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The Summer of ‘51

Come with us now on a far journey… a journey that takes us into the past where many decades ago the summer of 1951 exploded as a magnificent chapter in Superman history. Here, Superman Inc. took a giant step, and it brought forth a new series, similar to others, yet advanced to the absolute peak of television production.

As we near 1951, we see that

the radio version of Superman was nearing its March end date, and DC heads looked toward television. Robert Maxwell let it be known he was interested in producing a TV version. And so as winter turned to spring, preparations were begun. Scripts were commissioned and casting decisions came into focus.

While all this was unfolding, an actor named George Reeves was trying to make his mark in New York City, having left Hollywood in late 1949 to try his hand at east coast radio and television work. But in April, 1951... and with probably no knowledge that any preparations were being made for a Superman television series… Reeves (fortuitously) decided to return home and give Hollywood another shot.

Meanwhile, throwing ideas around, DC decided to make a movie prior to filming any TV episodes. Thus, casting the roles of Lois Lane and Kent/Superman generated immediate interest. The film would begin production in July, 1951.

Of course, it was not "Superman" that brought George Reeves back to California that April. In fact, his agent, Gus Dembling had secured a role for George in Fritz Lang's Rancho Notorious. And after that came Bugles In The Afternoon. Both were relatively short stints though, and Reeves was left to wonder what he’d he do over the long hot summer?

On May 16, 1951, Flamingo Films announced the purchase of "Superman" television distribution rights from National Comics Publications. According to Michael Hayde in his Flights of Fantasy: The Unauthorized but True Story of Radio & TV’s Adventures of Superman, Flamingo had also recently acquired television rights to the entire Eagle-Lion film library that would provide Maxwell with free stock footage subsequently seen in many first-season episodes. [Note: Later in 1951 Flamingo would merge with Associated Allied Productions to become Motion Pictures for Television.]

By sometime in June 1951, with his scenes in both Rancho Notorious and Bugles In The Afternoon completed, George was left looking for work. Again, according to Michael Hayde: Reeves was mulling over this problem at Scandia restaurant one evening when [co-producer Bernard] Luber spotted him. The producer remembered Reeves from joint days at Paramount; now here he was, in Luber's words, "looking rather forlorn." Luber told Reeves about the new series and encouraged him to interview for the lead. Reeves contacted Dembling the next morning, and together they strolled into Maxwell's office.

Carr and Maxwell were sure they were looking at their Superman, but George Reeves needed more time to think it over. The money was good and there was nothing else coming up, so by the third week in June, George signed on the dotted line.

On June 21, 1951, Lee Sholem was signed to direct "Superman And The Mole-Men," and on June 25 The Hollywood Reporter announced to the world that "Reeves Now Superman." Production of "Mole-Men" was set to begin on July 10.


Practically To The Center Of The Earth

Posted: July 24, 2021

"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"