, Chris, who appears in the second season episode "Jet Ace".

John Hamilton was born in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania to John M. Hamilton and his wife Cornelia J. Hamilton. Hamilton was the youngest of four children, and his mother died eight days after his birth. His father remarried and Rosa, his stepmother, was the only mother the young Hamilton knew. Hamilton grew up in neighboring Southampton Township Pennsylvania, where his father worked as a store clerk.

Hamilton's father was also appointed Shippensburg's trustee for the State Superintendent of Public Education, so it was a foregone conclusion that Hamilton would receive extensive schooling. Unlike most others of his generation and background (Southampton being a farming community), Hamilton attended college-- Dickinson College and Shippensburg State Teacher's College. However, he opted to forego teaching for a stage career.

After becoming an actor, he worked for Broadway plays and in touring theatrical companies for many years prior to his 1930 movie debut. He was in the original Broadway company of the 1922 play Seventh Heaven and would appear in the movie remake. He was featured with Donald Meek in a series of short mysteries based on S.S. Van Dine stories for Warner Bros. He was often typecast in the role of an authority figure; to wit, prison warden, judge, politician or police chief, but played various types of characters, appearing in more than three hundred movies, movie serials or television programs from the 1930s through the 1950s. Modern-day serial fans can see Hamilton's iconic persona already developing as Professor Gordon, the outwardly no-nonsense but secretly compassionate father of young, man-of-action Flash Gordon in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). He became much more widely known when he was cast as the irascible Daily Planet newspaper editor Perry White for the 1950s TV classic Adventures of Superman (1951). Hamilton died on October 15th, 1958 in Glendale, California of heart failure at the age of 71

Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson

Inspector Henderson of the Metropolis Police is a friend of the Daily Planet staff and often works in conjunction with them on crime investigations. Henderson has a teenage son named Ray who appears in one episode. The Henderson character was the creation of the radio series writers.

Robert Shayne originally worked as a journalist before becoming an actor, and his first stage appearances were with repertory companies in Alabama. By 1931, he had established the first of many Broadway credits in The Rap. His other Broadway shows include Yellow Jack (1934), The Cat and the Canary (1935), Whiteoaks (1938), with Ethel Barrymore, and Without Love (1942), with Katharine Hepburn.

Shayne played many character roles in movies and television, including a film series of Warner Bros. Featurettes called the "Santa Fe Trail" series such as Wagon Wheels West, and as a mad scientist in the 1953 horror film The Neanderthal Man, but he is best remembered for his portrayal of the recurring character Police Inspector William "Bill" Henderson on the 1950s TV series Adventures of Superman. He appeared sporadically in the early episodes of the series, in part because he came under HUAC scrutiny and was briefly blacklisted on unproven and unspecific charges of association with Communism. As the program evolved, especially in the color episodes, he was brought into more and more of them, to the point where he was a regular on the series.

He appears briefly in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, seated at a booth in a hotel bar, where his character meets Cary Grant's character, just as the latter is about to be kidnapped. He also had a small but pivotal role in the 1953 sci-fi classic Invaders From Mars as a scientist. Shayne also enjoyed a brief rebirth in his career when he was cast as the blind newspaper vendor in 1990 CBS TV series The Flash. He was by this time actually blind and learned his lines by having his wife read them to him and then rehearse until he memorized them. Shayne died of lung cancer at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills, California on November 29th, 1992.

Other recurring characters included:
Professor Pepperwinkle, played by Phillips Tead (above left) who is an elderly, absent-minded inventor whose gadgets cause Superman much trouble and concern in five episodes during the last three color seasons.

Professor Oscar Quinn is an eccentric inventor making two appearances in the second season. Played by Sterling Holloway (above center), who played a similar character, Professor Twiddle, in the third season episode, "Through the Time Barrier". Holloway appeared in over 100 films (Blonde Venus, Gold Diggers of 1933, Varsity Show, Meet John Doe) and 40 television shows. He was also a voice actor for The Walt Disney Company, well known for his distinctive tenor voice and is perhaps best remembered as the original voice of Mr. Stork in Dumbo, Adult Flower in Bambi, the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, the title character in Winnie the Pooh, Kaa in The Jungle Book, and Roquefort in The Aristocats.

Miss Bacharach is a nervous, easily excited, and easily fooled receptionist at the Daily Planet who appears in three first-season episodes and is mentioned in two others. Played by Dani Nolan, veteran character actress Almira Sessions (Monsieur Verdoux, It's a Wonderful Life, Rebel Without a Cause, Rosemary's Baby), and Aline Towne (above right), who did not portray Miss Bacharach as nervous. Towne also guest starred in the episode, The Big Squeeze (1953) as Peg Grayson, and played Superman's Kryptonian mother Lara in the first episode, Superman on Earth (1952). Towne appeared in five Republic serials in the 1950's including: The Invisible Monster, Don Daredevils Rides Again, Radar Men from the Moon, Zombies of the Stratosphere and Trader Tom of the China Seas. Towne also appeared in dozens of TV shows including: Lassie, Leave It to Beaver, Sea Hunt, Wagon Train, The Donna Reed Show and The Incredible Hulk.

Professor Lucerne is an old friend of Superman's who advises him in matters scientific. Lucerne appeared in two consecutive episodes in the final season. Played by Everett Glass. Glass appeared in episodes of dozens of television shows in the 1950s and early 1960s, from The Twilight Zone to Rawhide. usually playing a scientist, judge, elder, or some equally distinguished character role. He retired from acting in 1962 following an appearance on Perry Mason as Carlton Gage in "The Case of the Capricious Corpse."

The "bad guys" on the show were usually generic thugs, gangsters, evil scientists, crooked businessmen, or spies of fictitious foreign countries. Superman's colorful comic book enemies such as Lex Luthor, The Prankster, Toyman, and Mister Mxyzptlk were absent in this series. Tris Coffin (above left), John Eldredge, best known as Harry Archer on Meet Corliss Archer (1954), Herb Vigran (above center), Philip Van Zandt, and Ben Welden (above right) made multiple appearances over the course of the show, always as different villains.

Actors who landed Superman guest appearances early in their careers include: Claude Akins (above left) as Ace Miller, criminal in "Peril by Sea"; (Akins previously appeared with George Reeves two years earlier in the movie From Here To Eternity); John Banner played a butler to a wealthy individual (Banner later became famous as "Sgt Schultz" on Hogan's Heroes, above center); Hugh Beaumont (The Beaver's Dad, above right) as Dan Grayson, an ex-convict wanting to reform his life, in "The Big Squeeze"; Paul Burke as Ace, a criminal, in "My Friend Superman"; Matthew Tips in "Superman Week"; and Rosy in "The Phantom Ring" (he would later star in Naked City and Twelve O'Clock High).

Chuck Connors (above left) as Sylvester Superman in "Flight to the North"; his later The Rifleman supporting player Paul Fix (above center) had appeared in "Czar of the Underworld" and "Semi-Private Eye" (Fix also appeared in the second Star Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" as Doctor Mark Piper); Dabbs Greer, in "Superman on Earth", the premiere episode, as a man falling from a dirigible; as a man falsely convicted of murder in "Five Minutes to Doom"; and in the dual roles of Mr. Pebble/Dan Dobey in "The Superman Silver Mine", (Greer would become well known years later as Reverend Alden on the television series Little House on the Prairie).

Russell Johnson as Chopper in "The Runaway Robot", (best known as The Professor on Gilligan's Island, above left); Eve McVeagh as Mrs Wilson in "The Stolen Elephant"; Vic Perrin as a sailor called "Scurvy". Perrin's facility with voices, the result of his radio background, earned him a number of voice-only roles, including multiple appearances on the original Star Trek (Arena, The Changeling and Mirror, Mirror (above right)). Fans of the 1960s cartoon Jonny Quest may remember him as the voice of the evil Dr. Zin. His most famous voice-over role was as the Control Voice on both seasons of The Outer Limits (1963 – 1965), for which he provided the opening and closing commentary on each episode.

Joi Lansing (above) guest starred as Sergeant Helen J. O'Hara, a beautiful policewoman who is asked to pose as Superman's wife in order to help him break up a gang of bank robbers in the episode "Superman's Wife"; Other veteran film and television actors making appearances on the show included Ann Tyrrell, George E. Stone, James Craven, Dan Seymour, Victor Sen Yung, Maudie Prickett, John Doucette, Norma Varden, Roy Barcroft, and George Chandler.

Director Tommy Carr's brother Steve appeared as an unbilled extra in nearly every one of the first 26 shows, and frequently in more substantial character roles. He was also the show's dialog director, and was the man pointing "up in the sky" in the introductions of the black-and-white shows.

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Adventures of Superman began filming at the RKO-Pathe Studios (later, Desilu Studios) in Culver City, California, in August - September 1951. Episodes cost roughly $15,000 apiece, a low-budget program by the standards of the day. In 1953 - 54, the show was filmed at California Studios and, in 1955, at Chaplin Studios. In 1956 - 57, the show was filmed at Ziv Studios.

The establishing shot of The Daily Planet building in the first season was the E. Clem Wilson Building in Los Angeles, California, on Wilshire Boulevard, for decades famous as the headquarters of Mutual of Omaha, its brilliant white globe atop a tall pillar a familiar landmark to local residents, while the Carnation Milk Company Building a few blocks east on Wilshire served as The Daily Planet's front door. From the second season onward, stock shots of the 32-story Los Angeles City Hall were used as the Planet building and the sidewalk entrance to the Planet was a studio-bound "exterior."

Many exteriors in the first season were shot at the RKO Pictures backlot (called "Forty Acres"), a site that later became famous as the fictional, idealized small town of Mayberry, North Carolina, on The Andy Griffith Show. Hillsides in Culver City, city streets of downtown Los Angeles, or residential areas of the San Fernando Valley were sometimes used for exteriors during all six seasons. In later seasons, filming occurred on soundstages, with exterior shots, such as cars driving along roadways, shot as second-unit material, often with doubles at the wheel. Establishing shots of Queen of Angels Hospital in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles were often used in episodes (such as "The Face and the Voice") during the second season although the hospital was identified as "Mercy General". Another Los Angeles stock-footage landmark was the Griffith Observatory, which had several different "cameos" in the series, first serving as Jor-El's home/laboratory. Aside from a few clips of New York City in "Superman on Earth", most, if not all, of the stock clips used to depict Metropolis are of the Los Angeles area.

The show's title card imitated the three-dimensional lettering of the comic book covers. Occasional confusion arises about the article "the," since it was spoken by narrators in voice-overs. Some references title the show "The Adventures of Superman"; other books (as well as TV Guide listings) simply label the show "Superman". The onscreen title of the show is Adventures of Superman with no THE preceding "Adventures."

The opening narration of the show, expanded from that of the 1940s radio show and the Superman cartoons, was voiced by Bill Kennedy, framed by the show's theme music, and set the stage for each program:

Kellogg, 'The Greatest Name In Cereals', presents the Adventures of Superman!

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

("Look! Up in the sky!" "It's a bird!" "It's a plane!" "It's Superman!")

Yes, it's Superman... strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman... who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!

And now, another exciting episode in the Adventures of Superman!

From the second season onward, the final sentence ("another exciting episode") was dropped. Kellogg's originally requested to have it's name in the opening line on every single episode of the series, as well as (from second season onward) the company's logo on the intro and the end of the closing credits. When Kellogg's ceased being the show's sponsor, the logo and the intro line were removed from some prints, especially when Warner Bros. Television received distribution rights. The characters from the TV series (except Superman himself) made a number of TV commercials promoting Kellogg's products (usually shown as "integrated commercials" at the end of the program), some of which are preserved in the DVD series.

The score for the series was taken from stock music libraries, often adaptations of music from B-movies. For example, one cue used in the episode "Peril by Sea" also appears in Plan 9 from Outer Space. Apparently the only original music written for the series was the March heard primarily during the credits. The theme is ascribed to studio music arranger Leon Klatzkin, although it may have been adapted from an earlier unrelated (and now lost) theme. The main theme, based on a triad, matched the three syllables in the character's name, as has been the case with nearly all Superman music. With the exception of the title theme, musical cues ranged from the serious to the light-hearted and were different for each of the seasons, except for the third season, where some cues from the previous season would be reused in a number of episodes. Each season's cues tended to be used repeatedly from episode to episode, in similarly appropriate "mood" moments such as apprehension, humor or fast action. The opening credits theme, Superman's "leitmotif", was often (though not always) used whenever Superman was depicted flying or taking action.

"Look... up in the sky!" While considered simple by today's standards, the "flying" effects on Adventures of Superman were advanced for the period, although during season one it was apparent that, for distance flight shots, Superman was lying on a flat surface, his torso and thighs noticeably flattened between elbows and knees. Beginning with season two, Superman's "flying" involved three phases: take-off, flight, and landing. Cables and wires were used for Superman's take-offs early in filming. In early episodes, stuntmen sometimes replaced Reeves for Superman's wire-assisted take-offs. When Reeves came close to suffering a concussion in the episode "Ghost Wolf" (the supporting wires snapped and he fell to the studio floor), cables and wires were discarded and a springboard was brought in, designed by Thol "Si" Simonson, who remained with the series until its end. Reeves would run into frame and hit the out-of-frame springboard, which would boost him out of frame (sometimes over the camera) and onto padding. The springboard had enough force, along with subtle camera manipulation, to make it look as though he was actually taking off. The flying scenes were accomplished through a relatively few number of repeated shots. The typical technique had footage of Reeves stretched out on a spatula-like device formed to his torso and leg, operated on a counterweight like a boom microphone, allowing him to bank as if in flight. In a couple of later episodes, such as "The Atomic Secret", Reeves simulated flying, opting to lie on the device without the molded form to support his legs, which are seen to hang from the waist in those episodes in marked contrast to the stock footage of Superman in flight.

In the two black & white seasons, Reeves was occasionally filmed in front of aerial footage on back-projection screen, or against a neutral background which would provide a matte which would be optically combined with a swish-pan or aerial shot. That footage was matted onto various backgrounds depending on the needs of the episode: clouds, buildings, the ocean, mountain forests, etc., which he would appear to fly by. For the color episodes, the simpler and cheaper technique of a neutral cyclorama backing was used, usually sky-blue, or black for night shots. Techniques for landings involved Reeves jumping off a ladder or holding an off-camera horizontal bar and swinging down into frame.

Superman arrived on television in 1952 with a mythology established through comic books, a novel, a radio series, two theatrical serials, and seventeen, now classic, Max Fleischer animated shorts (right).

None of Superman's established foes like Lex Luthor appeared in the TV series; and the most potent element incorporated into the show from the established mythology was the superhero's vulnerability to green Kryptonite (the other colored versions didn't appear (i.e. red, white, blue, gold, etc.). Several episodes during the course of the show's run featured the substance as a plot device.

Another element appropriated from the mythology for the television series was Lois Lane's suspicions regarding Clark Kent's true identity and her romantic infatuation with Superman. Also, unlike the comic book version, Superman was never shown to be vulnerable to magic, as real magic (as opposed to stage or performance magic) was considered non-existent in the series.

Episodes follow Superman as he battles gangsters, thugs, mad scientists and non-human dangers like asteroids, robots, and malfunctioning radioactive machines. In the first episode (the "origin" episode), Superman's infant life on the planet Krypton, his arrival on Earth, and his nurturing by a farm couple are dramatized.

In succeeding episodes, he conceals his super-identity by posing as mild-mannered Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent who, in times of crisis, dashes into the Daily Planet's storeroom, or alley, sheds his street clothes, and reappears in superhero tights and trunks (all at super-speed) to rescue hapless folk from the clutches of evildoers. According to Gary Grossman's "Superman: Serial To Cereal" book, 5 movies were made in 1953 from 15 episodes. Each movie contained two one-minute "bridges" for the transition of episodes. These were filmed at the end of the 1953 season. This footage can only be seen in the movies, which are: "Superman's Peril" ("The Golden Vulture", "Semi-Private Eye", "Defeat Of Superman"); "Superman Flies Again" ("Jet Ace", "The Dog Who Knew Superman", "The Clown Who Cried"); "Superman In Exile" ("Superman In Exile", "The Face And The Voice", "The Whistling Bird"); "Superman And Scotland Yard" ("A Ghost For Scotland Yard", "The Lady In Black", "Panic In The Sky"); and "Superman And The Jungle Devil" ("Jungle Devil", "The Machine That Could Plot Crimes", "Shot In The Dark"). The movie versions have never been released on home video, so the new footage in them remains unseen by most fans.

In 1958, producer Whitney Ellsworth created Superpup, a never-aired-on-TV spin-off pilot that placed the Superman mythos in a fictional world populated by dogs. Featuring live-action actors in dog-suits portraying canine versions of Superman and other characters, the pilot was filmed on Adventures of Superman sets and was intended to capitalize on the success of its parent series.

Producers planned to continue Adventures of Superman in 1959 with two more years' worth of episodes, to begin airing in the 1960 season. The death of actor John Hamilton (Perry White) threw the plan into disarray. Actor Pierre Watkin was hired to replace Hamilton as "Perry White's brother" (Watkin had played Perry White himself in the two Columbia serials, and had guested on the series before).

The sudden death of the show's star George Reeves in June 1959 was not the end of the series either, in the producers' eyes. When Jack Larson returned from Europe after the death of Reeves, producers suggested the series could continue as "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen," with more focus on Larson continuing his character, playing opposite a "Superman" who would be a composite of stock shots of George Reeves and a look-alike stunt double to be filmed from behind. Larson rejected the distasteful idea out of hand, and the series was truly over.

Another spin-off idea was a pilot produced by Whitney Ellsworth in 1961: The Adventures of Superboy. Johnny Rockwell starred as a young Clark Kent in Smallville, and as Superboy wore a suit similar in design to George Reeves' suit, and Bunny Henning as Lana Lang. Although thirteen scripts had been written, only the pilot was filmed.

In 1987 and 1988, coinciding with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Superman comic book character that year, Warner Home Video released selected episodes of the series to VHS and LaserDisc, under the TV's Best Adventures of Superman title, with four volumes released in total. Each volume contained one black-and-white episode and one color episode, plus a Max Fleischer Superman animated short. These videos were later re-released during the mid-1990s under new packaging artwork. Columbia House released 20 VHS volumes of the series under their Adventures of Superman: The Collector's Edition series, with each videotape containing three episodes, which was only available through mail order subscriptions during the 1990s. Warner Home Video later released all 6 seasons of the Adventures of Superman on DVD.

The show received a proclamation in July 2001 on its 50th Anniversary from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in a ceremony attended by Jack Larson, Noel Neill, Robert Rockwell (Jor-El), Jeff Corey (from the pilot), Mrs. Robert Shayne and Mrs. Jerome Siegel. The proclamation scroll was accepted by DC Comics Vice President Paul Levitz.

In 2006, the show's first season received a Saturn Award nomination for "Best Retro Television Release on DVD". In 2007, the show's complete six seasons received the Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films for "Best Retro Television Series Release on DVD".

What is Clark Kent's middle name?

Robert
George
Thomas
Joseph

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General-DC Comics

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Check out the SuperHero Stuff Superman merchandise page, your directory to the biggest collection of Superman products on the Internet. They have Superman tees coming out their ears; and have tons of other cool Superman products, too, like Superman hoodies, belt buckles, baseball caps, sandals, magnets, alarm clocks and even Superman underwear! All products are official and licensed.

DC comics toys and more at TFAW.com

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Content intended for informational and educational purposes only under the GNU Free Documentation Areement.
All Superman and DC Universe characters and merchandise are copyright © and property of Warner Brothers, DC Comics, and/or their subsidiaries and licensors.

 

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