The Adventures Continue

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By Mr. X

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One of the many things that made the Adventures of Superman such a terrific show is that, with few exceptions, George Reeves did his all of own stunts. His takeoffs, accomplished first by wires, and then by leaping off a springboard, were real athletic maneuvers, as were his window entrances, where he swung in off a high bar. His landings were accomplished by jumping off a ladder, and he "stuck" his landings, we never see a stumbling Superman. He crashed through walls with great élan. His great athletic ability burnished the illusion that he was Superman.

We see more use of stunt doubles for George in 1951 than in any of the other five seasons. The camera doesn't lie, it was impossible for anyone to successfully double for George Reeves. George moved with an inimitable athletic grace that no stunt man could capture.

Probably the only good example of doubling for George in 1951 was the alley takeoff which was first used in Superman and the Mole-Men, and repeatedly used in 1951 and 1953, with good reason. It was a great stunt, and the stuntman looks a lot like George. In fact, I never realized that it wasn't George until I bought a Betamax back in 1981, and could freeze the tape!

The identities of the men who doubled for George over TAOS' six seasons are shrouded in mystery, except one, Dale Van Sickel, who played Baker, the foreman, in 1953's Five Minutes to Doom, and Slim's wisecracking partner in 1956's Money to Burn. Van Sickel was a prolific actor and stuntman, IMDB credits him with hundreds of roles.

In 1951's Night of Terror, George steps aside for a stunt double in the climactic fight scene. The stuntman bears no resemblance to George, and he doesn't move like him either.

In 1951's The Mind Machine, it's obvious that Van Sickel, not George, is doing the heavy work in the fight scene. He's wearing a wig, which helps the illusion.

Also from The Mind Machine, a double is used to accommodate George's well known aversion to wires. "Peter Pan flies on wires, not Superman!"

In 1951's No Holds Barred, the stuntman looked and moved nothing at all like George. I doubt the substitution fooled anyone.

In 1953's The Face and the Voice, when Superman finally confronts his impostor, the stuntman portraying Boulder looked nothing at all like George, except for their identically tailored wardrobe.

Finally, in 1957's Divide and Conquer, one of the Supermen pulling off the window bars is a double, who wouldn't even fool the guard, played by Jack Littlefield, snoring peacefully outside the cell.

George Reeves was a wonderful actor and a marvelous athlete. His professionalism and tremendous athleticism, his determination to do his own stunts, and accomplishing them so beautifully, enhanced the portrayal of his greatest role, Superman.

Mister X



Now for a few hundred words about TAOS color episodes.

From my own readings, observations, and empirical deductions, DC Comics, the original owner/producer of the Adventures of Superman, regarded the series as a vehicle to promote comic book sales, pure and simple. They were comic book publishers, not film producers, and never had a true appreciation for their television step-child.

My theory is that because they weren't in the movie business, in their ignorance, cheapness, or both, they were negligent in their storage and handling of the original negatives and positives.

I was told that at an office party someone actually tried to show an original positive TAOS episode on a projector. Allan Asherman was properly horrified and stopped the miscreant.

Thus, I believe Warner when they say, as they did online several weeks ago, that by the time they acquired DC Comics, the original TAOS film elements were badly deteriorated.

However, it seems that some episodes fared better than others. In 1957, the film quality of The Brainy Burro is outstanding in comparison to the other twelve episodes.

There's a scene showing Superman being shot by my namesake while standing in front of a black Imperial that was used in Superman's Wife that was reused in The Brainy Burro. As Meldini said, "See, see the difference!"

My opinion is that Whitney Ellsworth changed film processing laboratories for the 1956 and 1957 seasons, and the film quality, other than in The Brainy Burro, is markedly inferior to 1954 and 1955. Something that to my mind reinforces this is that for 1956 & 1957, the opening title graphics were discontinued. I would think that title graphics were added during film processing. Cheaper lab, cheaper processing, no titles.

I think Warner did a first class job of restoring TAOS' color elements. The timing was right for them. There's software available that does a nice job at a reasonable price.

I just ran a 1957 episode, The Big Forget, through a film editing software package I purchased for $60. I took a shot at color correction. The results are, to my mind, remarkable.

I was able to correct the entire episode in less than one hour. Furthermore, let me state for the record that I'm a dilettante film editor. Prior to my involvement with TAOS, I never had any experience in the field, never made a DVD.

In closing, I'd like to repeat my endorsement of Warner's release of TAOS 3 & 4. It's a remarkable achievement!

If there's a subject that you'd like me to babble about, please drop me a line!

Mister X


Hollywoodland Review

I think those who are members of Dave Shutz's message board and Jim Nolt's Google group who do well to remember that Hollywoodland was made for general release... for people who perhaps have a passing knowledge of George Reeves and the Adventures of Superman, not for us... with our microscopic knowledge of these subjects. Thus the producers employed artistic license to get their viewpoints across. Unfortunately, these viewpoints were mostly to George's detriment.

Also, we should remember that Hollywoodland is not a bio-pic or a documentary, it's a murder mystery. The positive elements of George's life and career, being extraneous to the plot, sadly, were omitted.

I thought Affleck's performance as Superman was dreadful. His body language and mannerisms bore no relation to George's as Superman, at least I didn't think so. His exaggerated thrown out chest and stiff legged walking did not resemble George's more humble and graceful style in the least. And the recreation of the judo home movie, George did the stunts with grace and ease, Ben did them like he pulled every muscle in his body. I chalk that up to artistic license to emphasize what the producers perceived as a pathetic attempt at publicity.

It was neat to see an almost perfect replica of George's costume on the big screen though, and hear the original theme music that Warner didn't include in their TAOS DVDs.

I think Ben Affleck did a reasonable job of conveying George's charm and wit.

The one scene I truly resented was George drinking out of a hip flask, just prior to a personal appearance in front of many children. From everything I've read, and I've read more than a little, George zealously guarded his reputation among children, and would never do a personal appearance with alcohol on his breath. Never

I also suspect that in order to sign Adrien Brody for the "lead" part of Louis Simo, the producers had to pad his part, thus the extraneous Simo scenes. A good part of the movie was devoted to the dysfunctional family of a fictional character. Movie politics, is all. More Simo, less Affleck.

Even in death, George's scenes got cut.
I think that the movie was more or less balanced, at least it wasn't "Hollywood Kraptonite."
I thought Diane Lane turned in a brilliant performance, she stole every scene she was in, wouldn't surprise me if she wins an Oscar.

I thought that Lois Smith bore an uncanny resemblance to Helen Bessolo.

To sum up the movie's assessment of George Reeves in one sentence, he wanted to be Clark Gable, and he wound up being Clark Kent. I suspect there's more than a little truth in this.

I think that Jack Larson's oft told tale about George and From Here to Eternity terribly damaged George's reputation. Fred Zinnemann said repeatedly that there was no screening, and all of George's scenes were intact.

The scene in the movie, where Zinnemann indicated cut, that scene obviously was retained. Go figure. I never read that Toni Mannix had any hand in getting the part of Maylon Stark for George.

I think that the screen versions of Toni and Lenore were much more attractive than their real life counterparts, and Ben isn't nearly as handsome as George Reeves was.

And parenthetically, if I were Phyllis Coates, I'd be pissed!

Finally, I was very sad leaving the theater, thinking that the best possible conclusion to George's life was that he was murdered.

But, for a little while, George Reeves was brought to life by the magic of the movie screen, and for that I'm grateful.

Mister X
September 2006

Thanks for Watching.

Lou (March 26, 2011)   

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