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Hey, it’s Superman!

 

By Bob Pakes
 
 

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

 
 
In this article we will take a look at the Superman phenomenon that reached new hights in the 50′s when the TV-set became part of daily American life. We will especially focus on the man who fit those tights better than any other actor of his generation and all generations to come: George Reeves. Next to him there will be plenty of room in this topic for the flood of cool merchandise and worldwide poster artwork that accompanied the real man of steel during these wonderful years.

 
 

1966 cards 02 1966 cards 01

 
 

1947Best known for the title-role in Adventures Of Superman in the 1950′s TV-show, George Reeves is also remembered for the mystery that surrounds his death in 1959: was it murder or suicide?
 
Reeves had made his acting debut, though only in a minor role, in the 1939 blockbuster Gone With The Wind. He continued to play small (mainly uncredited) parts while under contract at Warner Bros. opposite big names like James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan, but he failed to make it as an A-actor.
 
After his contract had ended, Reeves signed with 20th Century Fox, and he played a bit-part in the Tyrone Power adventure Blood And Sand. However, after a short while also this contract ended and Reeves became a freelance actor. He eventually continued to co-star in five Hopalong Cassidy westerns before he was given a major role in Paramount’s war drama So Proudly We Hail in 1942 for which he received critical acclaim. But this time George Reeves’ career was put on hold when he was drafted into the army in 1943.
After the war Reeves’ chances of making it big in Holywood were even slimmer and he had to settle for B-movies once more.
 
1951: Reeves finally struck gold when he was asked to play the part of Superman in a new TV series. Or did he?
 

George Reeves in a 1947 publicity shot for Paramount.

 
 
tarzan en superman 1948 Jungle JimIn the early 50′s TV was still seen as inferior by serious actors, and Reeves was also afraid to get stuck to TV-work once he would move away from the big screen. But because he also believed the series would probably die an early death anyway, he took the job.
 
Superman And The Mole Men (1951) was the title of the pilot for the series. The production was a rush job, the budget was very low, and Reeves’ salary was even lower. But the audience loved it, and a few months later George Reeves was a nationwide celebrity!
 
The TV series would run for 6 seasons, from 1952 to 1958, totalling 104 episodes. The first two seasons were shot in black and white, the final four in color.
 
 
 

The original Tarzan meets the future Superman: in 1948 Reeves co-starred with Johnny Weissmuller in the first of many Jungle Jim movies.

 
 

25 50 26

 
 

01 buttonBeautiful Phyllis Coates portrayed Lois Lane in the first season.
 
From season two onwards Noel Neill was asked to play Lois Lane once again since Phyllis had already commited herself to other projects, after Neill had already done so in the two earlier serials (starring Kirk Alyn as Superman).

 
 

Here we have the USA artwork for the theatrical version of Superman And The Mole Men (1951): from left to right: the 3-sheet, the insert, and the 1-sheet.
Below that we see the complete set of USA lobby cards. Followed by some lobby cards for this movie from South-America.

Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA 1-sheet Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA 3-sheet Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA insert

Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 01 Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 02 Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 03 Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 04

Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 05 Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 06 Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 07 Superman And The Mole Men (1951) USA lobby card 08

Superman and the Mole Men - Columbia lobby card 01 Superman and the Mole Men - Columbia lobby card 02
Superman and the Mole Men - Columbia lobby card 03 Superman and the Mole Men - Columbia lobby card 04

 
 

set 01 cast

The cast of the series for season two, with Noel Neill as the ‘new’ Lois Lane.

Seen by many as the defintive Lois Lane, Noel was a very experienced actress by the time she reprised her role as the raging reporter.
After the series ended in the late 50′s she practically retired from showbusiness, only to make cameo appearances in both Superman (1978) and Superman Returns (2006). Till this day Noel is still active making public appearances on collector’s shows and moviefestivals around the USA.

 
 

tv guide 1953 ReevesIn 1953 Reeves landed a small part in the star-studded From Here To Eternity. According to 2006′s Hollywoodland (a dramatized biopic, starring Ben Affleck as George Reeves) the preview-audience responded with ‘Hey, it’s Superman!’ during the scenes with Reeves, and apparently because of this Columbia Pictures decided to cut nearly all of his scenes from the movie, which devastated Reeves. The movie went on to win the Oscar for best film of the year, making it the second Oscar-winner he appeared in.
 
 
 
 
 
 

That same year (1953) George Reeves made the cover of TV Guide while Superman-madness went into an even higher gear.

 
 

Superman And The Jungle Devil (1954) USA 1-sheet Superman's Peril (1954) 1-sheet Superman In Exile (1954) international 1-sheetTo cash in on the huge succes of Superman, five ‘new’ movies were released theatrically in 1954. In reality each movie consisted of three standalone episodes from the series. The studio did not hide this fact since the individual episode-titles were printed on the posters.
 

The 1-sheet artwork for three of these movies can be seen here to the right.

 
 

101 100

Ever since the first Superman comic had seen the light of day in 1938 (and also thanks to a radio show and two movie serials released in the late 40′s), Superman had become a well established name.
 
But it was not until the TV show that Superman had achieved the ‘household-status’. The brandname became so extremely succesful that Superman-merchandise was now available in all different sizes and colors.
 
 
 
 
 

 

To the right we can see one of the very popular kid’s costumes from the 1950′s.

 
 

1955 Superman Kiddie Paddlers In Box 02
 
Below a lunchbox (1954), and to the right some superduper Superman-Fins (1955)!
1954 lunchbox 01

 
 

1 1939 25 1943 50 1948 75 1952The Superman comic series:
 
Pictured here are:
No. 1 (1939)
No. 25 (1943)
No. 50 (1948)
No. 75 (1952)
No. 100 (1955)
No. 125 (1958)
No. 150 (1962)
No. 175 (1967)

100 1955 125 1958 150 1962 175 1965

 
 
The Superman comics were extremely succesful. So succesful Jimmy Olsen got his own series: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. 163 issues were published between 1954 – 1974.
 
Jimmy 1 1954 Jimmy 25 1957 Jimmy 50 1961 Jimmy 75 1964Pictured here are:
No. 1 (1954)
No. 25 (1957)
No. 50 (1961)
No. 75 (1964)

 
 
And if that wasn’t enough, also Mrs. Lane was awarded her own series: Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane. A total of 137 issues were published between 1958 – 1974.
 
Lois 1 1958 Lois 25 1961 Lois 50 1964 Lois 75 1967Pictured here are:
No. 1 (1958)
No. 25 (1961)
No. 50 (1964)
No. 75 (1967)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“Stay tuned people, for the final part of the Superman/Reeves exploration, coming SOON!”
 
Noel 02 zzz

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Peter Tiel #

    Now THIS is nice!!! I got all the seasons on a few DVD box-set’s, great to see it up here! Thanks Ger, very nice! Now, if you could squeeze in some of Carl Barks 50′s comics and story’s would be greatly appreciated – I’ll think about an Elvis connection ;-)

    May 22, 2013
  2. It’s my partner Bob who has come up with the Superman stuff !

    Talking about Carl Barks, the ultimate Donald Duck comic book artist,
    There’s a story where Donald’s nephews watch a rock n roll singer
    on tv with a name reminiscent of our hero: Alvis Pursley, or something
    similair…? Ive never ever seen that story again in either an original
    50s Duck comic or in one of the many deluxe boxsets with Duck reprints.
    I also remember a story about a picnick with Gladstone Gander ( in
    Dutch Guus Geluk ) and in one frame of that story “All Shook Up”
    is played on a portable radio…
    I remember it from 30 or more years ago, but have never found that
    story again ever since. So there’s a Barks / Elvis connection… although
    a small one. Barks didn’t think much of rock n roll in general… He didn’t
    think highly of the human race for that matter! I can undestand that
    perfectly though!

    May 22, 2013
  3. I know you already have lined up many heroes and cinema classics
    from the 1950s…Would you consider doing a big topic on Batman,
    including the fun 60s tv series?! I would like to see that happen
    on Echoes…one day!

    May 23, 2013
  4. r&b #

    Superman is one of my favorite TV shows ever. It is as much a part of my childhood as Elvis was in the 50′s. Thanks so much!

    May 29, 2013
  5. Alan White #

    I remember it well.

    May 29, 2013
  6. Stanley #

    “Superman” is simply one of my all-time favorite programs. I also bought the entire series on DVD. As an older man, I tend to enjoy the edgier first season, the only one where the Man of Steel basically left someone to die! And I also find Phyllis Coates much more attractive in every way as “Lois Lane.” By the way, that “From Here To Eternity” story is untrue, although it makes for great drama.

    December 24, 2013
  7. Bugs #

    Hello there!
    I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site before but after
    looking at some of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be
    book-marking it and checking back frequently!

    February 24, 2014

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