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What if Superman was done as an A-movie back in the 40's?


LiamCasey
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This weekend's release of *Man Of Steel* is the latest in a line of big-budget superhero movies that began with 1978's *Superman: The Movie*. And it appears to be doing well at the box office (if not necessarily with critics).

 

Although superhero movies are not a staple of either TCM or this message board, Superman has been around since the 30's. And was featured in two live-action serials and one live-action feature film in the late 40's and early 50's (albeit not with big budgets). And, for the most part, Hollywood makes movies in order to make money and not to create art. So it is not hard to image that, if someone like Jack Warner thought that he could make a lot of money from a major Superman movie in the 40's, then there would have been a major Superman movie in the 40's. And we would probably now be watching it on TCM (maybe even as an Essential Jr.).

 

 

So, if such a movie did exist, who would you have wanted to see as Superman/Clark Kent? Lois Lane? Perry White? Jimmy Olsen? And, of course, Lex Luthor?

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Although it's a gag sequence from NO TIME FOR LOVE, I can't think of a better Superman (which also requires an actor who can play Clark Kent) for the early 40s than Fred MacMurray:

 

 

Supposedly, MacMurray's face was the inspiration for Captain Marvel.

 

Ann Sheridan for Lois Lane, Jackie Cooper for Jimmy Olsen (retro stunt casting on my part) and Clarence Kolb for Perry White.

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Only a "B-movie" actor would've accepted playing the Man of Steel without puttin' up a fight with the studio bosses back then.

 

And so, I think I have THE perfect actor of the time who would not ONLY have fit the bill LOOKS-wise, but who wouldn't have had the clout to say "No! Kiss my keyster, JW! You can put me on suspension if ya WANT, but there's NO WAY I'm gonna put that freakin' suit with the cape on!"

 

And folks, THAT actor should and WOULD have been...one...James Craig here!

 

8382988519_3083a3579e.jpg

 

(...aren't I good!..yep, central casting sure could've used MY services, alright!!!)

 

;)

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*Superman: Aldo Ray* (with his hair died blue-black, of course!)

 

*Lois: Ann Sheridan*

 

*Jimmy: Mickey Rooney*

 

*Perry: John Hamilton* (sorry, but he was born for that role)

 

*Lux Luthor: Edward Arnold* (think of The Devil and Daniel Webster )

 

*The Prankster: Warren William*

 

*Mr. Mxyzptlk: Peter Lorre*

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To me, *no superhero interpretation ever done* has improved upon the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons Paramount did in the forties (even the racist ones.)

 

Here is an example:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEQPxPXdlUw

 

It's just everything "comic-book" "Superhero" adaptations should be- light, thrilling, fantastic, and fast-paced (don't give the audience time to say "hey, wait a minute, that doesn't make sense...")

 

Those damn Dark Knight pictures- which felt the need *to extract every last ounce of fun and fantasy out of the story* and (for some reason I still can't fathom) *make them more believable in/relateable to the real world* have probably rendered such a take null and void for a looooong time (I know Bryan Singer's version of Superman- which was, I think, a bit lighter with the touch- was not well-recieved.)

 

The reason people gravitate towards Superhero stories is *escapism* from the increasingly ****** world we live in- rife with terrorism and violence. *WHY* they want to make such endeavors so grim and joyless and downright masochistic is beyond me. I also add that in grounding said stories in "reality", the glaring plot holes of the films become all the more evident (I could sit here and list a handful of the "hey, that doesn't make sense" moments in The Dark Knight movies, but I gots things to do today....)

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Jun 16, 2013 10:14 AM

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In the 40's superheroes were considered Saturday monrning serial material. The Fleisher cartoons are spectacular. I can imagine George Pal producing a big budger Superman movie with Charlton Heston in the lead. It needed Pal level effects to pull it off.

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> {quote:title=joefilmone wrote:}{quote}In the 40's superheroes were considered Saturday monrning serial material. The Fleisher cartoons are spectacular.

 

You can say that again! By the way, the brand-new issue of Entertainment Weekly celebrates Superman's 75th anniversary (his first appearance was in Action Comics #1 in June 1938) and touches on just about every movie and TV version of the Man of Steel. It reveals that Superman never really flew until Max and Dave Fleischer suggested it would look better if he did in their animated films!

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> {quote:title=Dargo2 wrote:}{quote}Only a "B-movie" actor would've accepted playing the Man of Steel without puttin' up a fight with the studio bosses back then.

>

> And so, I think I have THE perfect actor of the time who would not ONLY have fit the bill LOOKS-wise, but who wouldn't have had the clout to say "No! Kiss my keyster, JW! You can put me on suspension if ya WANT, but there's NO WAY I'm gonna put that freakin' suit with the cape on!"

>

>

> And folks, THAT actor should and WOULD have been...one...James Craig here!

>

>

> 8382988519_3083a3579e.jpg

>

>

> (...aren't I good!..yep, central casting sure could've used MY services, alright!!!)

>

>

> ;)

>

*You read my mind. I was gonna say James Craig*. :D

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Someone like BUSTER CRABBE would have had the physical attributes for doing Superman. But not neccessarily the acting chops for a major "A" list movie.

 

 

I like the idea of ELISHA COOK as Jimmy Olsen.

 

 

Either IDA LUPINO or ROSALIND RUSSELL as Lois Lane

 

 

DEAN JAGGER as Luthor

 

 

I'm on the fence between EDWARD ARNOLD or JAMES GLEASON as Perry White

 

 

It might seem like "drivel" now, and possibly like "drivel" back then. But if the studio suits could have seen the money making potential these movies had in the second half of the 20th century, they would have been on it like green on grass!

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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> {quote:title=jakeem wrote:}{quote}

> > {quote:title=joefilmone wrote:}{quote}In the 40's superheroes were considered Saturday monrning serial material. The Fleisher cartoons are spectacular.

> You can say that again! By the way, the brand-new issue of Entertainment Weekly celebrates Superman's 75th anniversary (his first appearance was in Action Comics #1 in June 1938) and touches on just about every movie and TV version of the Man of Steel. It reveals that Superman never really flew until Max and Dave Fleischer suggested it would look better if he did in their animated films!

 

I'm another vote for the Fleischer Superman cartoons. So well done, so ahead of their time. Fast and intense. Betty Boop's Sno-White is still my pick for best cartoon ever made, but I don't think any cartoon art since has surpassed the Fleischers' Superman toons.

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In an era where every other new release at the multiplex seems to have a super-hero in it, it's interesting that it took Hollywood so many decades to embrace the idea. I'm also a comic book geek from way back in the day, and I just read a really fascinating history of Marvel Comics (title and name of author both escape me at the moment; I'll provide in a future post if anyone wants to know). One of the recurring themes of the book is the endless efforts of Marvel publisher Stan Lee to get some Marvel movies made. The best the company could ever do for 30 or 40 years was the HULK TV show from the '70s. When they finally did get some A-budget movies made it was with extremely obscure characters like Howard the Duck and Blade before someone FINALLY greenlit Spider-Man, the X-Man, et al. DC had the advatnage of being owned by Warner Brothers, but even with the success of the Superman franchise, it was 11 years between that first Superman movie and the first Batman one.

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> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}

> > {quote:title=}{quote}

> I'm another vote for the Fleischer Superman cartoons. So well done, so ahead of their time. Fast and intense. Betty Boop's Sno-White is still my pick for best cartoon ever made, but I don't think any cartoon art since has surpassed the Fleischers' Superman toons.

Good picks, but I'd go with Betty Boop's Minnie The Moocher with Cab Calloway or Donald Duck's Moving Day.

 

 

(Minnie the Moocher)

 

 

(Moving Day)
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Jackie Cooper as Jimmy Olsen. That is just brilliant!

 

Ann Sheridan was the second actress to occur to me as Lois Lane. If Fred MacMurray was Superman/Clark Kent, however, I wonder if Barbara Stanwyck would make sense as Lois Lane and provide another onscreen pairing of those two actors.

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I love how Edward Arnold went from Perry White to Lex Luthor in the space of one post.

 

I doubt that Mister Mzyzptlk would have been greenlit as the villain in a major Superman movie in any era. But I can see Peter Lorre in such a role

 

 

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This would have to have been made in either 1939, 1940, or 1941 but I would have chosen

 

George O'Brien or Richard Dix for SUPERMAN/CLARK KENT

Reginald Owen for PERRY WHITE

Katharine Hepburn or Rosalind Russell for LOIS LANE

Jackie Cooper or Jimmy Lydon for JIMMY OLSEN

Cedrick Hardwicke (bald) or Claude Rains (with hair dyed red if filmed in color) for LEX LUTHOR

Angelo Rossitto for MR. MXYZTPLK

 

Toss in Lionell Barrymore as a kindly Scientist who SUPERMAN confers with, BORIS KARLOFF as another villain, possibly LUTHOR'S main henchman, BEULAH BONDI and FRANK or RALPH MORGAN as the KENTS (superman's foster parents), and you would have had a grade A film.

 

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I love how Edward Arnold went from Perry White to Lex Luthor in the space of one post.

 

Well, if you'd seen that WW2 propaganda movie "Inflation" on TCM just a few weeks ago, you'd see Arnold in the role of The Devil. And then of course there's The Devil and Daniel Webster. With those in mind, I can't think of a better choice for Superman's arch-enemy than Edward Arnold. Just strap a girdle around him and he's ready to go.

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