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By Gerry Gladston

With a cheerful smile and a wink, George Reeves’ Superman won the hearts of millions of fans worldwide in the 1950s and well beyond.  Reeves’ Superman exuded friendly confidence, compassion, humor, and an air of almost paternal authority.  Everyone in the room always knew where they stood with Superman, and the authorities never questioned him. Gangsters feared him, but he was a super-gentleman to everyone else, especially Lois Lane.  The playful, romantic tension between Lois and Superman was a big part of the fun factor!

His role as the Man of Steel ran from 1951 through 1958, but Reeves’ endearing portrayal resonated with fans for decades to come.  To this day, for many, George Reeves has always been, and will always be…SUPERMAN!

Five fun facts about George Reeves and The Adventures of Superman:

Gone With the Wind was his first film role:

  • George’s acting career took off with a flying start in 1939 with a small role in Gone with the Wind.  Other small roles followed in the early 1940’s, in Knute Rockne with Ronald Reagan, Rancho Notorious with Marlene Dietrich, and a starring role in So Proudly We Hail with Claudette Colbert,  Paulette Goddard, and Veronica Lake.

Crossover appearances:

  • George Reeves appeared as Superman and showed his comic flair on I Love Lucy, in the 1957 episode “Lucy and Superman,” often considered one of the ten best episodes.
  • Reeves promoted Savings Bonds for the U.S. Treasury in the short film Stamp Day for Superman.

Reeves’ influence on Superman comics:

  • Writer John Byrne reshaped the Superman mythos in his enormously popular reboot of Superman’s continuity in the mid-1980’s.  Byrne has stated that Clark Kent’s newfound assertiveness and sense of authority were inspired by George Reeves’ portrayal of the character.

Public appearances as Superman:

  • Reeves often appeared at public events as Superman, but his last came the day a young boy pointed his father’s pistol at him, to test Superman’s “invulnerability.”   Reeves was able to talk the boy out of pulling the trigger, but he never again appeared as Superman in public.

Lois Lane:

  • Beloved as Lois Lane, Noel Neill found a second career on the college lecture circuit in the 1970’s.  Legions of now grown up fans welcomed her and the charming stories of her years as Lois Lane.
  • Actress Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane in the first season, but Neil took over afterward, reprising the role she started in the 1940’s Superman serials that starred Kirk Alyn.

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Five Favorite Episodes:

  1. Five Minutes to Doom – In a feverish race against time, Clark, Lois, and Jimmy gather evidence to prove the innocence of death row inmate Joe Winters, scheduled for execution by electric chair at midnight!  The climactic conclusion explodes with bravura black and white film noir aplomb, at five minutes before 12:00!
  2. Around the World with Superman -Superman shows his compassionate side (even more than usual), and great resourcefulness, as he resolves myriad complex issues and restores the faith of an  angry and bitter young blind girl who doesn’t believe in Superman, or much of anything else.
  3. The Stolen Costume – Reeves’ Superman doesn’t have a Fortress of Solitude, or a fancy glass case on a pedestal in which to store his costume.  It’s kept in a hidden closet, until a crooked husband and wife duo steal it and deduce his identity. What he does with them, and how it leads to their ultimate fate, leaves some startling questions for viewers.
  4. Superman in Exile – After preventing a disaster at an atomic facility, Superman becomes irradiated and poses a mortal threat to all around him, forcing him into self-imposed exile.  In a heart-wrenching scene set on a mountaintop overlooking Metropolis, Superman is literally glowing, while peering down helplessly at his city in this Cold War era thriller.
  5. The Wedding of Superman – Lois is elated to receive flowers from Superman, along with his apology for being so busy with a recent crime wave. Thus begins Superman’s courtship of Lois Lane in a truly super-romantic style, culminating in their wedding—but will a lead-concealed time bomb hidden in the wedding cake put a damper on the ceremony?

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Images courtesy of:

  • Adventures of Superman and art copyright 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc
  • Superman TM & C DC Comics.

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