Celluloid Superman: Is George Reeves the Best Man of Steel?

George Reeves as SupermanGuest blogger Victoria Balloon writes:

Already popular in comics and radio, Superman had previously starred in two serials: Superman (1948) and Atom-Man vs. Superman (1950) If our hero could leap tall buildings in a single bound, surely he could make the leap to a feature length film? Superman and the Mole-Men (1951), written by Robert Maxwell and Whitney Ellsworth (“Richard Fielding” was the team’s screen-credit) was the first Superman movie and would begin the journey of America’s greatest superhero into the unknown territory of a new medium: television.

In a plot that seems straight out of today’s headlines, Daily Planet reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane try to get the scoop on the deepest oil well ever drilled, only to find the mine boss shutting down the site without explanation. Kent looks for clues and Lane calls the sheriff; while on the phone Lois glimpses two creatures having the “bodies of moles… with great big human heads!” (Thus endeth any similarities to today’s headlines.)

Meanwhile, the Mole-Men wander into town with their furry sleeper pajamas (several scenes clearly show zippers) and cotton-stuffed, barely-disguised swim caps, The Mole-Men look more worried than horrifying.

From a 1995 interview Make-up artist Harry Thomas (The Neanderthal Man, Plan 9 From Outer Space) recalled, “I figured if they were going to be friends of Superman, he was supposed to save them and be sympathetic toward them, they should look sympathetic. They should look mild-mannered and not be frightening. I tried to get that in the make up. I drooped their eyes down and made them look more soulful, so that the sympathetic feeling that he had for them had a reason.” (Check out Thomas’ full interview with Count Gamula at Monster Kid Online Magazine)

Makeup was not the only obstacle the low-budget production from Lippert Pictures had — flying sequences also presented problems. Naturally the Fleischer’s animated Superman had no problem with flying, and the Columbia serials also used animation, sandwiched between live action take-offs and landings, to show the Man of Steel in flight (Superman did a lot of landings behind parked cars, bushes, etc. in order to make the transitions less abrupt).

For Superman and the Mole-Men, Superman did relatively little flying — one scene with a first-person viewpoint of flying (filmed backwards, as if Superman flew looking over his shoulder) and, for a key scene of leaping from the top of a dam, one terribly abrupt animated sequence.

Modern fans have mixed feelings about the film, particularly its special effects. “Why couldn’t he have flown like Republic Pictures’ Captain Marvel?” Some find the story a sophisticated cautionary tale; others find the pacing pedestrian and the plot full of holes.

Shortcomings aside, one is disinclined to laugh outright at the film. Despite elements that seem primitive to today’s audiences, Superman and the Mole-Men is more gritty noir than camp. With sixty years of perspective, what the Mole-Men show us about the paranoia and uncertainty of post-war America is every bit as important as the idealism Superman represents. That Superman alone is able to solve complex social and technological issues — beings from the unknown and mob psychology, radiation and the perils of deep-well drilling — makes the film all the more unsettling. The unknowns were real, but Superman wasn’t.

Despite being low-budget, the film was cast with veteran actors. J. Farrell Mac Donald (Pop Shannon) was a particular favorite of director John Ford and a featured favorite in several classic films directed by Frank Capra. Frank Reicher (Hospital Superintendant), best known as the captain of the ship that went seeking Skull Island in 1933’s King Kong. Superman and the Mole Men was Reicher’s last film.

Billy Curtis and Jerry Maren as the Mole-Men, were both were former munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Curtis was featured in his screen debut as sheriff-hero Buck Lawson in the politically incorrect all-”midget,” musical western The Terror of Tiny Town and starred with Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter (1973). Jerry Maren, keeping active with many roles in film and television. including The Twilight Zone and Seinfeld, also served for many years as the Oscar Meyer Weiners mascot.

Phyllis Coates got her start playing Alice Mc Doakes in the Warner Bros. Joe Mc Doakes shorts. Because she feared being typecast, she only played Lois Lane for the first television season. During the second season Lane was played by Noel Neill, who had already played the role in the Superman movie serials.

Phyllis Coates, Noel Neill, Jack Larson

Though he didn’t appear in Superman and the Mole-Men, Jack Larson ultimately played the role of cub reporter Jimmy Olsen in the television series. Always the one to be captured and/or beaten within an inch of his life by thugs, like Reeves, Larson was also typecast and unable to move beyond his trademark line, “Jeepers!” He quit acting to become a playwright and produced such films as Mike’s Murder (1984) and Bright Lights, Big City (1988).

Kirk Alyn, the Superman of the movie serials, who also feared being typecast, turned down the role (and at 40 was perhaps disinclined to continue a career in tights). George Reeves seemed like a natural, with his athletic build and boxing experience, but was initially hesitant. Much as stage actors of the 1920s viewed movies as “unimportant,” film stars of the 1940s were reluctant to venture into the new medium of television. Reeves hoped to continue in film but was running out of options.

Sadly, what most people remember about George Reeves is his sensationalized death. What is certain: on June 16, 1959, Reeves was found shot in the head, and the people present were too intoxicated to give a coherent story about what happened or why they waited forty-five minutes to call the police. As early as a few days later there was a question about whether Reeves’ death was suicide or murder. From then on there has been endless speculation in a convoluted tale of adultery, cover-ups, and previous murder attempts. Reeves’ death has been re-examined as recently as 2006 with the release of Hollywoodland, a film based on Reeves’ death and the ensuing investigation by a private detective hired by Reeves’ mother.

The Adventures of AupermanThat Reeves died as he did is a tragedy. It is also a tragedy that his death has overshadowed his acting accomplishments. His first big film break was his role as Stuart Tarelton in Gone With the Wind (1939). Under director Mark Sandrich, Reeves had his first starring role as Lieutenant John Summers opposite Claudette Colbert in So Proudly We Hail (1942).

Unfortunately, like many other actors during the war years, Reeves returned from service in the U.S. Army Air Forces to a changed Hollywood. He may not have viewed the Superman television series as the pinnacle of his acting career, but Reeves always took his role as Superman seriously, particularly when it came to his public image as a hero of children.

As soon as filming ended on Superman and the Mole-Men, filming for the television series began on the back lot at Culver Studios. Much has been said about the camp factor of the later seasons — the low-budget wardrobe, the recycled footage, and scenes played for laughs — and some have cited these shortcomings as reasons for the drinking and depression that led to Reeves death. However, the first season of The Adventures of Superman (1952) was very different.

Television was still a young medium, and in 1951 the Federal Communications Commission had only just put in place the laws and licensing that would allow television to become a national phenomenon. Inasmuch as early movies looked to the theater for inspiration (leading to very “staged” films), television looked to movies. With a cinematic past of detective stories and gangster films, the first season of Superman had more in common with the dramatic tension and stark lighting of film-noir (keeping in mind, of course, that Phillip Marlowe never wore tights). The half-hour episodes were stand-alone “mini-movies,” mysteries solved by Superman, but often in scripts carried mainly by Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that these were low budget, B-list productions with glaringly bad effects. The platform beneath Reeves is visible when Superman flies, and the footage is recycled again and again. Cuts between shots of bodies falling/landing and Superman demonstrating his super-powers (best rubber knife scene ever!) are just plain awkward and poorly executed. Even basic production issues were a problem; there are several scenes in which the shadow of the boom-mike is clearly visible and characters cast flat shadows on the flat, painted backgrounds.

Noticing (and indeed, enjoying) these bad special effects issues is a luxury of flat screen-televisions, remotes with pause/replay, and master prints on DVD. On a 15-inch B&W set with dubious picture signal, these details would never have been seen. Perhaps more importantly, they would have been irrelevant to the target audience. Across America, children loved Superman in the comics and they loved him on the radio. Seeing him, actually seeing Superman fly and battle crooks and save Jimmy Olsen just in the nick of time was, according to author Gary Grossman, “scary, wonderful, intriguing stuff!” Every fan who grew up watching the TV series knows that nothing trumps childhood memories.

Superman TV Guide

Superman TV Guide

Superman and the Mole-Men appeared in the television series as a two-part episode called “The Unknown People.” But using a feature film to create television episodes was a trick that worked both ways; some of the 1953 television episodes were pieced together and distributed as films. Thus we have Superman’s Peril, Superman Flies Again, Superman In Exile, Superman in Scotland Yard and Superman and the Jungle Devil, all released in 1954 by 20th Century Fox. To make the transitions between episodes smoother in the finished features, the cast was brought back to film brief sequences to act as bridges.

The low-budget restrictions applied to marketing budgets and promotional materials, as well as to production values. For the theatrical TV trilogies, it appears no trailers were made. Then there is the curious decision to produce posters and lobby cards that showed Superman wearing a yellow suit, rather than the signature blue from the comics and cartoons.  Reeves actually wore a yellow suit for the early black & white TV episodes, as yellow filmed better than blue.

Five feature films from one season of a television series may seem a bit excessive, but in the early 1950s, double features were still big at weekend matinees. As each film was essentially three Superman episodes, running a combined 77 minutes each, these films fit the bill — literally. The Adventures of Superman was syndicated to TV stations market-by-market and the occasional feature-versions were calculated to stimulate demand for local TV stations to carry the series. It was also a great way to get Superman out to areas in the country that did not yet have television coverage.

As a character, Superman is too good to be absent from either the large or small screen for long. It is worth noting that although newer Superman titles have various producers and writers, each modern incarnation of the Man of Steel has given a nod to past films by inviting previous actors from Superman venues onscreen for cameo appearances. Kirk Alyn and Noel Neil appear as young Lois Lane’s parents in Superman (1978), while Phyllis Coates played Lane’s mother on a 1994 episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder (Superman and Lois Lane from the 1978 film) appeared on several episodes of Smallville, and Jack Larson reprised his television Jimmy Olsen role in Lois and Clark. The 2006 film, Superman Returns, has appearances of Larson as Bo the Bartender and Neill as Gertrude Vanderworth.

Supermen: Kirk Alyn, George Reeves and Christopher Reeve

Supermen: Kirk Alyn, George Reeves and Christopher Reeve

Fans of Superman have posted insightful comments on Superman and the Mole-Men and the television series at various sites on the Internet, and one of their most passionate debates is who is the real Superman, Reeves or Alyn? Although Kirk Alyn had played Superman in the Columbia serials, these “chapter plays” did not get much play on television and were not made available for the home market until the 1980s. Until the release of Superman with Christopher Reeve in 1978, George Reeves was the face of Superman.

The spirited debate demonstrates that, almost three-quarters of a century since he first leapt from the pages of Action Comics, Superman is as relevant today as ever. Whether fans believe in older incarnations or newer versions appearing in film, television, and graphic novels, the Man of Steel still resonates with the American psyche — and always will.

George Reeves took his role as a superhero very seriously, and in both public and commercial appearances was always acutely aware of how his actions might be perceived by children. Stamp Day for Superman (1954) was made in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and distributed to schools in order to promote the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds. It was never shown on television, and for many years was difficult to find. See it now and enjoy the nostalgia:

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Looking for more great articles on Classic Superman? Please Checkout the following articles:

Superman Paramount Cartoons

Superman: The Columbia Serials

 

Victoria Balloon is a writer, classic film enthusiast, and pop-culture pundit. In addition to knitting small appliances, Victoria is currently involved in helping to bring back the Matinee At The Bijou TV series in an HD sequel to be hosted by Debbie Reynolds.

  • bogart10

    BEING 72, I DID GROW UP WITH SUPERMAN ON TV, IN STARK BLACK AND WHITE FUZZY PICTURES, ALTHOUGH I REMEMBER WE HAD A 17″ TRUETONE….AND MY VOTE IS FOR GEORGE REEVES AS THE BEST SUPERMAN….SURE AS TECHNICAL EFFECTS AND LOTS OF MONEY GAVE MORE POLISH FOR SUPERMAN, THERE WAS NOTHING LIKE THE THRILL OF A 10 YEAR OLD WATCHING HIS HERO FLY IN THE SKY…..

  • Bob

    Having grown up with George Reeves’ Superman, of course he is my favorite.

    Although the special effects were crude in the Mole Men movie as well as the first season of The Adventures of Superman (filmed in 1951 but not aired until 1953); Thol “Si” Simonson took over the special effects beginning in the second season. Simonson ushered in state of the art effects to the show which were equal to almost anything else being done at that time.

  • Superfan.

    I wouldn’t say the FX in the first season of “The Adventures Of Superman” were necessarily bad. Actually, it was very good work for its day. And the FX continued to improve over the years as the series continued. Does it make sense to complain about the special effects of a 60 year old TV series? But the real reason “The Adventures Of Superman” still holds up is due to casting. Truly, the perfect actor was hired to fill each part (this includes both actresses who played Lois). You simply have to watch any other Superman film or TV show to recognize this fact. And let’s face it, no matter what anyone says or thinks, George Reeves was the best Superman. In fact, he was downright perfect. Both as Clark and the man of steel. Immediately likeable but also in complete command. A genuine, entirely believable superhero. No other actor who tried to fill Superman’s boots ever measured up to George Reeves. No one even came close. And I suspect, no one ever will.

  • Steven Aldridge

    George Reeves is the best Superman in my opinion. It shows in his work that he took the role seriously and what it meant to children across the nation. He even appeared at Little Ricky’s birthday party in “I Love Lucy”. Also, I liked the way George Reeves takes off when he flies—all the other Supermen just seem to float like Peter Pan. Also, George Reeves’ interpretation of Clark Kent is better–he didn’t make Clark into a bumbling idiot but as a smart man with a quick wit.

  • William Sommerwerck

    I grew up with “Advetures of Superman”. I remember the night it premiered in the Baltimore market, in 1953. (I also remember the fluorescent light falling from the ceiling of Jor-El’s lab as the rocket took off.) //

    Reeves and Reeve are unquestionably the best — and for the same reason. Both project an air of honest innocence that no one else has caught. They’re square — in every sense of the word, especially the good one. //

    Choosing is difficult. George Reeves (nee, Brewer) couldn’t portray a bumbling Clark Kent week after week, so his Clark is clever — sometimes even annoyed and sarcastic. His Superman is his modest — sometimes almost shy — counterpart. //

    Christopher Reeve is closer to the comic-book Clark Kent. His Superman — though usually sincerely modest — is occasionally a wise-ass who wonders why everyone is so stupid that they can’t tell he’s Clark. One of the great moments of the films comes in the otherwise awful #3, where he enters the office and tosses his hat back over his shoulder so that it lands on the coatrack. It doesn’t matter that no one sees it — it’s his way of smirking at the idiots he works with. //

    If I absolutely, positively, had to choose — it would be Christopher Reeve. But it’s a tough call.

    Best Lois Lane — Phyllis Coates, hands down, the only one who was a believably serious reporter. (And she gave Clark a really bad time.) Erica Durance captures Lois’s feistiness very well.

  • William Sommerwerck

    PS: In at least two episodes of the first season of “Adventures of Superman”, George Reeves leaps into flight directly off the ground, fully visible from head to toe (no springboard), with no wires visible. Quite remarkable.

  • Chuck Neumann

    I believe the writer was a little hard on the series. True, some of the shows were silly but always fun and entertaining. The actors, including Hamilton as Perry White and Shayne as Inspector Henderson, were great. The special effects were very good for the day. George Reeves is the best Superman.

  • Bob VanDerClock

    I think each of the three first Men Of Steel – Allyn, Reeves and Reeve – brought something unique to the role. Kirk Allyn was a true muscular type and resembled the hard nosed, no nonsense film noir heroes of the day. Reeves couldn’t have been a better quintessential 50s All-American Superman; though he, not an exerciser,was clearly “padded” to simulate strength and often said he “hated running around in his underwear”, betraying his Shakesperian-trained acting background, he brought virtue,sympathy, humor and introspection to the composite role. Chris Reeve added matinee-idol looks with a sincerity to questioning who he “really” was in a dual role. Each actor deserves accolades for their contributions. Don’t forget the “Lois and Clark” Superman, Dean Cain,who seemed to clearly relish the role and is the antidote to those believing in some sort of Superman-role “curse”. Cain’s done quite well since.

  • James Sedares

    George Reeves was and is Superman. Perhaps it’s a bit generational, but George epitomized the character completely. Also he was the most convincing Clark Kent, a point often overlooked.

  • Publius

    I am glad that someone remembered Mr.Reeves on the “I love Lucy” show. I remember the Superman series on television very, very well, and I agree that though the plots were hokey, they were well-acted and had some depth.
    I am in doubt as to which is the better Superman; one remembers George for some things, and Christopher for others. One thing I greatly regret, now looking back on the legend after many years, is the writers shoud’ve looked at the comic books themselves for inspiration of stories; for the books often had stories that were far superior to the TV series. Perhaps it was copyright difficulties that prevented this fro happening. I always loved the stories where the bottle city of Candor was featured because it always gave us a glimpse of that world of Krypton where Superman came from. As I remember, the TV series only had one episode where Krypton was featured, and that was the origin of Superman story. I always wished that Reeves could’ve stared as Superman in that famous story in the comic books where he goes back to Krypton to mate his parents, and falls in love with a young girl.
    Anyway, I enjoyed watching the Superman television series as a boy; he always stood for hope which is something that is missing in our atomic age.

  • Debbie

    I agree with most of the above comments, George Reeves was the best Superman. I grew up watching and when I was older and watched Gone With The Wind for the first time and saw him standing on the porch steps with Scarlett O’Hara I said, “That is Superman.”

  • Misskitty

    What it really seems to boil down to is that it was an era where there was true patriotism and pride in America…and Superman was the personification of that. Sadly lacking now…

  • Anita Johnson

    As an old broad, I too remember George Reeves as Superman. Watching on the old B&W tv my Mom bought on “time”. What I regret most of all, is my estranged father who lived in Ca at the time sent me an autographed one dollar bill signed by George Reeves. Being a foolish little girl, I spent the dollar after awhile. Just think what that dollar would be worth today!! :-(

  • Paul Barringer

    Having grown up in the early thirties I have come full circle with the Man of Steel.
    I liked the character as a character, so I liked each actor who portrayed him, starting with Clayton “Bud” Collyer on radio right on up to the present time..
    I lean a bit more to the radio character because that was where I was introduced to him along with the comic strip.
    The big screen serials were ok for that period in movie making.
    I was a bit sorry to see the way they handled the flying scenes in the serials, going from live action to animation when Superman flew.
    But at the time it was what it was.
    A few trivia bits: In the big screen serials the part of Jimmy Olsen was portrayed by none other than Tommy bond.
    For those of you not familiar with the name, Bond was the bully named “Butch” in the “Our Gang” and “Little Rascals” movies where he was Alfalfas constant nemesis and antagonist.
    Also the part of Olsen was introduced on the radio program in 1940 and did not appear in the comic book until 1942.
    We all remember the green element “Kryptonite”, it also was introduced on the radio program in 1943
    The introduction of the element was introduce on the program to allow Collyer to take a few days off, and create an excuse or reason for Superman to be too weak to speak.
    The comic book eventually would adapt the green element into its pages also where it became part of the Superman legend.

  • M. L. Wirick

    It’s George Reeves for me. He’s the one I grew up with. Others were ok, but he will live forever in my heart as the best Superman. I liked his other movies as well and never cold understand why I heard that people laughed when he came on screen in From Here To Eternity and they cut his part down. He was great and I was sad when he died.

  • Adam

    Christopher Reeve was the best for me,he so nailed the part.Not knocking George,he was good,but for me Chris will always be the definitive Superman,I mean,he was class.Just perfect.It also helped he had a good film and special effects round him…..

  • Perry.

    Let’s face it. Anyone who honestly evaluates the actors who have played the Man Of Steel must come to just one obvious conclusion: George Reeves was certainly the best Superman. Despite the fact that the quality of the scripts for his TV show were decidedly inconsistent, he always gave it his all. As a result, he often rose above the material. On the other hand, there just isn’t a nice way to say it, so I’ll just state what everybody already knows. Chris Reeve was a very decent human being, but like it or not, it’s impossible to escape the painfully obvious fact that he was a truly lousy actor! In other words, George Reeves never gave the impression that he was acting. However, Chris Reeve ALWAYS gave the impression that HE was acting! This clearly means that Dean Cain is the second best Superman. He just looks a bit too young on “Lois And Clark, The New Adventures Of Superman.”

  • Patti

    This is perhaps one of the most important topics of interest in my life. George Reeves, in my (not so) humble opinion, is without question the best Superman ever. He was the one who set the real standards as to how Superman should be played. Even the bad guys called Superman a gentleman. We knew we could always depend on him to be exactly what we needed and wanted in terms of confidence and moral fortitude. He was from a time when acting still consisted of artisty and real assemble playing. Reeves made Kent the true sympathetic character that made it worth watching the series. I still love to watch the flashing Reeves smile and the occasional “Elvis-like” sneer. Long live the George Reeves Superman forever!!!

  • David in LA

    Although George Reeves died before I was born, “The Adventures of Superman” was in re-runs when I was very young, and is one of the first two (non-cartoon) TV series that I remember from my early childhood (the other, Gerry Anderson’s “Stingray”). Needless to say, Reeves is my favorite, and to me he really was Superman. I’m glad so many others speak fondly of this actor and series. The subsequent Superman performers are okay, all about the same to me.

  • Bruce

    I, too, grew up with George Reeves, and he will always be the best. The only person I don’t like from the Adventures of Superman was Whitney Ellsworth. It was he who dumbed down the series. The first sseason had episodes that could be enjoyed by youth and adult alike. But Whitney and DC comics thought that pushing an old lady down the stairs in the “Unholy three” was too much for the young. Balderdash! T did love Professor Pepperwinkle and his crazy inventions, but some of the later color episodes were inane due to the stupid villians. This is the same thing that ruined Superman I(Luthor’s idiotic assistant).
    Anyway the 1950′s 30 minute dramas were a work of art in using brief minutes to tell a story.
    George Reeves is the best!

  • xDJ@V.YouBraveWorld.Tube

    Jack Larson is the ultimate Jimmy Olsen. George Reeves’ Superman, for now, but please, no more Superman films.

  • Gary Stelter Sr.

    Truly, George Reeves WAS Superman! It is a terrible thing that he never got to see how beloved he was, and how he formed the morals for an awful lot of decent kids growing up in the 50′s.Just as on T.V., Superman cannot be destroyed.
    Truth, justice, and the American way.Whatever happened to THAT?

  • Javier Perez

    I have found very respectful opinions in this forum. I never saw the first actor, but I saw both reeve and Reeves, I think both did very well in their time. You Americans are obsessed with this kind of comparison. Now, Superman is not anymore the biggest Superhero, clearly Batman overshadows him in the last30 years.
    Regards,

  • Tony Runfalo

    George Reeves was the best Superman.

    The Adventures of Superman, Season One produced by Robt. Maxwell and Bernard Luber, is the best.

    Phyllis Coates was the best Lois Lane.

    She did not leave the series fearing typecasting. She left because there was a one year hiatus between the filming of season one and season two during which she was offered other roles and because of the uncertainty that there would even be a season two.

  • Hockeyfan

    Gotta go along with George Reeves, it was the era of the Cold War and he gave a sense of right and wrong. I grew up and still live in Canada.We got our signal from a Buffalo TV station and it was an absoulute necessity to be home in time from school to see Superman.

  • Victoria Balloon

    I’ve had a wonderful time following all the comments and reading all the tidbits and trivia! I just wanted to weigh in and say my favorite Superman is… The Max Fleischer Paramount cartoon version. I think it’s true — the Superman you first saw as a kid you remember as the best! But all of the actors who have played The Man of Steel have brought something new to the role, and it’s a lot of fun to see how the character has changed. Someone mentioned a radio program, and I’ve got to give that a listen, too. Thanks so much for sharing the memories.

  • Ellie

    Watching George Reeves as Superman when I was a kid makes him the only genuine Superman in my book. The filming “mistakes” only add to the fun of the episodes for me, and I recently purchased every season I could find for my home video library. When I feel the need for some “comfort” TV, the old Superman episodes fill the bill perfectly.

  • Deborah Green

    Of course, George Reeves was the best Superman. Who else could better fill that role. He will always be the one and only superman. He was the best.

  • Pat

    George Reeves IS Superman!

  • James Powell

    I aws born in 1971 and I love George Reeves as Superman! You see, prior to Superman: The Movie (Christopher Reeve) coming out, I remember watching re-runs of The Adventures of Superman on TV. I remember that when George Reeves opened his shirt and you saw that big “S” it ment something special. I WAS HOOKED! A child’s mind is a special thing and I am glad I filled it with George Reeves growing up.

  • Kenneth Morgan

    I grew up watching the George Reeves series and, I guess, it still represents the best presentation of both Superman & Clark Kent. The first Christopher Reeve movie comes very close, though.

    In the years since, I’ve seen the Fleischer cartoons and they’re the best at presenting Superman as a superhero; the sight of him literally punching death rays out of the air in the first cartoon is just plain wonderful. And, more recently, the WB television cartoon series, like it’s Batman counterpart, have done a pretty good job with the character.

    One last recommendation: check out the novel “Miracle Monday” by Eliot S! Maggin for a spot-on presentation of Superman.

  • WIN RAYBURN

    Other than the 40′s radio program that I listened to in 15 minute daily segments and the comics, my first exposures to Superman was the two Columbia serials. Kirk Alyn WAS Superman and for my money the best.

  • Noah Ackerman

    George Reeves is certainly thee Superman. I am 57 and grew up with syndicated reruns of this show on WPIX in NY. They ran this show to death with airings sometimes 10 episodes or more per week. The show was used on weekends to fill out the Chuck McCann show that was on for hours on weekend mornings.

  • Al

    I loved George but for me Christopher Reeve is and always will be Superman. The muscular build and the corny demeanor of Clark Kent are lasting impressions.

  • Hank

    Publius wished that some of the stories from the comic books had been used. Actually, some of the TV scripts were adaptations of stories. The one about the blind girl who didn’t believe in Superman was one. Another was the one where Perry White is haunted by (Great) Caesar’s Ghost is another, though in that case, the comic book version had Caesar (who wasn’t really a ghost) “haunting” Perry White for a benevolent reason (though I don’t remember what the reason was), with Superman in on the hoax — at one point he hurled himself at the ghost, apparently went though him, and hit the wall — it later turned out that he had actually used his superspeed to go around the “ghost” while making it look like he went through the spectre. But in the TV show, bad guys were making Perry White think he was being haunted by the “ghost” for nefarious reasons. Another adaptation was the one where Clark, Lois, and Jimmy go into a jungle looking for a missing explorer, and at the end Superman confronts a white gorilla. That one was an adaptation of a SUPERBOY story, and in the original, the ape was King Kong-sized, and the explorer Superboy was looking for was Lana Lang’s father. I also think the episode with Superman stopping a giant meteor or asteroid from falling on the Earth, in which he loses his memory (which had VERY bad special effects) was an adaptation of a comic book story, but I’m not as sure of that as the other three. I believe these stories were all published years before the stories which Publius mentions, in the early to mid-1950s.

  • Diane

    Absolutely George Reeves was the best superman. I used to run home from school to see the superman serial on the “Commander Tom” show on channel 7 in glorious black and white. Those were the days before VCR’s PVR’s, etc., so you had to run home to see superman save the day!!

  • E. Murray

    I loved George Reeves too! I grew up seeing the series when I was a little girl and have enjoyed the re-runs when they were on. When they stopped running the re-runs in my area I bought the series! I have to give Christopher Reeeve his props for the first 2 episodes. They were fantastic! He did a great job. George Reeves is #1 followed by a close second Christopher Reeve.

  • Rory

    No questions, no doubts…George Reeves IS Superman!
    Chris Reeve is certainly NOT a bad actor at all. His Superman, though was a product of its 1970′s times IMO. He’s an Alan Alda show-your-feelings, more sensitive Superman. George’s easy charisma, charm and wit as well as his heroic tough guy Superman in the first (best) season makes him not only the best, but far and away the only real Superman!

  • John

    George Reeves projected a maturity and sense of authority and humor-he was amused by the foibles of people but didn’t laugh at them.For this reason,he was the best. All the later actors ,including Tom Welling,however,have been worthy successors. As the role has changed,they have adapted with it.Now there will be a new movie Superman-hopefully,he’ll be as good.

  • David Chelstowski

    I grew up watching George Reeves as

    superman to me he was the best

  • Louis Koza

    I don’t think I could say any more here other than providing this link.

    ENJOY: http://www.jimnolt.com/

    The Adventures Continue

  • Perry.

    Rory,
    George Reeves was always believable, either as Clark or the Man Of Steel. Chris Reeve, on the other hand, was NEVER believable (particularly as Clark). Therefore, I’m sorry to say, Chris Reeve certainly WAS a lousy actor. Like it or not, there’s just no getting around this painfully obvious fact.

  • Jackie

    I am 65 and I grew up with George Reeves. I did catch a glimpse of the first one,simply because my late husband( who was much older than I ) grew up with that young man and talked about him fequently. I always adored George Reeves and wished I could have met him in person…simply because he seemed like he would make a great date…sweet and polite and smart!

  • docchalk

    There have be many fine portrayals of Superman throughout the years. Different generations will identify with the actors most closely associated with their particular era. I’ve seen pretty well all the different actors who have taken their turn interpreting the iconic Superman. I think if you are someone who can honestly say they’ve seen all or most all the various portrayals, their is only one conclusion. George Reeves is Superman period. From his looks, his build, his delivery and absolute strength of both characters Kent and Superman. Others have been enjoyable but none are Superman . George was Superman. Hollywood TV legend.