The Adventures Continue

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By Mr. X

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The Evolving "S" Emblem

First, regarding this squib, I'd like to share credit, or blame as the case may be, with my good friend Jody McGhee, who, like me, disregarded the admonitions of William Shatner, and never "got a life." Instead, he remained a devout TAOS fan for more than half a century.

If memory serves, the above photo on the left, taken in 1951, was a costume test, one of the earliest photos of George as Superman. His chest emblem is made from heavy wool felt, a brown piece for the "S", and a cream colored piece for the background. The picture on the right makes this easier to see.

I'm told that the felt used for the emblem was far too heavy to cut by machine, the work had to be done by hand with pinking shears. The top edge of the emblem, above left, shows definite signs of being hand cut. The photo on the right is from a 1953 uniform, as evidenced by the straight top edge.


Above is a close-up from 1951's Night Of Terror. The two layers of felt and the hand cutting and sewing are plainly evident

Since all the emblems were cut by hand, it was difficult to follow a pattern precisely, and according to Jody, no two emblems were alike. Above is a close-up from 1951's The Stolen Costume. Note the rounded top edge of the emblem, and the irregular border, indicative of hand cutting. We'll see more of this emblem later.


Sometimes the wool felt didn't stand up to the rigors of production. Note the above emblem is starting to fray, in this scene from 1951's Crime Wave.

Some emblems were recycled and reused on new costumes. This picture, from 1953's Shot in the Dark, according to Jody, shows George in a newly tailored costume, but the emblem was taken from the tunic shown above from 1951's The Stolen Costume. Note the rounded top edge and the tiny cream colored dot created by the top curl of the "S".


Sometimes emblems changed from scene to scene. Above left is George as Boulder in 1953's The Face and the Voice, confronting Perry White. Note the top edge of his emblem, clearly a 1951 type pattern, a slightly rounded top edge.

On the right, in the very next scene, we again see George as Boulder leaving Perry White's office. Note that his emblem is totally different. The top edge is perfectly straight, and thinner than the 1951 pattern. This pattern was used for pretty much the rest of the 1953 season.

Superman's costume may be indestructible, but George's certainly weren't! A 1951 style emblem in the last stages of decay, from 1953's The Man in the Lead Mask.

Here's a shirt that we only saw this one time, because it's sleeveless. From 1953's Panic in the Sky.

Above is a good example of the "1953" pattern, all five exterior edges perfectly straight. This is from the final regular season episode, Around the World With Superman.


Starting in 1954, the show was produced in color. The pattern used for George's emblems, is pretty much unchanged from the black and white episodes. The above close-up, with the stitching evident, is from 1954's Through the Time Barrier.

Another similarly patterned emblem, this from 1954's The Seven Souvenirs.


The trend continues in 1955 as shown in this picture from The Girl Who Hired Superman.

In 1956 a new pattern was created, and for the most part used for the balance of the series. Note the different shape of the emblem, longer sides and a slightly shorter top edge, and a diamond shaped cutout at the top curl of the "S". This from 1956's Peril in Paris.


A slightly different version of the 1956 pattern, from 1957's The Mysterious Cube.

Despite the subtle differences, I think that of all the actors who portrayed Superman, George enjoyed the benefit of the finest costume. I enjoyed Superman Returns, but in all candor, I didn't think much of Superman's costume. I guess Bryan Singer wanted to leave his mark, but why try to improve a legend?

Mister X
August 2006



The Ever Changing Color Uniform

Jim Nolt stated in Warner's special feature the "Adventures of Superman, The Color Era" that the biggest difficulty posed by filming TAOS in color starting in Season 3 was George Reeves' Superman costume. A very astute observation on Jim's part.


For the first two seasons, Superman's costume was colored in shades of brown and grey, which, when filmed in black and white, afforded greater contrast to the television viewer.

As you can see from the above photos of a costume used for black and white filming, the color choices work out quite nicely when filmed in black and white.

When TAOS was filmed in color starting in 1954, the show was broadcast in black and white. Color was more than ten years in the future. So George's costume, which looked spectacular when filmed in color, did not show well in black and white.

As you can see from the above comparison, from 1954's Great Caesar's Ghost, there is virtually no contrast between the red and blue in George's costume.

As the series progressed, in a compromise between monotone and color, the blues in George's costume grew gradually lighter.

The left shots of George outdoors on location for 1954's Clark Kent, Outlaw, and on the set with Chuck Connors in Flight to the North, shows that there is still little contrast between the reds and blues of his costume.

One of the problems posed by George's costume is that the camera doesn't lie. Or does it?

Above left is a photograph of George and Noel taken on the set of The Girl Who Hired Superman, and on the right, actual footage from the episode. In the photograph, the blues in George's and Noel's wardrobe are much darker, and the red in George's uniform has turned orangey.


Above left is a contemporary photograph of an authentic Superman costume worn by George Reeves. It appears to be of 1954/1955 vintage. On the right is George in a special costume he wore for personal appearances. This snapshot was taken of George live at Palisades Park. Note how dark the costume colors are.

George and Noel Neill in 1955's The Wedding of Superman. His costume seems a touch lighter than 1954, but it's difficult to say for sure.

Left, George on location in 1956's The Town That Wasn't. His costume is noticeably lighter.



By 1957 George's costume was lightened considerably, providing greater contrast for viewing on black and white television.

George above in 1957's The Atomic Captive.


One anomaly during 1957 production was The Brainy Burro. George wore what appeared to be a 1955 costume in this episode, and the film color quality was far superior to any of the other episodes that season.


Mister X


X Talks about Muscles!

Gary Grossman mentioned in his book that if George Reeves spent too much time costumed as Superman, his skin would break out in a rash. In Warner's special feature Adventures of Superman: The Color Era, Jack Larson said the same. Jan Alan Henderson added that after thirty minutes, George's skin would break out, and he'd have to be "de-suited" and allowed to cool off until his skin calmed down.

I now realize that George almost certainly developed a latex allergy from the latex "muscles" he wore under his costume. This padding became more extensive through the show's six year run.

I've assembled a brief chronology of George's appearance, and the special effects used to help make him look "super".

Left is George in 1951's The Unknown People. Large shoulder pads, and little, if any chest padding

George in The Man Who Could Read Minds. Some chest padding was added, but it was very well done. I think George looked best here.

Here's George in Around the World With Superman. He looks very bulky in comparison to the prior photograph

By 1955, George was wearing full body armor, as shown in this shot from The Girl Who Hired Superman.
George was padded in this manner throughout the color years, except for a few episodes in 1957.

These episodes gave rise to comments that he appeared overweight. My theory is that George was suffering from his latex allergy, and had to forgo the chest padding until his allergic reaction subsided.

In Divide And Conquer, George portrayed two Supermen, and spent almost the whole episode on screen as Superman. Perhaps the show's production schedule exacerbated his condition, but by The Big Forget, George apparently discarded his chest padding entirely.

Towards the end of the 1957 season, George goes back to the padding, wears a differently tailored costume, and looks as good as ever.

Finally, we see a true artifact, a badly worn set of padded muscles salvaged by Si Simonson. No wonder his skin broke out in a rash!


Mister X
June 2006


Thanks for Watching.

Lou (March 26, 2011)   

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