TAC Table of Contents
An Interview With Malcolm Mealey
By Doug Switz
Doug Switz: What do you remember about your episodes and your roles in the Adventures of Superman?
Malcolm Mealey: I had just come back from Australia, and over in Australia, I played Superman on the radio, and I wrote a lot of the episodes. So I really came over here really to be a writer if possible. And I went up to the studio, I think it was Hal Roach Studios, and went out there to meet one of the producers…one of the executive producers, and I had a lot of scripts with me and I wanted to tell him of all I had done in Australia, and I wanted to know if they needed anybody to write scripts, new episodes.
Malcolm Mealey's first scene as Wayne Winchester in No Holds Barred
Anyway, I went in to talk to this one fellow and I was trying to show him the scripts and talk about Australia, and he said "Jeez, you look like Wayne Winchester", and I didn't know what he was talking about, and I told him that I might look like Wayne Winchester, but my name is Mal Mealey, and I just got back from Australia. And he said "Wait a minute (emphatically), just hold everything for just a minute", and he went in and talked to somebody named …(pause)..Bernie Luber I think was his name, who was the executive producer for Superman. He came back and took me and introduced me to this man, and this fellow said "You're right, he may be Wayne Winchester"…I didn't know what he was talking about. So he said do you mind taking you're shirt off, sooo, I said ,well, I guess not, of course, but I trying to get into writing some scripts, so you don't have to take your shirt off to write some scripts, but I'd be happy to…so I took my shirt off, and I used to be an Olympic weightlifter, and I used to coach Olympic athletes, so I was in really good shape, so I took my shift off and he said "THIS IS WAYNE WINCHESTER!". So I said " Well, what's with Wayne Winchester", ands he said we have been looking around for a man in a current episode we're shooting of the Adventures of Superman and we haven't been able to find anyone that we've wanted and you are the perfect, perfect character for it, and you've got a good build and you have experience. I had graduated from the Pasadena Playhouse, and then I went with a drama company to New Zealand, and toured New Zealand for a year or so, and then came back, and through contacts we made over there, I went back to Australia, and I was there for quite a while touring with a drama company, and also doing a lot of radio work. I did 4 or 5 shows a day, maybe 6 days a week. So I was very successful, but unfortunately when I came back here I could never get in (laugh) I did a lot of things, but nothing that led to anything big…but anyway, that was my experience with Superman. So next thing I knew they handed me this script, and gave me some costumes, that actually..then I had my own clothes, but then I had wrestling clothes, shoes, and everything like that supplied, and in that particular episode all of the leading wrestlers of that day were all in it in bit parts ( TAC Editor's note: see TAC Extra Feature at the end of this interview). So anyway, I met a lot of those guys, and it was interesting, and I thought "Jeez", there is nothing to this, so I come home, and I'm only home a week and I already have a part in Superman, and I'll be out at the studios making a fortune, it just a matter of time now, I can't miss! So that was about it, and then they wanted me to be in the other one..which was…gosh, I can't remember the name…
Doug: The Deserted Village...
Malcolm: ...The Deserted Village, and in this one I played the murderer, and had to wear a real thick coke bottle, Three-Stooges glasses that just about....
Malcolm Mealey as Alvin Godfrey in The Deserted Village
Doug: Could you see what you were doing?
Malcolm: No, I could feel around a little..it was really bad on the eyes, and I only of course wore them when I was doing a scene and take them off right away because they were really bothersome on my eyes. And that was it as far as Superman was concerned, but I did establish a little friendship with the man who played Superman, George Reeves, and uh…one funny thing I remember in that, it wasn't funny to this (episode), there was guy called, I believe Richard Reeves (as Bad Luck Brannigan), who played the heavy in No Holds Barred and we had this wrestling scene, and I had to put an arm clamp on him, and throw him down, and I did it , and I fractured a bone in his shoulder (customer came into store and we had to stop).
Bad Luck Brannigan (Richard Reeves) puts the "Paralyzer" hold on Wayne Winchester.
Doug: Let me go back and ask some questions..how long did it take to film the episodes you were in, because you where in 2 of the episodes…
Malcolm: Not very long, I think it probably took…maybe 4 days, or something like that.
Doug: I've been told they sort of cranked things out pretty fast.
Malcolm: Yeah, there were a lot of different location scenes in it, too. Well, like one they filmed down at, I think they shot it down at the old Olympic Auditorium for the wrestling scenes, and they had a crowd, a small crowd, but the way they shot it looked liked it was full. And then there were several other locations, one in a place where they had this Hindu guy (Swami Ram, played by Tito Renaldo) that was showing how to break this death hold, showing Superman how to break it, and then Superman (as Clark) showed me, and then I did it in the scene.
(TAC Editor's note: Mr. Mealey's recollection is very good. During a scene in which Clark and Wayne are discussing pressure point experts, Wayne's dialog does include the word "Hindu.")
Clark Kent (George Reeves) teaches Wayne the ability to hold off the "Paralyzer" hold.
There must have been 5, or 6, 7 scenes, and of course there was the newspaper…Daily Planet Building, but there were only 3 or 4 days. Oh, I know what happened, we had to reshoot it because when I did this wrestling scene, I broke the guy's clavicle or something,, I mean, you know I was forcing him down, and he just lost his balance, and I tried to let go of him, but it cracked one of his bones, and so we had to reshoot that scene and they shot other things around it, so it probably took a little longer because they had to be redone and they had to bring people back and that sort of thing.
(TAC Editor's note: Refer to the final take wide-angle shot just prior to Wayne Winchester's pinning victory over Bad Luck Brannigan, Mr. Mealey's impressive arm-lock and throw-down manuever of the stuntman filling in for Richard Reeves is clearly visable).
Doug: Did it seem rushed you?
Malcolm: No, not really. Of course, I had been in some movies and they were completely different, I mean you could sit there all day and do nothing, and maybe they will shoot one scene that last only 10 minutes or something, and that takes the whole day for that one scene, by then they would have shot probably 5 or 10 Superman episodes by the time they got one scene in a movie (chuckle).
Doug: From the time you shot it, it took almost 2 years before the episodes were aired, did you have any feelings that this was going to be a good show, or had you forgotten about it by the time it came out?
Malcolm: Once I did it, I sort of went on to other things. To me, it seemed to be a pretty efficient operation. I mean all of the lighting, camera men, and the whole thing, they knew what they were doing, and probably got better and better as they went on with future episodes. But, I thought it was pretty efficient operation, and as I said, some of the movies I had a bit part in I was used to going in there and sitting all day long, and maybe they'd get to me and maybe they won't, but this thing you were there and you were working, and so that's why I think they had such a production line going., and this was a long time ago too, remember… I can barely remember it.
As I started to say, I formed a real good,…pretty good friendship with George Reeves, because he said you're going to make it you know, you've got what it takes with that background in acting, you've done a lot of stage shows, which is good, and you're going to make it. We kept in contact with each other for, oh gosh, almost until he got…in fact he invited me to his wedding, which was scheduled, more or less a week after he was killed. So he was a really good guy, but kind of depressed I think, but not depressed enough to kill himself. But you know the story of that. Apparently, the only thing I can learn about it, but I'm not even sure if this is true, but this gal shot him, who was his girl friend, she was also tied in with some gangster, I've forgotten his name, and Naguci was the coroner, and they decided to just call it a suicide not to get into all of this stuff with the Mafia and what have you, so it was a real involved thing actually. It was kind of unusual to have somebody commit suicide a week before they were about to get married…I know marriage is a bad trip for some people, but not bad enough to commit suicide before you try it.
(TAC Editors note: The coroner Mr. Mealey is referring to is Thomas Nuguchi. M.D. However is was Theo J. Curphey, M.D., who was the Coroner, as well as Alexander Griswold, M.D., the Deputy Medical Examiner who handled the George Reeves case. Dr. Noguchi became the Coroner in 1961. One has to wonder what Dr. Noguchi would have made of the George Reeves case.
Doug: I was probably 5 or 6 at the time, and I didn't realize what was going on, but did you here any rumors, or through your circles to the show?
Malcolm: I didn't hear anything about it then, but I questioned it, it just didn't make sense, but they dumped it in a hurry and said it was a suicide, and went on to…you know, it was a cover up. But I didn't know anything about it at the time, and thought it was just really strange to commit suicide just before you were going to get married. And he was into a lot of other things, trying to get back into acting, and he had quite a bit of money..actually there were no residuals when this thing was on…
Doug: I thought he was the only one who had negotiated his contract where he got residuals?
Malcolm: He might have, but I didn't know anything about that, but I know we didn't, nobody did, but it wasn't too long after that, less than a year after that residuals were in and people would get some money every time it was shown.
Doug: What did you get paid for your roles?
Malcolm: Oh, I don't remember but….I think it was probably about $150 a day, something like that, I don't remember.
Doug: It must have seemed pretty good back then.
Malcolm: Oh, that was very good, yeah, it was pretty good pay in those days.
(TAC Editor's note: From Michael J. Hayde: Malcolm is correct. The first season, no one got residuals, not even George. SAG hadn't yet ruled on residuals for TV films, so there were none for anything produced prior to 1952. Doug's contract question pertains to the renewal George got in October 1954, after his brief walk-out. He was able to get residuals in perpetuity from the 2nd season on, in lieu of the large up-front money he'd originally asked for. Malcolm's recollection of $150 is probably accurate: in those days, the union minimum was $75 per day... but Malcolm was in TWO episodes, so $150 sounds right. - Michael.)
(TAC Editor's note: For more information regarding George Reeves' contract and residuals, refer to Michael J. Hayde's FLIGHTS OF FANTASY, pages 220-222. )
Doug: So you met George while filming the show and kept in touch with him?
Malcolm: Uh-uh. Just kept in touch, and he kept in touch with me, too, and he'd call me, and we exchanged phone numbers, and it was nice because he was very busy and I went around trying my best to get me parts in movies, and ….(his accountant comes through the door) That's my gal, she does my books for me, and tells me how much I loose every month. It's nice to know, you know (we both laugh).
Doug: Do your have any other interesting or funny things you might remember from back then?
Malcolm: Well, the only thing I can remember, it's not particularly funny, but they had rigged up some cables he was attached to, they were actually small metal wires, but couldn't stand a lot of tensile strength, and one time when I was there, but I wasn't working that day, …I'm trying to think how it happened…. and they shot him against a backdrop of course, and it either broke of something happened, and he sailed over, almost off the set, and he was injured, but not badly. He was up in the air, and the thing broke and he went down on to the ground.
Doug: How did he take it? Was he hurt? He was the show and if he got injured…
Malcolm: They were concerned about that, but he wasn't badly injured, but you know he dropped, … he was only up in the air about 6 or 7 feet, but the thing either disconnected or got loose…the thing broke. I don't know what it was, but he did take a fall, and of course he was horizontal and he was up in the air and …WOW.
Doug: Do you remember if it was your first of second show?
Malcolm: I really can't remember. My feeling it was the first show. I even forget where they filmed the second show. It was on location someplace…out in the desert or something. I really can't remember, it was fifty…?
Doug: It was '51 when you filmed it. Isn't it amazing it's still held around after all of these years.
Malcolm: Yeah, I wish they had residuals, and make me a little money now and then.
Doug: Do you ever get recognized, even though you were only one two shows?
Malcolm: No not, well…there were a couple of people that were aficionados I'd guess you'd say of Superman, that would say I look familiar, and I'd tell them who I was, and they'd say "I remember that". I'd say it was always a good show, at least the first episode, the second one was kind of a cornball. I think they were all cornball, but enjoyably cornball. But the first one No Holds Barred, for that type of a production, was a pretty good show.
Doug: Most people like the first season best, with the edgier stories. Have you ever kept in contact with any other people from show?
Malcolm: No, I never have.
Doug: Are you surprised people remember the show after being almost 45 years ago? (I taped this in the mid to last 1990's).
Malcolm: Yes, very surprised. What have they been doing for 40 years and still remember this thing (chuckle).
Doug: This show stood out to be one of the best shows technically of its time. Even today, the flying scenes are pretty believable compared to other period shows.
Malcolm: Yes, they had some good stunt people, too, that helped out, but Reeves did most of his own stunts, and I haven't seen that I would say were real difficult. He did almost all of himself so that's a little different from nowadays, too. If they have scenes now and somebody is going to jump 5 feet, it's always a double or stuntman that does it. It's pretty rigidly regulated which is all right.
Doug: Let me see, I think I've covered everything I wanted to.
Malcolm: OK, just mail me the royalty check.
Doug: Oh, did you ever get any of the writing roles for the show, because that's what you originally wanted?
Malcolm: No, I never did. That was the original reason I went in, but never did.
Doug: Did your Australian connections with Superman ever help you get anything, or was that pretty much it?
Malcolm: Yeah, over in Australia I worked maybe 6 shows a day on the radio…
Doug: Were they live or taped?
Malcolm: They were taped for later broadcast, but a lot of them were live, too, back in those days. But what happened on radio both in New Zealand and Australia, they got all of the old American shows, like I played Sergeant Friday on Dragnet, because there were a lot of Americans over there, and they wanted the American accent, and I don't know if you remember because it was before your time, they used to have big show on radio called Lux Radio Theatre, and all of the big actors who played the rolls in the movies lets say…Pride of the Yankees Gary Cooper he played the part on radio. This was before television, and they'd do it in a big auditorium. You would dress formally, ….I'm talking about the way we did it. We would get these shows after they were done in the United States, for instance, Lux Radio Theatre was called something else over there, but it was a big event and we would have something like a 1000 or 1500 people in the audience, the men would be in formals and the women in formal dresses and we would do the show, sound effects, and everything else, and I did quite a few of those, and then doing Sgt. Friday because I had an American accent, and got a lot of my work over there. I did a sports show, too.
(TAC Editor's note: On September 22, 1941, George Reeves did radio work for Lux Radio Theatre. George reprised his role as Bob Willard for Lydia - 1941, which starred Merle Oberon and Joseph Cotten).
Doug: Can you fill us in briefly on what you've been doing since the Superman show?
Malcolm: Well, as I said I was trying to get into the movies, and I had a lot of bit parts, and I had some before I went over there, too. I was never able to really make a living, So, I went into…what did I go into?... into sales…when you can't do anything else you go into sales. I was in sales for some big companies, and did very well, and usually quit when I got fed up and looked for another one. Then, I did a lot of wood carving, working with marble, and things like that. Oh, and I had a gym for a long time, but I was doing wood carving, even I think while I was being an actor. I did Hawaiian masks, and things which led to large figures for some of the restaurants in LA. Then, after a few years doing this 20 hours a week on weekends while also working for Reynolds Aluminum, I just got feed up. I made quite a bit of money, I spent all of the money on things I wanted like pre-Columbian art, I've got a real large collection of it. And then, since I had been an Olympic lifter, I got into training athletes in both Olympic lifting which has now has pretty much disappeared here, all the good Olympic lifters are over in Uruguay. We had our own gym for a while, and this almost brings us up to the present. We sold our gym to LA Fitness, who are a big megalopolis, they buy up all of the gyms. I've been out of that for several years.
I had this large collection of folk art, as well as the pre-Columbian stuff, and I'd go down to Mexico quite often, so somebody said why don't you open a gallery. And I figured I had lost a lot on money in my gyms, so maybe I'll open a gallery and loose some more money, which is the way it worked. But, anyway, I've been in it for about 4 years now, and someday I hope I can make a living out of it , but I'm not really concerned with that because I have some income from other sources.
Doug: So it sounds like you have stayed pretty much in the Greater Los Angeles area your whole life.
Malcolm: Oh yeah, except for when I was in the service and my time in Australia and New Zealand.
The Winner is....Malcolm Mealey
"MALCOLM MEALEY '40, of Fullerton, Calif.; Oct. 29, 1998, of cancer. He was 77. He played football for USC, briefly acted in films - both as a child and after attending USC - and owned an art gallery. Survivors are his wife, Korla; sons Chuck Jones and Mark Mealey; and five grandchildren."
All vid-caps were generated from the Warner Brothers DVD Season One Collection.
Initial E-mail (dated Jan. 27, 2010) from Doug Switz.
Dear Jim and Lou, I did an interview with Malcolm Mealey back in the mid 1990's. He played Wayne Winchester and Alvin Godfrey in the first season of the Adventures of Superman. I had the micro-cassettes stored aware until just a few days ago, when I stumbled across them. I had done it with the intentions of sending it along to you and Jim back then, obviously that plan got side-tracked. TAC has been a great enjoyment to me, and would like to offer a little something back to you. Best Regards, Doug Switz
Thank you to Doug Switz for your insistence we place this interview at the pages of TAC. It is our great pleasure to give your Malcolm Mealey Interview a home. It is a wonderful addition. I hope the added touches to the interview is to your liking.
I also want to thank Michael J. Hayde for his knowledge regarding the subject of residuals. And of course, special thanks to Mr. Mealey for his time and memories of sharing his experience filming two classic episodes of the Adventures of Superman and George Reeves. I'm sure everyone will agree we wish we could have connected long ago.
It was a surprise to learn Mr. Mealey played Superman on Australia's radio program and very interesting to learn he'd written his own scripts with the intent to work on the Adventures of Superman as a writer. Wouldn't it be great to read these scripts if they still exist. It's also reasonable to assume the reason Mr. Mealey's scripts weren't bought are as follows:
A) Season One writers were already underway.
After reading this interview, I'm left wondering why Hollywood would let Mr. Mealey slip away from their no holds barred grip. But the answer perhaps lies above with the show itself not being broadcast long after it was filmed, thereby making any late exposure bad timely for Mr. Mealey.
With preparing this feature I gave a call to Jack Larson, asking if he had any recollections of Malcolm Mealey. Jack remembers him on the set very well, but could only add that Malcolm was very athletic and seemed like a good guy. Jack also remembers Tito Renaldo as a wonderful and standout actor.
The episode, No Holds Barred ends with Clark Kent's final dialog "Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge." It is these chosen words that Jim Nolt took as a mission statement for TAC. Thus each TAC page ends with this sentiment.
Lou - February 15, 2010
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"
TAC EXTRA FEATURE by Lou Koza
In closing, I thought I'd end with a little extra tidbit that Malcolm Mealey mentioned in his interview regarding the non-credited professional wrestlers hired for No Holds Barred. Not much has ever been discussed or written regarding those wrestlers and who they were.
For the most part they resemble the rogue bunch trying to out-match Mr. Joe Young to a duel of tug-of-war in the classic film Mighty Joe Young (1949). In fact, Henry Kulky, "Crusher" from No Holds Barred is one of the strongmen in Mighty Joe Young. Mr. Kulky appeared in many films and television shows from 1947 to 1965, finishing his career with television's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Chief Curley Jones.
In my pursuit to confirm the proposed George Reeves Vs. Archie Moore exhibition bout as fact or myth, I found BOXING Illustrated - Wrestling News, August 1960 magazine.
Reading through the magazine I stumbled upon something that caught my eye within a George Drake article titled My Life and Death. To the right is an image and excerpt I lifted from the article. In 1950, Mr. Drake and other carnival wrestlers survived a ravine flash flood in the Montana hills. The group spilled out onto a flat area of ground, but not before rolling over and tumbling many times for a distance of 600 yards.
Mr. Drake was convinced had he and his friends been camped just 50 yards up the ravine they all would have drowned. In this article, Mr. Drake felt he was living on borrowed time.
According to a brief bio on the Internet site Online World of Wrestling, George Drake died by suicide in 1967 at the young age of 39.
George Drake in the No Holds Barred final battle scene to save Swami Ram.
Lou – February 15, 2010
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"