Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Strange Dead and Living Cast of Ed Wood, Jr's "PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE"

Except for the one filmed scene of the funeral for the wife of "The Old Man". BELA LUGOSI WAS DEAD, really dead, when Edward Davis Wood, Jr. filmed "Plan 9 From Outer Space". This article is a look at the people who appeared in Wood's motion picture.

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The above is an excellent example of 1950's Film Poster Art. It appears a combination of one of the many low budget science fiction space opera's of the period and a vampire film.  However, it does the job of making "Plan 9 From Outer Space" look interesting to the potential audience. It was designed by Tom Jung. Four of his other 132 poster designs and story boards include 1939's "Gone With The Wind", 1958's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", 1965's "Dr. Zhivago" and 1995's "Mars Attacks".

"Plan 9 From  Outer Space" had a cast of 29 actors including the "Most Excellent" Ed Wood, Jr. in the important role of "The Man holding a Newspaper".

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The 28 other actors backgrounds are as strange, in some cases, as the movie. I will start looking at this group with the three names mentioned on the above poster. The first two of which are the actors most associated with this Science Fiction Cult Classic.

Moat of my readers know this film as Horror Icon Bela Lugosi's final motion picture appearance. Which it was, BUT technically except for the one sequence, possibly, of the funeral for "The Old Man" wife. Bela Lugosi was never in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and this explains why so many people are confused over the apparent inconsistencies in the scenes with Lugosi that appear not to fit the narrative.

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Described in the narration the above scene is allegedly of "The Old Man" leaving his home the day after his wife's funeral. Off screen he is hit by a car and killed.

The above picture is actually of the actor leaving Tor Johnson's house and was filmed by Ed Wood back in 1955. It was part of what might even be called "home movies". As the actor and Wood shot footage with no specific motion picture in mind.

The sequence with Bela wearing his cape, below, came from an idea the two men had for a possible Lugosi vehicle called "Dr. Acula", but appears in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" as a scene of the now dead old man. Note that it was shot during daylight hours. Another possible title for "Dr. Acula" was something called "The Phantom  Ghoul". The character, not played by Bela Lugosi, appeared in Ed Wood's "Night of the Ghouls" and would be played by "B" Cowboy actor Keene Duncan.

As to that opening scene for "Plan 9 From Outer Space". I used the word "possibly" before. As it may also not have been originally part of the working script called, at the time, "Grave Robbers from Outer Space". According to several sources the screenplay was not completed until after Lugosi's death on August 16, 1956. Raising the question if Wood might did not have changed the script to become Bela Lugosi's last feature film and also a major audience lure.

Bela Lugosi previously had a small role as the scientist/narrator of Ed Wood, Jr's 1953 "Glenn and Glenda" and was in his "Bride of the Monster" shot in 1954 and released on May 11, 1955.

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Also during 1955 Bela Lugosi had shot his scenes for the movie "The Black Sleep" which would be released two months prior to his death in June 1956. "Plan 9 from Outer Space" although shot in 1956 would not be released until July 22, 1959.

The second name associated with Ed Wood's space opera was television horror hostess "Vampira".
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The above make-up is the classic look fans associate with "Vampira". In Wood's motion picture it is non-screen credited to Make-up Artist Maila Nurmi. Nurmi is of course the actress herself. Below is a 1947 photo of the actress prior to the creation of her secondary personality for those who have no idea what she really looked like during her earlier film career.

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During 1946 Maila Nurmi was cast in a Gothic Horror movie "Dreadful Hollows" to be directed by Howard Hawks and was written by William Faulkner. The production brought the actress to Hollywood, but the film was never made. Here is an interesting photo of her for the picture.

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Finish-American actress Maila Nurmi was born Maila Elizabeth Syrjaniemi, The creation of "Vampira" came from Nurmi going to a costume party as Morticia Adams in 1953 and meeting some executive from KABC-TV. the local Los Angeles station. Her on air costume was supposed to be a combination of the "Dragon Lady" from the popular newspaper comic strip "Terry and the Pirates" and the evil queen from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

Nurmi's show was called "Dig Me Later, Vampira" for the premier program. It was immediately changed to "The Vampira Show" running from the start of 1954 through the end of 1955 at 10:30 PM. The character then started showing up on major television shows in guest spots.

In "Plan 9 From  Outer Space" her roll was called "Vampire Girl", but the narration clearly states she was the wife of "The Old Man".

The third name on the movie poster was actor Lyle Talbot. In the 1930's the actor was a major Warner Brother star. For example he was fourth billed in the Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis movie "20,000 Years in Sing Sing" and again fourth billed in "Oil for the Lamps of China" a major production. However suddenly Lyle Talbot felt the wrath of Jack L. Warner when the studio head turned on him. Talbot's sin was activism for the three year old Screen Actors Guild and his career stopped in its upward movement as the major studio's banned Talbot..

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Columbia Pictures like Universal Studio's was not considered a part of the majors. During the late 1940's and early 1950's Lyle Talbot appeared in several Columbia Pictures Chapter Serials and movies. For those fans of Detective Comics (DC). Talbot has a double motion picture distinction. He was the first actor to play Commissioner Gordon in the 1949 15 Chapter Serial "Batman and Robin".

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Plus he was also the first actor to play Lex Luthor in the 1950 15 Chapter Serial "Atom Man vs Superman".

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As for films by Ed Wood, Jr. besides "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Lyle Talbot Appeared in Wood's 1953 "Glenn and Glenda" and 1954's "Jail Bait". Piece of unrelated trivia is that "Jail Bait" was the fourth screen appearance of future movie strongman Steve Reeves.

In "Plan 9" Lyle Talbot's role was General Roberts.

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The first of two names that did not appear on the poster, but are associated specifically with "Plan 9 From Outer Space" was Jeron Criswell King. King became known as "The Amazing Criswell" a psychic that predicted the future. He first appeared on television on Los Angeles station KCOP and had started out as a radio announcer. The 1950's was a perfect time for a showman like Criswell. Who usually wore a sequined tuxedo and claimed to sleep in a coffin at night. His flamboyant predictions would lead him to several appearances on "The Jack Parr Show" which eventually become called "The Tonight Show".

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One of Criswell's predictions that apparently did not come true was that the World would end on August 18, 1999 and another was that Denver, Colorado would be attacked by a ray from outer space that would turn all metal into a rubber like substance. However, it is considered that about 87 percent of all the predictions "Criswell" made have come true in some form.

One of the most intriguing prediction took place on "The Jack Parr Show" in March 1963. On that program "The Amazing Criswell" predicted that President John F. Kennedy would not run for re-election, because something would happen to him in November of that year. Tragically on November 22, 1963 the President was assassinated and because of that prediction. Criswell was interviewed by the FBI looking for ties to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Another prediction that came true that the "psychic", he never claimed to be one, made was in 1964. He said actor Ronald Reagan would become the Governor of the state of California.

In "Plan 9 From Outer Space" "The Amazing Criswell" appeared at the film's beginning and as the narrator.

The second person associated with Wood's motion picture, but whose name did not appear on the poster was Tor Johnston. Tore Johnston was a Swedish wrestler normally billed as "The Super Swedish Angel". Johnson's wrestling name came from the fact that there had been an original "Swedish Angel" during the 1940's seen in the picture below.

Tor Johnson started to get bit roles in movies playing a side show strongman as early as 1934. That first movie was "Registered Nurse" and Johnson was billed as "Sonnevich the Terrible Bulgarian", but it is the science fiction/horror movies of the 1950's that he is remembered for. Below is a picture of Tor Johnson during his wrestling career and his looks are neither that of the first "Swedish Angel", or the face most fans connect with his movie career.

"Bride of the Monster" was the first time Tor Johnson and Ed Wood, Jr. collaborated. Below Bela Lugosi and his second billed co-star Tor Johnson as "Lobo" looking like he is fondly remembered.

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Johnson also appeared with Bela in "The Black Sleep". In "Plan Nine From Outer Space" his role was that of  "Inspector Clay" who is killed and becomes one of the alien's walking dead. Tor Johnson would also appear in Ed Wood's "Night of the Ghouls" a planned sequel to "Bride of the Monster" also as "Lobo".

The Wrestler turned Actor is buried about eight minutes from my home in Eternal Valley, Newhall, California.

Like Lyle Talbot there were four other very experienced actors that the audience might have seen. The first name I want to mention was Johnny Duncan who had a direct connection to Talbot. Duncan was "Robin" in the serial "Batman and Robin".

By the time Duncan made "Plan 9 From Outer Space" he had appeared in 68 feature films. Most without credit. These included the 1944 through 1945 portion of the long running movie series "The Eastside Kids/Bowery Boys", "Bedtime for Bonzo", "The Wild One" and "The Caine Mutiny". His role in the Wood's movie was "Second Stretcher Bearer (uncredited)".

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Above Johnny Duncan on the left as Dick Grayson with Robert Lowery as Bruce Wayne. Below Duncan wearing the bow tie with Leo Gorcey to his immediate right.  Gorcey was the original leader of "The Dead End Kids" that became"The East Side Kids" and then "The Bowery Boys" as the group changed names and studios.

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Johnny Duncan's last motion picture role was in Stanley Kubrick's 1960 "Spartacus". The part he played reflected most of the non-screen credited walk on's of his career. He was "Beheaded man".

Playing the role of "Colonel Tom Edwards Chief of Saucer Operations" was 1930's to 1950's "B" Cowboy Actor Tom Keene. In the 1950's Keene played several military roles.

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Tom Keene's cowboy characters wore both the identifiable "Good Guy" in the White Hat, but at times also the Black hat of the "Bad Guy". So unlike many 1930's "B":Western actors like William Boyd, Don "Red" Barry, or Humphrey Bogart look alike Lash La Rue. While audiences enjoyed his Westerns. It was hard to place Keene's image. Adding to the confusion was he often used the name "Richard Powers" while acting as he did in the Randolph Scott starring "The Return of the Badmen". Keene played another military man Major General George Burdette in the 1952 Cold War Science Fiction film "The Red Planet Mars" starring Peter Graves and appeared as Major Lee in an episode of television's "The Adventures of Superman".

Veteran Charcter Actor Ben Frommer was "A Mourner" at the funeral of "The Old Man".
Frommer started out as a "Voice Actor" in 1940 and his last work was providing voices for both the 1987 "Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show" and 1988's "Daffy Duck Quackbusters". In 1955 Ben Frommer played a "Drunk" in Ed Wood's "Bride of the Monster" and the same year was a "Hot Dog Stand Owner" in an excellent forgotten horror film "Cult of the Corbra". Just prior to his final voice actor work Ben Frommer was seen in the Dan Ackroyd picture "Doctor Detroit" and Al Pacino's "Scarface".

The fourth professional actor Ed Wood, Jr. hired was Gregory Walcott as "Jeff Trent" the airline pilot.

Greg Walcott

By the time he filmed "Plan 9 From Outer Space" Walcott had 14 film and television appearances to his credit. These included Robert Taylor's 1952's "Above and Beyond" about the training of the crew of the Enola Gay and the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. He was in the motion picture version of Leon Uris' novel "Battle Cry" and the Henry Fonda/James Cagney film "Mister Roberts". Along with the Gary Cooper picture "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell". Although all non-leading actor roles by 1956 Gregory Walcott was well established within the industry. After the Ed Wood picture Walcott would appear mostly on television, but was featured in the Clint Eastwood/Jeff Bridges movie "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" and became a regular of the "Eastwood Stock Company". He was also seen in Steven Spielberg's "The Sugarland Express" and the Charlton Heston war movie "Midway. Gregory Walcott's last work was as a "Potential Backer" in Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" starring Johnny Depp.

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Ed Wood, Jr's "Night of the Ghouls", as I said before, was supposed to be a sequel for "Bride of the Monster". It was completely filmed, but Wood went bankrupt and lost control of his rough cut and the negative. The movie had been planned for a 1958 release. The picture was considered lost until an Ed Wood Fan, Wade Williams, discovered the negative of the movie still at the lab with Wood's overdue bills. Williams paid those bills and had the film turned into a straight to VHS tape for release in 1984.

I mention this because besides Tor Johnson the "Amazing Criswell" is back once again as the narrator. The picture revolves around a supposed "Haunted House" and seems to contain social commentary of the 1950's by Ed Wood. Along with the living dead left on Earth by the Aliens of the first movie. The cast also included eight other actors seen in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" that I want to mention at this point.


In "Plan 9" Mona McKinnon played Gregory Walcott's character's wife "Paula Trent'.

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McKinnon's first motion picture was the 1953 "Mesa of Los Women" portraying, of course, a lost woman. The following year she played "Miss Willis" in Ed Wood's "Jail Bait" that starred Lyle Talbot. In "Night of the Ghouls" 20-years -ld Mona McKinnon had the non-screen credited role of the "Juvenile Delinquent Girl". That was her fifth and final actual motion picture. She would appear, on previously shot footage by Ed Wood, in a sequence of a 1993 straight to video movie called "Hellborn" as "Danny's girlfriend".It should be noted that Mona McKinnon had died three years earlier than that films release on March 12, 1990.

James "Duke" Moore was seen as police "Lieutenant John Harper" in "Plan 9" and as police Lieutenant Daniel Bradford in "Night of the Ghouls". In fact, Moore's entire six film credits between 1957 and 1995 was for Ed Wood, Jr. Although he died on November 16, 1976. Moore's final picture was "Crossroads of Laredo" a short released in 1995 made from the unfinished Western by Ed Wood, Jr "The Streets of Laredo".The footage was originally shot in 1948 and was silent.

"Duke" Moore is seen on the right in this still.

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Portraying "Patrolman Kelton" was Paul Marco. Marco had played the same role in "Bride of the Monster" and would be seen as "Patrolman Kelton" a third time in "Night of the Ghouls".These three Ed Wood, Jr. pictures are also known as the "Kelton Trilogy",

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Marco co-produced with Ed Wood "Night of the Ghouls". Paul Marco had a total of 12 film credits to his name and they included 2005's "The Naked Monster". A stand-up of the 1950's horror film filled with stars of the era like Kenneth Toby, John Agar and Lori Nelson. Marco played "Kelton". He also played the role in"Kelton's Dark Corner" filmed in 2006 the year of his death at 78, but not released until 2009.

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David De Mering played the role of "Danny" the co-pilot of the airplane that first sees the flying saucers in "Plan 9 From Outer Space". He also played the "Dead Man" in "Night of the Ghouls", but was billed as David De Maring in that film.

De Mering's total known film work are these two Ed Wood motion pictures. He just happened to be a house guest of Paul Marco at the time Ed Wood was going to film his science fiction "epic" and was asked if he wanted to be "Danny"?

De Mering is seen speaking into the microphone below. While Gregory Walcott flies the airplane. Behind them is the "FAMOUS" Shower Curtain.

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During the above sequence the boom microphone's shadow appears and disappears and reappears.

Below is Tom Mason's famous scene from "Plan 9 From Outer Space" doubling for Bela Lugosi's character. Of course, Mason doesn't look like the late actor and also he was obviously much taller. Compare this still with the one of Lugosi in front of Tor Johnson's house above.

Initially Ed Wood was able to get Tom Mason, his wife at the time Norma McCarty's chiropractor, to co-produce a short entitled "Final Curtain". The plot is described as "After the horror play's final performance. The Vampire roams the theater", This short was released in 1957. It was also a pilot for a proposed television series.

In "Plan 9 From Outer Space" Mason's role was described as "Ghoul Man with Cape Over Face". In "Night of the Ghouls" Tom Mason played "Foster Ghost".

Who Clay Stone was before "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in which he played the "Mourner reading the bible in the opening scene" is unknown. Who Clay Stone was after he played "The Young Man" in "Night of the Ghouls" is as blank. Except for the two Ed Wood, Jr. motion pictures. Clay Stone, if that was his real name, does not exist. I found this photo of Stone with Bela Lugosi from the colorized version of "Plan 9 From Outer Space".

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Karl Johnson played "Farmer Calder". Calder picks up Paula Trent in his car as she flees the living dead in a grave yard. Which just happens to be close to her and Jeff's house in the middle of nowhere.

In 1949 Karl Johnson played a "Drunken Guest" in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "Madame Bovary". A big budgeted production starring Jennifer Jones, James Mason, Van Heflin and Louis Jourdan, His next film wasn't until he appeared in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" followed by "Night of the Ghouls". Karl Johnson also was in 1957's ": The Unearthly" starring John Carradine, Myron Healey and Allison Hayes. In that film he played "The Monster in the Cellar".

Here is an excerpt from Paul Marco's interview about Tor Johnson for Tom Weaver's book: "Interviews With B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers"
He was just a big teddy bear. He didn't speak too well, as you can see in Plan 9, but personally he was a pussycat--sweet, generous, charming and a lot of fun to be with. His son Carl, who was a police officer in the San Fernando Valley, was also very nice, he had a small part in Plan 9, and he was one of the dead men in Night of the Ghouls.
Notice that for the Ed Wood pictures Tor's son Carl used the Swedish "K" instead of the American "C" for his first name.

Karl's father also appeared with him in "The Unearthly" playing a character with the interesting name of "Lobo 2" probably related to his two Ed Wood films.

Below is still I made from "Plan 9" of Karl Johnson's "Farmer Calder".

The eighth actor I want to speak of in this section playing "The Man in Fight" in "Night of the Ghouls" was Conrad Brooks. In "Plan 9 From Outer Space" Brooks played "Patrolman Jamie" seen below holding the gun as Paul Marco looks on. The two part autographed picture shows a younger Brooks with Bela Lugosi. Conrad Brooks was in Ed Wood's "Glen and Glenda", "Jail Bait", "Bride of the Monster" and "The Sinister Urge".

Some of the titles of Brooks' 92 films, two are still in production due for 2018 release, earned him the title "The John Gieglgud of Bad Films" according to an interview with Anthony C. Hayes published on September 18, 2015 on the website "Los Angeles Post Examiner":

You ever want to be in the movies? Easy! Just produce one. In this case Executive Producer J. Edwards Reynolds and Associate Producer Hugh Thomas, Jr. who played the two "Grave Diggers".

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Hugh Thomas, Jr. the shorter man in the above still also appeared as a solider in John Huston's production of "The Red Badge of Courage" and was the production manager of a 1975 motion picture "The Grizzly and the Treasure".

The other "Grave Digger" J. Edwards Reynolds is a little more interesting. He was a Baptist Minister of a church in Beverly Hills that somehow Ed Wood, Jr. convinced to help finance and appear in his picture. As I mentioned above the original working script had the title "Grave Robbers From Outer Space", but Reynolds objected to the "Blasphemous" title. Hugh Thomas, Jr. was an "Associate" of Reynold's Baptist Church/

Both "Grave Diggers" are killed off screen. After we see an image of "Vampira", shot either at night or on a dark stage, apparently heading for the two men, who are in the sun. and then we hear their screams without seeing them killed.

After Tor Johnson's "Inspector Clay" is killed. There is a funeral service for him conducted by another real Baptist Minister from Oklahoma. The Reverend Lynn Lemon had come to Hollywood to find backing for a film he wanted to make about Evangelist "Billy" Sunday. Sunday was probably the most influential person to convince the Government to create the 18th Amendment to the Constitution (Prohibition). Instead of finding back for his film Lemon met Ed Wood and appeared in the funeral scene. Lynn Lemon is in the middle holding the Bible.

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So who played the three space invaders that had that intense scene revealing "Plan 9"?

Alien Leader:
 What plan will you follow now?
Alien Commander: Plan 9. It's been absolutely impossible to work through these Earth creatures. Their soul is too controlled.
Alien Leader: Plan 9. Ahh yes. Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead. Long distance electrodes shot into the pineal and pituitary glands of recent dead. Have you attempted any of this plan as yet?
Alien Commander: Yes, Excellency.
Alien Leader: How successful has it been?
Alien Commander: We have risen two so far. We will be just as successful on more.
Alien Leader: The living, they have no suspicion of your movements? 

Speaking of "Plan 9". Did you ever wonder what "Plan 8" was?

Radio announcer and actor Dudley Manlove played "Eros".

Besides appearing in "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Dudley Manlove was in a very good little science fiction film from 1962 "The Creation of the Humanoids", if you can find this film see it. It is talky and very low budget, but the movies real undertone was racial discrimination and bigotry covered up as as a film about a dying Earth after all out Nuclear War.

Manlove was the narrator of Ed Wood's "Final Curtain" and appeared in many 1950's television series. He had a small role in the Gary Cooper, Diane Varsi and Suzy Parker 1958 motion picture "Ten North Frederick".

Playing the alien Tanna was actress Joanna Lee. Who had a very interesting life that involved overcoming dual tragedy's.

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The actress has 11 television and motion pictures credits to her name. One of the movies was an even lower budgeted science fiction movie 1958's "The Brain Eaters". The title creatures look more like hairy tennis balls with pipe cleaners coming out of them.

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In 1961 Joanne Lee was involved in a major car accident that ended her acting career. So she turned to writing television episodes and made for television movies. Along the way Lee won an Emmy for a 1972 screenplay and become a producer. In 1975 Joanna Lee wrote and produced the television documentary on the life of Olympic Athlete Babe Dickerson Zaharias. She was nominated for an Emmy for that production and won a Golden Globe for "Best Motion Picture Made for Television".

That other tragedy the actress had to overcome was the death from Aides of her son Craig Lee in 1992. The actress/writer passed away on October 24, 2003.

The leader of this three-person space invasion of Earth was the character known simply as "The Ruler" and was played by John Breckenridge.

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His full name was John Cabell Breckenridge and this "Drag Queen" had the nickname of "Bunny". The one-time actor was the namesake of his great grand-father United States Vice President John Cabell Breckenridge. Who served with President James Buchanan, but became the Secretary of State for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Breckenridge's other great grand-father was Lloyd Tevis the founder of "Wells Fargo".

"Bunny" got the role of the ruler, because he just happened to be a house guest of Paul Marco at the same time as David De Mering.

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The cast of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" was rounded out by the six remaining people below.

Carl L. Anthony portrayed "Patrolman Larry". He was apparently a longtime friend of Ed Wood and on this production assisted with the set up of the scenes. Below is a picture with Anthony on the left during the filming of "Plan 9",

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Anthony also appeared in Ed Wood's 1960 "The Sinister Urge" and had role in. 1982's "Raw Force" starring Cameron Mitchell. He was interviewed for the 1992 documentary "Flying Saucers Over Hollywood".

Playing "Edith" the airline stewardess was Norma McCarty. As I mentioned before she was married to Ed Wood, Jr. at this time.

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Other than "Plan " Norma McCarty appeared in a 1989 television documentary program called "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" about her first husband Ed Wood. McCarty appeared in 1995's "The Haunted World of Ed Wood" and one more television show about her husband 1999's "E! Mysteries and Scandals".

According to her obituary in "The Hollywood Reporter" for August 18, 2014:

According to her son, McCarty met Wood on a studio lot when she was working on the CBS series Gunsmoke, and they were wed on a soundstage in October 1955. Weeks later, Wood admitted to her that he was a cross-dresser, and she, with two young sons at the time, booted him from their home. 
“I’d find my nightgown on the bed when I got home from work and said, ‘I didn’t wear that last night.’ But it never dawned on me that he might be wearing these things,” McCarty said in an interview for a 1999 installment of the series E! Mysteries & Scandals.

Reading the above article, I discovered Norma McCarty passed away in June of 2014 at a convalescent hospital near my home. 

In the above still I took from the movie is Bill Ash playing the role of "The Captain". Previously Ash received no screen credit for portraying a "Spotter" in the Korean War movie "The Bridges of Tokyo-Ri" starring William Holden in 1954. The part time actor would appear 11 more times between 1978 and 1990. Four of which were on the television series "In the Heat of the Night", He lived in Georgia and what other work he did between film roles I could not locate.

Donald A. Davis played "A Drunk" in Wood's motion picture which was his only acting role. I could not find, or get a clear picture of him from the motion picture. He was also the "Editing Supervisor" on "Plan 9". Then his name does not appear until 1967 when he produced and directed the movie "For Love and Money" from an original story by "Ed Davis" in the credits, but actually Ed Wood, Jr.

From 1967 through 1973 Donald A. Davis directed 14 motion pictures and produced 12 of them. The titles included: "Swamp Girl", "For Single Swingers Only" and "Dial-A-Degenerate".

The last of the cast of 29 I want to speak about was Gloria Dee. She played a "Mourner" at the Funeral of Inspector Clay, if you go back to the picture with Reverend Lynn Lemon above. Dee is standing next to him. The only reference I could find about an actress named Gloria Dee. Mentions she was in Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 "To Catch A Thief" as a "Peruvian Slave Girl". I have no way to ascertain if she was the same Gloria Dee in the Ed Wood picture, or anything else about her.

My reader now knows something about each of the faces that were seen on screen in Edward Davis Wood, Jr's "Cult Classic" Science Fiction motion picture. One last item I would like to mention are those famous Flying Saucers.

Even Tim Burton in his motion picture "Ed Wood" kept alive the myth that they were actually hubcaps from a Chevorlet. When I was a young boy in the early 1950's I had two, or three model flying saucers from Lindberg. Here is an article about those models and a special one created for fans of "Plan 9 From Outer Space":

Friday, March 17, 2017

SUPERMAN, SUPERBOY, SUPERGIRL: Their Origins and Beginnings in Motion Pictures and Television

As originally created in 1938 "SUPERMAN" was able to "Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound", because each of his leaps covered a distance of 1/8th of a mile. He did not fly! That didn't happen until 1941, but we'll get to that shortly.

I was five years old when I first saw "Superman" on the big screen. The year was 1951 and back then several movie houses had special Kid's Saturday morning shows. I paid my Twenty-Cents and entered the La Brea Theater in Los Angeles. A typical Saturday morning program included two family rated motion pictures like "Bedtime for Bonzo" starring an actor named Ronald Reagan or "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man", five to seven cartoons, the latest episode of a cliff hanger Chapter Serial such as 1951's "Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere". The last designed to keep us coming back the following Saturday and of course at Intermission a prize drawing.

One of the two feature films on this particular Saturday morning ran only 58 minutes and was "Superman and the Mole Men". While the Chapter Serial that day was from "Atom Man vs Superman". It may be funny that at 70 I remember this so clearly, but I was a born Science Fiction movie fan. Having as my first memory being in the backseat of my parents car, in my pajamas, at a drive-in movie showing George Pal's 1950 "Destination Moon". The Woody Woodpecker cartoon sequence always remained in my mind. However, I'm getting a head of myself and a little off track.

This article is an overview of the origins and first appearances of Superman, Superboy and Supergirl on both the motion picture and television screens.


In January 1933 High School student Jerry Siegel wrote a short story which his friend Joe Shuster illustrated. The story was published by Siegel in his own fan magazine. It's title was "The Reign of the Superman" and it was as far away from the "Man of Steel" as you could get. The "Superman" of this story uses an experimental drug and becomes psychic. He then uses these powers for self gain and evil amusement. Apparently Jerry Siegel used the pen name of Herbert S. Fine. As Fine is credited with writing the story for Siegel's third publication.

Two-page spread titled "The Reign of the Superman". On the left page is a bald men, and along both pages is a futuristic town.

The two high school students started to develop a different version of the original character, but during this time broke up for a while and then came back together later in 1934.

For the next four years the two worked on this new version of "Superman" and attempted to get it published. Both felt their ages were the cause of many rejections by publishers who didn't take them seriously. Finally on April 18, 1938 with a cover date for the month of June "Superman" premiered in "Action Comics".

The above Ten Cent comic sold on eBay August 24, 2014, graded by the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), as a 9.0 out of 10 for $3,207,852. Previously in 2010 a copy graded 8.0 sold for $1,000,000 and later another graded 8.5 for $1,500,000.

Speaking of money! The two creators of  "Superman" Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster thinking their character wouldn't be popular. Agreed to sell the rights to their creation for $130 1938 dollars to the company that would become Detective Comics (DC). This type of sale was not unusual as it was "Action Comics" policy to gain total control over of all the works they published. As of  2016 the amount paid to the two young men equates to $2,135.30. Multiple Lawsuits over time would be filed on the sale by Siegel and Shuster attempting to regain control of "Superman".


Known for creating the characters of Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor were animators Max and Dave Fleischer. The brothers were the first to acquire the rights to bring Superman to the motion picture screen.

Image result for max fleischer superman

Image result for max fleischer superman

I first saw these cartoons in glorious black and white on an afternoon children's program on KTLA-TV originally called "The Pier Point 5 Show" but later "Popeye and Friends". It was easy for Los Angeles Channel 5 to get all the Fleischer Studio work for airing as it was owned by Paramount Pictures at the time.

Initially the Fleischers produced the pilot episode and eight other cartoons. The pilot was released September 26, 1941 and is known under two titles: "Superman", or "The Mad Scientist". A problem that Max and Dave Fleischer realized with the character was that in both the Comic Books and Radio Programs. "Superman" only  "Leaped Tall Buildings" as I mentioned in my opening paragraph.

From an animators perspective that visual was hard to do. So they asked "Action Comics" for permission to change one aspect of the character and from this first cartoon forward. "Superman" started to fly. In 1945 the radio show that had been on the air since February 12, 1940 suddenly changed their character to fit what the Fleischer Brother's had started and the comic books were now reflecting.

Tuning in on September 5, 1945 listeners first heard a new opening:

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.' 
Look! Up in the sky!
It's a bird!
It's a plane!
It's Superman!

The "Mad Scientist" had a very short opening about how Superman came to Earth. The 10 minute 30 second cartoon then switched to the story of the title in which reporter Lois Lane, as would always happen, gets into trouble and needed to be saved

Below is an image from the first ever "Superman" cartoon.

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 The quality of these first nine entries in the series is top notch and in some cases superior to the animation of Max's "enemy" Walt Disney at the same time.

The titles of the next eight cartoons that followed "The Mad Scientist" are in themselves very exciting:

The Mechanical Monsters released November 28, 1941
Billion Dollar Limited released January 18, 1942
The Arctic Giant released February 15, 1942
The Bulleteers released March 22, 1942
The Magnetic Telescope released April 19, 1942
Electric Earthquake released May 17, 1942
Volcano released July 12, 1942
Terror on the Midway released August 23, 1942

Below are scenes from "The Bulleteers" and note the detail on the newspaper for a 1942 cartoon. A sign of the Fleischer's quality and attention to that detail. Making the series very expensive compared to other studio's work.

Image result for images of superman cartoon the bulleteers

Image result for images of superman cartoon the bulleteers

The Fleischer Brothers got into financial troubles due to decisions Max had made over the years. The studio was eventually taken over by "Famous Studios" a branch of Paramount Pictures in 1942. Immediately the quality of the animation dropped as seen in the final eight entries of "Superman". "Famous Studios" was always looking for means to save money and time of production. The first entry under the new owners was pure World War 2 propaganda.

Japoteurs released September 18, 1942
Showdown released October 16, 1942
Eleventh Hour released November 20, 1942
Destruction, Inc released December 25, 1942
The Mummy Strikes released February 19, 1943
Jungle Drums released March 26, 1943
The Underground World released June 18, 1943
Secret Agent released July 30, 1943

Below are images from the "Japoteurs".

Image result for images of superman cartoon the japoteurs

Image result for images of superman cartoon the japoteurs

For those of my readers who are interested in animation and a more detailed explanation of the Fleischer Brothers "Superman" series. The following link will take you to my blog article on the feud between Max Fleischer and Walt Disney.


Five years after the Fleischer studio animations on January 5, 1948 audiences saw the first actor portray "Superman" on the motion picture screen. This was in a 15 Chapter Serial from Columbia Pictures simply called "SUPERMAN".

The posters for the serial showed the wonderful art work of the period even if they might have been more exciting than the real thing.

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Image result for images of 1948 chapter serial superman

Below is the first actor to play the title character Kirk Alyn.

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Kirk Alyn was born John Feggo, Jr. and started acting on Broadway. His first movie appearance was in 1930. A lot of Alyn's 65 motion pictures and television roles, even after "Superman", were small non-screen credited ones.

A little movie title confusion, but an interesting bit of trivia is that Kirk Alyn appeared in the first motion picture about the making of the Atomic Bomb "The Beginning or the End" in 1947 and ten years later appeared in Bert I. Gordon's 1957 Science Fiction film "The Beginning of the End".

In an article from the New York Times dated March 20, 1999, six days after the actor's death at 88. Alyn was quoted as saying about the day producer Sam Katzman asked him to play Superman:
I thought it was a publicity stunt. I didn't think you could ever put Superman on film. They brought the people from D.C. Comics over and they said, 'Hey, he looks just like Clark Kent.' They said take off your shirt, so I did and flexed my muscles. Then the guy said, 'Take off your pants' and I said, 'Wait a minute.' I was 37 when I played Superman. I picked up that girl and ran up that flight of stairs like it was nothing.

The first actress to play Lois Lane was Noel Darleen Neill. Noel Neill would portray Lois in both Columbia Serials and starting with the second season of the 1950's television series would again portray the character.

From left to right the first actors to portray on screen roles in Superman:

Pierre Watkin as Perry White
Kirk Alyn as Superman
Noel Neill as Lois Lane
Tommy Bond as Jimmy Olson

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Before I mention the plot let me explain how Columbia Pictures worked at the time. The studio was under the "Rule" of it's founder Harry "KING" Cohn. Cohn gave producers a budget and expected high quality results with change back. The producer for both "Superman" serials was Sam Katzman.

Katzman learned his trade under Harry Cohn and produced some real cheap movies like "The Serpent of the Nile" starring red headed Rhonda Fleming in a Black Wig as Cleopatra and Raymond Burr as Mark Anthony. While on the flip side Science Fiction classics such as "It Came from  Beneath the Sea" and "Earth vs the Flying Saucers". Another of "King" Cohn's producers in training was William  Castle.

The biggest problem facing Sam Katzman was how to make Superman fly. The reverse of the Fleischer problem. In 1941 Republic Pictures released "Captain Marvel". The first comic book superhero to be seen on the motion picture screen. To show actor Tim Tyler in flight Republic used two major elements.

First part of making "Captain Marvel" fly was using a stunt man, in this case Dave Sharpe. Who standing on a very high point of the scene and set up for a proper camera angle, keeping his body as straight as possible jumped up into the air 

The second part was a paper mache dummy of "Captain Marvel" weighing approximately 15 pounds and slightly over 7 feet in height. Tom Tyler was 6 feet 2 inches. The dummy was attached to a system of four pulley's which were then attached to two wires anchored at opposite sides of the scene. One end was slightly lower than the other. This simply caused the dummy to move across the set by it's own weight.

When the film of his jump was edited with the added footage of the dummy on the wire. The illusion of Tom Tyler flying was completed with insert a scene of the actor as shown below.

Sam Katzman wanted to do the same, but his budget did not permit this. So he animated "Superman" in flight. This was accomplished with Kirk Alyn looking like he was starting to fly at ground level and then the film switched to the animated character. When the animated character lands it was always behind something and then Alyn would easily walk into the scene from behind the prop.

Image result for images of 1948 chapter serial superman

Image result for 1948 superman

The first on screen villain was "The Spider Lady" played by actress Carol Forman. Forman was also in the 1949 serial "Federal Agents vs the Underworld" and the 1952 serial "Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom" both starring Kirk Alyn.

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1948's "Superman" starts out in Chapter One with the destruction of Krypton and Kal-El coming to Earth.

Image result for images of superman coming to earth in 1948 serial superman

Another piece of trivia: Do you know Clark Kent's middle name?

In this first chapter after his foster parents pass away. Clark Joseph Kent decides to take the train to the large city of Metropolis to find work. On the train he meets Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson. While the train heads towards the city Clark sees a break in the train track and---Cliff Hanger Ending

The 15 Chapters of  "Superman" tell the story of an inventor, Dr. Graham, who has discovered "reducer rays". His discovery can be focused at a great distance to cause an explosion more powerful than an Atomic Bomb. In 1948 and the decade before the serial was made there were a lot of strange type rays being discovered by scientists both sane and mad for science fiction stories. Probably the best film of this variety was Universal Studio's 1936 "The Invisible Ray" starring both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

The power of Dr. Graham's invention becomes known to the "Queen of the Underworld" the "Spider Lady" and the serial's plot is a battle of wits between her and the "Man of Steel". Early in the Chapters the discovery of the element "Kryptonite" occurs and it's effect on Clark Kent. Of course the "Spider Lady" learns of it and uses it at the climax of Chapter 15 to kill "Superman".

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Kirk Alyn, Noel Niell, Pierre Watkin and Tommy Bond were back in the 15 Chapter serial "ATOM MAN VS SUPERMAN" released July 20, 1950. I do not remember which episode I saw, my memory isn't that good, but this Sam Katzman produced serial had the first on screen appearance of Lex Luthor.

The first actor to play Lex Luthor was Lyle Talbot.

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Conversely the year before playing "Lex Luthor". Lyle Talbot was also the first actor to play "Commissioner Gordon" on screen in the 1949 Columbia serial "Batman and Robin".

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Talbot's acting career started in 1931 as he became a leading man for Warner Brothers Pictures. However, after he became an activist for the Screen Actors Guild Warner Brothers dropped him. No major studio would touch Lyle Talbot after that.

His career seemed to be at a dead end, but enter "King" Cohan who was always looking for good actors at a cheap price. Columbia Pictures picked Lyle Talbot up and the now character actor appeared in several Chapter Serials such as the two I've mentioned and other motion pictures. Then with the advent of television Lyle Talbot's career took a turn for the better as he became a regular on many shows. Among his work were as  "The Brain" in five episodes of "Dick Tracy" and a forgotten TV program "Cowboy G-Men", For those fans of Edward "Ed" D. Wood, Jr., like myself, Lyle Talbot was seen in Wood's 1953 "Glenn or Glenda", 1954's "Jail Bait" and of course 1959's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" seen below.

.Image result for images of lyle talbot in plan 9 from outer space

The first chapter has Lex Luthor demanding the turning over of all the money in the banks of Metropolis, if he doesn't get the cash. Luthor threatens to destroy a bridge and even the entire city. Superman saves the bridge and arrests Lex.

One year later we see Luthor in solitary confinement offering to tell the government about an invention that combines television with radar. Meanwhile criminals are being seen using a special coin to teleport them a short distance to avoid police arrest.

Luther has one of the coins which he uses to take him out of his cell and to his hideout. There he informs the "Human Fly", "Killer Lawson", that he has actually perfected his machine and one more thing. Lex Luthor has a partner he calls "Atom Man". Lex than returns to his prison cell without anyone aware he left it.

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Lawson climbs a building to rob a jewelry store. He comes down.and uses the coin to teleport to a get away van, but is observed by Jimmy Olson. Jimmy gets into a small fight in the van and is knocked out. Lois Lane and the police start falling the van as is Superman. As the pursuers are getting closer the Van suddenly just stops and appears to explode. Continued next week.

Within the 15 Chapters Lex Luthor will create synthetic Kryptonite, use a Flying Saucer to destroy a plane with Lois and Clark on it and with his Radar/Television set watch all of Metropolis and Superman. Then at one point Atom Man aka: Lex Luthor sends Superman into "The Empty Doom" aka: "The Phantom Zone" causing him to be a ghost like figure that can not communicate with anyone. Can you say one really thrilling and excellent serial?

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Image result for atom man vs superman

Image result for atom man vs superman

Image result for atom man vs superman

As I mentioned in my opening was a 58 minute long feature film


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Notice on the above poster the color of George Reeves costume. As with Kirk Alyn's it was designed for Black and White photography. By today's standards a 58 minute motion picture doesn't seem to be a "Full-Length Feature", but the overall majority of "B" movies from the 1930's into the start of the 1950's, as this was, ran between 56 and 60 minutes in length. This was to cut the cost of production and to draw audiences into a theater with a double bill that was able to have maximum screenings in a day for profit.

The film was released by Robert L. Lippert Productions known for low budget motion pictures such as "Rocketship X-M", "The Lost Continent", "I Shot Jesse James" and "The Baron of Arizona", but also some interesting international releases such as "The Quatermas X-periment" aka: "The Creeping Unknown", "The Last Man on Earth" starring Vincent Price. Which is the first feature version of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" and the original 1958 "The Fly". Also starring Price and Al "David" Hedison.

Playing "Superman" was George Keefer Brewar who took the film name of George Reeves. Which helps counter the often thought relationship to Christopher Reeves the 1970's "Superman".  A piece of trivia is that George Reeves played Brent Tarleton one of the two brothers who are Scarlet O'Hara's suitors at the start of the 1939 classic motion picture "Gone With the Wind".

In 1949 Reeves was working at Columbia studios and starred in the title role of Sam Katzman's 15 Chapter serial "The Adventures of Sir Galahad". Below is Reeves as Galahad.

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Playing Lois Lane was actress Phylliss Coates born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell. Coates had been acting since 1947 in small roles. After leaving "The Adventures of Superman" Phylliss Coates had the title lead in one of the last of the Chapter serials Republic's 1955 "Panther Girl of the Kongo".

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Another piece of trivia is found in the 1952 Science Fiction/Thriller "Invasion U.S.A.". This low budget picture was one of the first to deal with the Cold War sfear of the Soviet Union attacking and taking over the United States. In this movie you have Phyllis Coates playing Mrs, Mulfory and Noel Neill as the Second Airline Attendant in the only film with both Lois Lane actresses in it.

Clark Kent and Lois Lane are sent to the small mining community of Silsby where the World's deepest oil well is to be opened. What is unknown to everyone is that the well has reached the inner world of the Mole Men. At night they come out and initially frighten to death the night watchmen.

The townspeople are also becoming frightened of the Mole Men, because everything is suddenly glowing and it is believed to be radium. A popular radioactive element used in many Science Fiction stories like "The Invisible Ray".

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In reality the glowing substance is nothing more than phosphorus rubbing off the hands of the Mole Men. One of the Mole Men is shot by the leader of a mob Luke Benson and needs medical assistance. Superman helps the doctor with an operation, because the doctor's nurse is too frightened to touch the tiny creature.

 The townspeople led by Benson go to the hospital to take the injured Mole Men, but emerging from the Oil Well are others with a ray gun.

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They aim the gun at Benson, but Superman steps between the laser ray and the mob leader. Afterwards he brings the injured Mole Man out and the others take him down the oil shaft and blow it up. Preventing anyone from ever entering their world.

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This feature would become a two part episode of "The Adventures of Superman" renamed "The Unknown People" and with all mention of "Mole Men" removed from the re-edit for television.
You had to be living in the United States at the start of the Cold War to understand the underlining theme of this story. It reflected American's fear of the Soviet Union and the idea that anyone you did not know could be one of "them", a Communist, or even your next door neighbor.

This film came out at the start of the "Black Listings" of  members of the motion picture industry. Who were suspected of being, or who had actually been a member of the Communist Party. Problem here was the Russians were our allies during the Second World War and many patriotic Americans joined the party to show their support of our Communist friends.

Jeff Corey was called in front of the "House Committee on Un-American Activities" and refused to give names of those he knew in the film industry who were still, or had been Communists. His last film before he was "Black Listed" was "Superman and the Mole Man" in 1951. The next time Jeff Corey acted was providing a voice a voice in a "Mr. Magoo" cartoon in 1960. His first on screen role was in a 1961 episode of the television series "The Untouchables".

Should my reader want to get an idea of the McCarthy Era impact on the Motion Picture Industry. You may find my blog article about Screen Writer/Novelist Guy Endore and what happened to him as a result of actually being a member of the Communist Party interesting at:


This television series was a spin off from "Superman and the Mole Men" and premiered on September 19, 1952 one month before my six birthday. The show starred both George Reeves and Phyllis Coates. My family and I would watch it on our big 17 inch black and white television screen.

Playing Jimmy Olson was Jack Larson.

Larson had been  in 12 previous motion pictures before he became Jimmy. In 1996 Jack Larson appeared as "Old Jimmy" in an episode of "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". Ten years later he was "Bo the Bartender" in 2006's "Superman Returns".

Playing Perry White was veteran actor John Hamilton.

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John Hamilton began acting in 1930 and among his appearances was playing the father of  Flash Gordon in the 1949 serial "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe", the District Attorney in John Huston's classic "The Maltese Falcon" and President Ulysses S. Grant in the 1954 motion picture "Sitting Bull". John Hamilton passed away six months after the last opposite of "The Adventures of Superman" with a lifetime carrier of motion picture and television appearances totally 347.

The fifth major character on the television series was Police Inspector Henderson portrayed by Robert Shayne.

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Shayne started acting in 1929. Among his pre-Superman credits were appearances in the Claude Rains, Betty Davis classic "Mrs. Skeffington", the Errol Flynn western "San Antonio" and the title role of a scientist who becomes "The Neanderthal Man".

From it's premier in 1952 into the start of 1954 when the show switched from black and white to color. The program was considered more an "Adult Drama" and the stories also reflected the start of the Cold War Era. Especially with the opening scene:that has George Reeves's "Superman" standing with outer space behind him and then ends with the American Flag waving.

Image result for images of tv show adventures of superman

Image result for images of tv show adventures of superman

As the audience originally heard during the sequence:

Kellogg, 'The Greatest Name In Cereals', presents the Adventures of Superman!
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
("Look! Up in the sky!" "It's a bird!" "It's a plane!" "It's Superman!")
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!
And now, another exciting episode in the Adventures of Superman!

When the program turned to color filming the patriotic opening remained.

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Like most television shows of the early 1950's the sponsor's name, in this case "Kellogg", is incorporated in the show. The initial first season was filmed in 1951 and went into a hiatus to find a sponsor. As a result Phyliss Coates found other work and could not continue as Lois Lane and Noel Neill joined the cast in the role she had created for the reminder of the series.

  Image result for images of phyllis coates in tv show adventures of superman

 Image result for images of noel neill in tv adventure of superman

Note the very similar hairdo's of both Lois's and with similar dress viewers initially thought there wasn't a change in actresses. The debate still goes on as to which actress was the better Lois Lane.

Phyliss Coates appeared in 26 episodes of "The Adventures of Superman" initially from September 19, 1952 through August 10, 1953. Which included the edited "Superman and the Mole Man" as the now two part "The Unknown People". 

While Noel Neill appeared in Seasons 2 through 6 for a total of 78 episodes. The final episode of the series "All That Glitters" premiered April 28, 1958.

While the series was being filmed a script for a proposed motion picture entitled "Superman and the Secret Planet" was written about a tyrant that wants to colonize the Earth. It was never made, but was to have had the original cast. Two interesting variations o this story have been made in there own way.

The first was an on line comic book adaptation of the script written by David Chantler. It was created by Randy Garrett. Garrett drew the characters to look like the actors of the 1950's television series.

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Then the idea was taken a step further with a seven part movie of sorts. That can be found as if this writing on YouTube. The program stars actor David Hedison as Jor-El and then taking stills from the original color programs of "The Adventures of Superman". It adds George Reeves, Noel Neill , Jack Larson and Robert Shayne to the story.

Image result for superman and the secret planet

Image result for superman and the secret planet

Image result for superman and the secret planet

Below "The Adventures of Superman" producer Frederic Whitney Ellsworth.

Whitney Ellsworth.jpg

Any of my readers a fan of "Underdog"?

In 1958 with "The Adventures of Superman" coming to an end. Producer Whiney Ellsworth pitched a replacement parody that was not picked up, The title was "The Adventures of Superpup" set in an alternate Universe.

The cast of  live action characters in costumes included "Bark Bent" the secret identify of "Superpup". Reporter "Pamela Poodle", who with "Bark" work for editor "Terry Bite" at the "Daily Bugle".

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Image result for images of superpup

Image result for images of superpup

As of this writing my reader can find an episode of this purposed program on the Internet.


Return to 1938 the year "Superman" first appeared in "Action Comics". The month is now November and Jerry Siegel approached Detective Comics about his idea for "Superboy" and was turned down. The character was portrayed more as a prankster getting into a lot of trouble and DC thought that went against the image of the adult Kal-El. Two years later Siegel revised the character and was once more turned down. However, a short time after that second attempt. Two Detective Comic hero's were getting side kicks and we now had "Batman and Robin" and "Green Arrow and Speedy". The format was getting large public approval and the idea of a young Kal-El become a given to DC.

"Superboy" first appeared in Volume One, Issue 101 of "More Fun Comics" in 1944.

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For the March-April 1949 comic book  audience Volume One, Issue One of "Superboy" came out.


Whitney Ellsworth was not put back by not finding a sponsor for "The Adventures of Superpup" and in 1961 the producer created a 29 minute, 25 second long pilot for a proposed television series "The Adventures of Superboy". Ellswoth then cast the first actors to play the Smallville residents Clark Kent and Lana Lang.

Playing Clark/Superboy was 17 year old Johnny Rockwell.

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The young actor had have a career totaling 14 large and small screen credits. These iucluded appearing as two different characters on two programs of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" starring Dwayne Hickman and Bob Denver, Along with walk-on's in the following features the Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn movie "Heller in Pink Tights", the Doris Day and David Niven picture "Please Don't Eat the Daisy's" and the Jane Fonda and Anthony Perkins movie "Tall Story".

Portraying the first Lana Lang was 18 year old Bunny Henning.

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The actress made a total of five appearances including this one. Four on the small screen and one as a Gnome Maiden in Walt Disney's "The Gnome-Mobile".

The other proposed regular was to have been actress Monty Margetts as Martha Kent. Margetts appeared in many television programs for the 20 year period between 1956 and 1976.

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Besides the pilot named "Rajah's Ransom" Ellsworth had 12 additional scripts prepared for production, but he could not find a sponsor. The costs of making the show was deemed too expensive at the time.

Looking at what was on television in 1961. It is possible to see why this show was declined. Most of the programs used existing set pieces for a location which kept the cost down. They included "Gunsmoke" that used existing Western sets dating back to the silent era, As did "Have Gun Will Travel", "Laramie" and even "Bonanza". "Leave It to Beaver", "My Three Sons", "The Donna Reed Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" all used basically a family's house set for the majority of the action and streets sets from decades before.

Here are some scenes from "The Adventures of Superboy" pilot which as of this writing is available on the Internet.

Image result for images of 1961 television series the adventures of superboy

Image result for images of 1961 television series the adventures of superboy

Image result for images of 1961 television series the adventures of superboy

In 1966 "Superboy" also appeared on CBS in a 34 episode animated series from Flimation also called "The Adventures of Superboy".  Each cartoon was six minutes in length and the three seasons ran through 1969, but never as its own show. These cartoons were integrated into other programs.

Image result for images of 1966 the adventures of superboy

Image result for images of 1966 the adventures of superboy

Image result for images of 1966 the adventures of superboy

"Superboy" finely made it to live action television in 1988.

During the First Season starting in October 1988 the role of Clark Kent/Superboy was played by John Haymes Newton. He was replaced for the second after two things occurred. First his demand for more money and a major DUI arrest.

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Season 2 through 4 Clark Kent/Superboy was played by Gerard Christopher

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Changes also occurred to villain Lex Luthor. In the first Season he was played by Scott Wells.

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During the Second Season he was replaced by Sherman Howard. A two part episode explained Lex had plastic surgery to change his appearance.

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Another piece of Trivia for this program was the second James Bond actor George Lazenby portrayed Jor-El.

Lazenby as James Bond in 1969's "On His Majesty's Secret Service". The one Bond film without Sean Connery during his original run with the character over money and Connery becoming bored with the character.

Lazenbv as Jor-El in his two episodes of the First Season of television's "Superboy",

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The series was extremely popular during it's Fourth and final Season, but counter court cases over control resulted in the program being dropped.


Detective Comics assigned writer Otto Binder to create a story revolving around a female version of "Superboy". Binder had written the comic series "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olson", wrote "Krypto the Superdog" and created "The Phantom Zone".  Binder worked with illustrator Al Pastino.

The original illustrations of the character of "Supergirl" were by Pastino. Al Pastino also was the original illustrator for the characters of "Braniac" and the teenage "Legion of Super Heroes".

Superman's cousin Kara Zor-El wasn't the first "Supergirl", or for that matter "Super Women".

"Action Comics" Number 60 from May 1943 contained a story about Lois Lane dreaming she was "Superwomen" below. While "Action Comics" Number 156 from May 1951 had Lois also becoming "Superwomen" because of something Lex Luthor did to her.

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In "Superboy" Number 5 for November-December 1949 there was the story "Superboy Meets Supergirl". In which the athletic Queen Lucy, of the Latin American Country of Borgonia, while visiting Smallville wears a costume and with Superboy's help is thought to be a Supergirl.

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On the comic side of things. How about Superboy being turned into a girl? This happened in "Superboy" Number 78 released December 1959.

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Then there was "Superman" Number 123 for August 1958 that has Jimmy Olson using a magic token to wish for a "Supergirl". His wish comes true and tragedy occurs when she protects Superman from a Kryptonite meteor and Jimmy wishes the dying Supergirl out of existence.

All of which brings my reader to "Action Comics" Number 252 for May 1959 which introduced   Kal-El's cousin Kara Zor-El. Kara is sent to Earth by her parents from  Argo City, a portion of Krypton that somehow survived it's destruction, but now faces it own from a meteor shower. In this story Kara takes the Earth name of Linda Lee, poses as an orphan and makes Midvale Orphanage her home.


On July 19, 1984 a British produced motion picture "Supergirl" premiered in England at a running time of 135 minutes. When it premiered on November 24, 1984 in the United States the running time had been reduced to 105 minutes. Not a very good sign.

Then it was re-edited for U.S. television to a running became 124 minutes. However, of further interest there is another so called theatrical U.S. running time of 92 minutes. Again not a good sign for a feature film that was supposed to start a franchise.

The movie starred newcomer Helen Slater. Who prior to this picture had only one other appearance in a 1982 ABC television "After School Special" called "Amy and the Angel". She played Amy. In "Supergirl" Helen Slater's character was Kara Zor-El, Supergirl and her secret identity of Linda Lee right out of the comic books. However, that was all that came from that source.

The feature's Executive Producer was Ilya Salkind who along with his father were the men behind the first three Christopher Reeve movies "Superman", "Superman II" and "Superman III". To both of them and other investors on paper "Supergirl" should have worked. Additionally the motion picture had an all star international cast.

Playing Kara's parents were British Actor Simon Ward as Zor-El and American Actress Mia Farrow as her mother Alura In-ze.

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British Actor Peter O'Toole played Zaltar a rebellious, but a clear thinking scientist.

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The villain was an over the top, big problem, performance by Faye Dunaway as a would be witch named Selena.

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Playing Selena's comic assistant was Brenda Vacarro.

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Originally the producers thought of having Helen Slater look more like the comic book character as this test shot shows.

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Another original plan was to have Christopher Reeve appear in a cameo, but that was dropped. The non-appearance of Superman is explained as Selena listens to the radio and finds out he is on a peace mission in a distant galaxy.

Zaltar steals the "Omegahedron" which powers Argo City. Kara starts to fool around with it and ends sending it into deep space and eventually to Earth where Selena discovers it.

Kara decides to follow and retrieve the "Omegahedron", but her parents don't want her to leave Argo City. She convinces them she must and upon her arrival on Earth discovers her super powers. Kara identifies herself as Clark Kent's cousin. Which seems to imply she knows of Superman's secret identity. Seeing that Kal-El doesn't know Argo City survived according to the previous films. Perhaps as the script was completely rewritten at least once and Reeves bowed out of the movie. Somebody forgot to fix this plot line.

Most of the movie has Kara/Supergirl attempting to get the power source from Selena and her bungling assistant Bianca. The audience also has to listen to terrible almost Abbott and Costello imitation dialogue between Dunaway and Vacarro. One of the better scenes has Selena sending Supergirl into the "Eternal Void" aka: "Phantom Zone". Without her powers Kara finds Zaltar who has been punished and sent their for stealing Argo City's power source. He helps Kara escape by sacrificing his own life.

Then there is Ethan, played by Canadian actor Hart Bocher. He is the groundskeeper for a girls school the Kara is attending with Lucy Lane. Lucy Lane is the younger sister that she shares a bedroom that has a picture of Superman hanging on a wall.. Ethan becomes the love interest of both Slater and Dunaway.

After Selena is defeated and Ethan freed from her love potion spell. Ethan tells "Linda Lee" that he knows she is "Supergirl" and that he loves her. However, he realizes she must return the "Omegahedron" to Argo City. The movie ends with "Supergirl" placing the power source back and Argo City lighting up.

Not a very engaging story line and compared to the first two of the Christopher Reeve films boring.

On May 2, 1998 the first television appearance of "Supergirl" took place in "Superman: The Animated Series".  The episode was called "Little Girl Lost". In this story there are also changes to the original origin of Kara. In deep space Superman discovers the planet Argo. The planet was affected by the destruction of Krypton and became a frigid world. For protection of her family a scientist named Kala In-Ze placed them in suspended animation. All the chambers have been destroyed except one containing a teenage girl Kara In-Ze.

The story cuts to three years later the girl now on Earth has become "Supergirl" and is told she must watch out nobody discovers her superpowers and stay out of trouble.

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This was a two part cartoon and during the second part Supergirl helps Superman defeat Darkseid and the Furies.
From this point forward Supergirl started to guest appear on different DC animated series. She teamed up with Batgirl in one series and became a member of the new Justice League in another.

A completely different take on Kara and Supergirl was her first live appearance as part of the television show "Smallville". Which itself was a completely updated feel to the life of the young Clark Kent/Superboy. During the final episode of Season Six on May 17, 2007. Kara is freed after 18 years from suspended animation. Kara/Supergirl was played by Laura Vandervoot.

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As I said this article is just an overview of the origins and first motion picture and television appearances of three Detective Comics superheroes that are in reality only two Superman and his cousin Supergirl. It also shows the variance, over time, of how they were presented on both the big and small screens.

There is now a wonderful reboot of "Supergirl" on television. That is both today, but also reminds this old man of the George Reeves television series with just the right mix of nostalgia.


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Cecil B. DeMille: December 1913 to December 1923

 --- but DeMille said “Let There Be Biblical Sex” and it was good. The above line is from my article, "The Bible According to Hollywood...