Superman Kirk Alyn

Today is the birthday of Kirk Alyn, the very first actor to portray Superman in a live action film. Born in 1910, Alyn’s fun performance as both Clark Kent and Superman enthralled countless young fans who watched the Saturday afternoon movie serials. From the 1940’s to 1950, Alyn’s Man of Steel paved the way for future big screen and TV incarnations of the iconic hero. We think it would be more than fitting to remember him by looking back on his time as Superman and sharing some fun facts about the era.

Superman’s a trendsetter

Kirk Alyn Superman

Right now, millions of fans are eagerly awaiting the arrival of several comic book movies – there’s at least 3 superhero blockbusters per year now! Well, it turns out Kirk Alyn’s Superman boosted Hollywood’s love for superhero movies back when the Cold War was heating up! Superman certainly wasn’t the first hero to appear in serial films (fellow DC characters Captain Marvel and Batman showed up before he did), but his adventures kept people coming back for more, and 1950’s Atom Man vs. Superman was a huge success, reportedly becoming the highest grossing Republic serial of all time. Little did people know at the time that there would be decades and decades of comic book movies ahead of them!

Kirk who? No, that’s Superman!

Superman

Aside from Atom Man vs. Superman, Kirk Alyn’s real name was never credited in the serial films. Columbia was so pleased with Alyn that they claimed they couldn’t get an actor to fill the role, so they only had one option: hire Superman himself! In an effort to keep viewers completely immersed in the superhero story and make them feel like it’s real, Superman was listed as being played by, well, Superman during the credits! Sure, people didn’t truly think this was real footage of the big blue boy scout saving the day, but where’s the harm in having something that’ll make people smile and give them a good dose of escapism?

Lex Luthor’s a star

Lex Luthor

Lex Luthor made his debut in the comics back in 1940, but it’s Lyle Talbot’s performance as the villain which launched the classic foe’s cinematic career! Ever since the serial films used Lex as Superman’s big bad, he’s been established as the primary antagonist in a vast majority of Superman’s movies! Since then, cinematic versions of Luthor have been played by Gene Hackman,  Kevin Spacey, and he’ll soon be portrayed by Jessie Eisenberg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Luthor’s actor inspired the comics

Lyle Talbot Lex Luthor

Not only were the serials the first (of many!) to have Lex Luthor as Superman’s opponent on the big screen, but they also managed to inspire the source material: the comic books! Actor Lyle Talbot did such a standout job as Luthor that his face would start serving as the model for the comic book villain.  Talbot’s expressions inspired the illustrations until the 1960’s, when Jerry Siegel reinvented the fiend.

Lois Lane returns

Lois Lane

Actress Noel Neill had the honor of being the first to portray a live-action version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Lois Lane. Her time as the famous comic book character didn’t end there, though! Neil would go on to play as Lois for several seasons in George Reeves’ Adventures of Superman. She also appeared in 1978’s Superman, as well as 2006’s Superman Returns. She even showed up in one episode of the 1991 Superboy TV series!

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