Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures of Superman Starring George Reeves

This month of “Superman” is dedicated to the memory of my father.

Rather than repeat the many biographical facts about Georges Reeves and this television show, I’d rather offer a personal glimpse into the influence this program had on me as I watched it as a child. Besides, I don’t consider anything I post on this blog as a “review” but simply just points of interest I’m commenting on for travelers in cyber-space. I became conscious of George Reeves on television in the early 1960s. Probably by the age of five or six, I was watching reruns on television without knowing they were reruns. So I was a second generation baby boomer that wanted to put on a cape and fly around Metropolis with Superman. In 1962 my parents owned a black and white television, as did most everyone else. Reeves, of course, died in 1959, a fact to which I was oblivious until about 1964. I recall distinctly that after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 the other boys in the neighborhood and I thought it was too bad Superman hadn’t been able to save him. Bullets bounced off Superman, and in my mind’s eye I fantasized a black clad cowboy jumping out from behind a cactus and shooting the president. This image stemmed from the fact we were told the president was killed in Dallas, Texas. All I knew about Texas was that cowboys came from Texas. By 1965 I recall that some of us kids thought it would be cool if the Justice League of America could travel back in time and save President Kennedy. About the same time as this Justice League fantasy, my father purchased the family’s first color television set, a big flashy Zenith. Color television sets were all the rage. Word spread up and down the block whenever a new color television set was purchased. An unspoken competition was underway, and even as a child I was aware of the cultural dynamics of keeping up with the Joneses. Color television sets changed everything. Lawrence Welk was in color. Jerry Lewis movies were in color. And Adventures of Superman was in color. It didn’t matter that Georges Reeves was dead, and none of us kids wanted to believe that anyway. Superman was simply cool. We had Superman comic books and Superman in living color on TV. Soon thereafter we had Batman on TV with Adam West and Burt Ward. It was, for a very short time, a nearly perfect world. World’s Finest comics became the latest sensation because they featured both Superman and Batman. I was fascinated by George Reeves on television. He conveyed both strength and charm, like an endearing relative that everybody loves. Reeves played Clark Kent in the same manner as Superman, and he wasn’t timid at all. I thought this was interesting because the opening narration stated that he was a “meek, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper…” but Clark Kent wasn’t meek at all. Instead, he was sort of a tough guy in a fedora, and sneaky about being Superman. George Reeves represented the best qualities of the comic book character. He was strong without being a bully; and he was generous and fair to everyone. George Reeves was also the best Superman because of his incredible charm. Noel Neill as Lois Lane and Jack Larsen as Jimmy Olsen offered the perfect balance and added another level of familiarity to the action. The show wasn’t always scripted well, but their personalities helped move the story along. All of the episodes are available on DVD in a box set, including the 1951 film, Superman and the Mole Men. Ask any fan and they’ll quickly tell you their favorite episodes: Panic in the Sky, Jungle Devil, The Defeat of Superman, and more. Noel Neill told me many years ago that her favorite episode was The Wedding of Superman. George Reeves will forever remain the fan favorite as Superman, just as artists Curt Swan and Neal Adams are justifiably acknowledged as the better illustrators. The late great Christopher Reeve also made a positive impact as Superman (for the record, I also like Brandon Routh). As for Henry Cavill, well…he’s a fine actor and we can only wonder what things would have been like if he had better scripts and Zack Snyder had never been born. It’s nice to dream.

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