TAC Table of Contents
The Adventures of Superman Over The Years
by Mike Goldman
As the years go by...
seasons and time change. After more than twenty-five years online and for several reasons, it's likely that there will not be any new material added to the TAC website come Spring 2016. And originally, the website was set to go to that great "Fortress Of Solitude" in the sky. Fortunately, through the generosity of Bill Cotter, the website will remain.
Thank you Jim, for the many years of enjoyment The Adventures Continue website has given to all of us.
So, before "the time limit is up" for new material, I'd like to present this updated version of an article that was first posted some ten years ago. Again, the hope is that anyone who sees this article will enjoy it. I also welcome your own thoughts regarding the several intros through the years.
And now... another exciting look at the intros in the Adventures of Superman.
The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves, has aired for more than sixty years now. It was first broadcast in the Chicago market in September 1952. In February 1953, the program began airing in Los Angeles, and by that April in New York City. It was an instant success. Growing up in New York, I fondly remember WPIX Channel 11, home of Superman for many, many years.
After a hiatus of several years from the NYC airwaves, the Adventures of Superman was back on TV in the fall of 1987, this time on WWOR Channel 9. "Ole George" was back! And this time I recorded them on my VCR. WWOR continued to run the series until 1990. Included in this run were several Thanksgiving Day marathons hosted by our beloved friend, the late Jack Larson.
To my delight, it was during this stretch that two first season episodes, “The Birthday Letter” and “The Mind Machine,” were broadcast with their closing PREVIEWS prior to the end credits! Sadly, none of the original “Kellogg’s” openings in their complete form were ever included in those WWOR broadcasts.
But thanks to “Mr. X” (Dave Orbach), Jim Nolt, and a few others who were able to share some tidbits from our own personal collections, we have seen the above mentioned PREVIEWS with the Kellogg’s outro closing audio, the second season Kellogg’s closing, and even a fifth season color closing with the original Kellogg’s closing audio. But while we're focusing primarily on the opening credits, we'll include some of the closing credits too, just for good measure!
This we know: 1) The full opening from the first season (in the original Maxwell form) exists... and a Kellogg’s first season opening exists.
2) The second season opening is frequently truncated, or altered in other ways. Often a b&w copy of a color title card is inserted into this opening.
3) And the color opening? Well, we’ll get around to that later.
So, why then was the original opening changed? Why, as the episodes are aired today, do we always see the altered opening? The obvious answer is because Kellogg's is no longer the sponsor. But it is no mystery that that Kellogg’s was the sponsor. And there are references to Kellogg's sponsorship in the original closings that are still in the hands of collectors.
All of this has got me thinking, and over the years I've made certain observations and compiled various opening title sequences gathered from various broadcast sources that have enabled me to draw certain conclusions. These are only theories on my part, however, and I'd be interested to know if any readers can come up with a different scenario.
The First Season (Filmed in the summer and fall of 1951 and broadcast in 1952-53)
We are all familiar with the opening that Robert Maxwell filmed:
We also know the Maxwell closing credits by heart:
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But none of this is what Kellogg's wanted. Kellogg's was paying the freight, and the first thing they wanted the viewer to see and hear was "KELLOGG'S." They also wanted a commercial break for a Kellogg's product before the episode title card dissolved into the start of the episode. And another commercial about midway through the episode. And yet another commercial at the conclusion of the episode, just before the end credits rolled. So, Kellogg’s ordered changes. Here is the Kellogg’s opening:
Some of those changes ordered by Kellogg's were editorial in nature, resulting in a few episodes with shorter running times. This was remedied by adding previews of varying lengths bringing about uniformity.
Kellogg's also insisted that the words "THE END" be moved from before the credits (where Maxwell placed them) to... well... the end.
Here is a complete Kellogg's closing credit with a PREVIEW:
All episodes had the ©MCMLI, or 1951 copyright on both the opening and closing credits.
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The Second Season (Filmed in the summer and fall of1953 and broadcast in 1953-54)
When the second season episodes began airing in September 1953, those episodes still used the first season opening with the ©MCMLI (1951) copyright on both the opening and closing title cards.
Most likely the opening for the 1953-54 season was not filmed until either sometime in October or early November of 1953... well after production for this batch of episodes had been completed.
Factoring in post–production and lab processing, the new opening probably would not have been available until about the end of 1953 or January 1954.
My own WWOR collection from 1987-88 has this correct opening on “The Machine That Could Plot Crimes.” And while I cannot be certain, I think that this was the first episode that was actually broadcast utilizing the new opening sequence. The title card indicates ©MCMLIV (1954 copyright). The graphics (fonts) are slightly different, as compared to what was used in 1951:
There are also some minor differences in the way George appears as Superman, e.g.the slight change in the "S" symbol on the costume and George's lighter hair color. And thanks to improved optical effects, Superman is no longer semi-transparent.
The 1953 opening:
And as seen here, the end credits still used the ©MCMLI (1951) copyright end title card for the entire 1953-54 season:
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The Third Season (Filmed in the fall of 1954 and broadcast in 1955)
Beginning with the third season, episodes were filmed in color, but they were still broadcast in b&w. There were too few color televisions or color programming available in 1954 to warrant color broadcast just yet. In fact, it wasn't until the early to mid 1960's that there was a substantial increase in the production of color television and programming. Color prints of Superman were not struck and broadcast until 1965.
And I have a strong hunch that the color opening was not filmed until late 1957, after the last color episode was produced. My hunch is based mainly on George's physical appearance in 1957 (compared with his appearance in 1954).
To my eye, the costume used in the intro is one from the 1954 and 1955 episodes. That particular style of costume was also used in at least one 1957 episode, “The Brainy Burro.” The color opening will be further discussed later. For now, based on personal observations, I’ve established this possible theory and time line:
Since the color episodes were still being broadcast in b&w in 1955, Ellsworth simply used the b&w opening that had been produced for the second season (© MCMLIV). The only change was the date change to reflect the 1955 copyright (©MCMLV):
The b&w intro used for the third season:
My guess is that this version of the opening was probably used for all subsequent seasons, for both first-run and again for later re-broadcast (until 1965).
And here's how that first color season closing credit would have been broadcast in b&w:
The closing credits had the correct copyright at the end. [This was true of every season except the second, which continued to carry the 1951 (©MCMLI) copyright date.]
It seems that keeping a precise record of the copyright dates for the TV episodes was less of a priority for National Comics than selling their comics books was.
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The Fourth Season (Filmed in the fall of 1955 and first broadcast in 1956)
The third season opening title card may or may not have also been used for the fourth season. It's possible that it was altered only to reflect the © MCMLVI (1956) copyright date. I say maybe because I have only my memory to rely on here.
I do, however, have a clear recollection of seeing “The Riddle Of The Chinese Jade” on WPIX when I was about ten years old. Although “Chinese Jade” is a first season episode, on that day it carried a second season opening with the 1956 copyright title card as I described above.
It was so unique, and that's why I remember it so well even after all these years. I don’t recall ever seeing it broadcast that way again.
Unfortunately, I can offer no visual proof for this…only a fond childhood memory.
And while I'm daydreaming here, I've often wondered what the color years would have been like had Robert Maxwell stayed in the picture. Jeepers... I'll bet the opening would have looked just like this:
And if Mr. Maxwell did a color opening, then he might have done a color closing too. I wonder if it looked like this:
But...I digress. And now, let's move on to the next season where it gets even more interesting.
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The Fifth Season (Filmed in the fall of 1956 and first broadcast in 1957)
The second season b&w opening continued to be used for the fifth season, except that the title card in the intro was altered. Whoever assembled the fifth season opener took the outer space image from the color closing and dropped it into the fifth season intro.
The fifth season title card indicates ©1957. Additional wordage (also borrowed from the color era closing) was added to the into. The fifth season title card also incorporated the same font-style for the words “ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN” that were used on the second season intro:
This lends further credence to my theory that there was no actual color opening yet. If there had been a color opening at this point, Ellsworth could have simply used a b&w print of that color opening instead of going to the trouble of creating this fifth season title card.
Here is the fifth season opening:
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The Sixth Season (Filmed in the fall of 1957 and first broadcast in 1958)
In 2011 a group of die-hard Superman fans met for dinner in New York City. Before dinner, however, we visited the Paley Museum of Broadcasting. The Paley Center has a number of Superman episodes in their archives. The one we chose to watch was “Jimmy Olsen, Boy Editor,” a second season b&w episode originally broadcast in February 1954.
But within the first few seconds, we witnessed something totally unexpected. A Tootsie Rolls logo appeared onscreen, followed by the familiar Kellogg's logo!
The opening began with the following voice over:
"Tootsie Rolls, America’s favorite candy…and Kellogg's, the greatest name in cereal, presents...The Adventures Of Superman!"
But as Aunt Harriet says, "The proof is in the pudding!" Well, here's the pudding...I mean...the opening:
And then, suddenly, it all made sense. This particular episode, and the series itself, had aired on the ABC NETWORK, not in syndication, for the 1957-58 season.
Along with the jump to the ABC network, there was the addition of an alternate sponsor – Tootsie Roll. And so this new opening was created. And even though this Paley Center print that was first broadcast in 1954 and was now part of the 1958 season, it opened with a ©MCMLV (1955) copyright date.
Research done by Michael J. Hayde shows that the ABC season ran thirty-nine weeks and consisted of thirteen b&w season two episodes... followed by the thirteen brand new sixth season episodes (filmed in 1957)... followed by a rebroadcast of the thirteen fifth season episodes (filmed in 1956). And according to Michael Hayde, “Jimmy Olsen, Boy Editor” was a Tootsie Roll-sponsored network broadcast that aired in February 1958.
But why did Ellsworth use the ©MCMLV (1955)? Why not ©MCMLVIII (1958)... or even ©MCMLIV (1954) on the title card? That's an anomaly that I cannot yet explain. However, as previously mentioned, the end credits, in most cases, carried an accurate copyright date. And because once again, they used the 1953 (second season) b&w opening and not a b&w print of a color opening leads me once again to believe that still no color opening existed.
And here's something else to consider. For years, there have been references made in a number of forums, to a “mystery alternate closing" audio for the color episodes. From the seasons two through five, the closing audio began:
“Don’t miss the next thrill packed episode in the amazing Adventures Of Superman…presented by Kellogg’s…the greatest name in cereal!” But with Tootsie Roll in the picture for season six network run, a change needed to be made.
So, the audio was re-dubbed, and only the first part of that spoken dialogue was heard: “Don’t miss the next thrill packed episode in the amazing Adventures Of Superman!” No sponsor was mentioned in the closing. And then, an additional line of spoken dialogue was added:
“Superman is based on the original character appearing in Superman Magazine.” Here then is the closing that ran during the ABC network run.
This is the audio that we have heard forever on all color episode closing credits, and those thirteen second season episodes that aired during this 1957-58 network run.
The audio in the video clip above is that mystery “alternate” closing audio mentioned earlier.
To summarize, the print we watched at the Paley Center corresponds with all I've written – the b&w opening with both Kellogg’s and Tootsie Rolls in the opening and the re-dubbed closing audio for one of those second season episodes re-broadcast on the ABC Network run.
My guess is that no changes were ever made to the first season opening or closing audio because none of them were shown on that ABC Network run in 1957-58. Kellogg's probably wasn't any happier with any of the 1951 episodes at that point than they had been in 1952. That could be why no first season episodes were included in that ABC Network run.
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Now…about that color opening.
My hunch is that it wasn’t until after production ended in 1957 that it finally occurred to someone that there was no color opening sequence and that they needed to have one! Surely sometime in the future the color episodes would eventually be broadcast...in color!!!
This explains why the color opening is copyrighted ©1957. It was probably filmed in very late 1957 and well after the 1957-58 season on the ABC Network had already begun. Otherwise, why would the opening that we saw on that dual Kellogg’s/Tootsie Roll sponsorship copy of “Jimmy Olsen, Boy Editor” have used the second season b&w opening?
The eventual color opening:
Spoiler Alert: That last video clip is just something that I whipped up.
But…there is this:
This opening comes from Michael J. Hayde’s b&w print of the 1955 episode “The Big Freeze”, which was broadcast first-run in 1956. What is special about this is that it appears to be a b&w print of a color opening, with a 1956 copyright (© MCMLVI) date on it.
This would seem to blow my theory to smithereens! But having given it some thought, I think I can give you a more believable explanation than the one Clark Kent gave to Aunt Harriet about the film being double exposed. Based on the following:
1) George's physical appearance in the "official" color opening looks like he did in 1957, not 1954
2) The use of the fifth season opening which, with the exception of the title card, is the second season b&w opening
3) The use of the second season b&w opening for the Tootsie Roll/Kellogg’s/ABC Network 1957-58 run.
I will stand by my theory that the color opening was not done until very late in 1957 at the earliest.
You would think that under the auspices of the ABC NETWORK, the prestige of being given a network run, and with the dual sponsorship, that the incentive and dollars to film a color opening would have been there. There is also the fact that 26 of the 39 episodes that aired on the ABC Network run were b&w prints of color episodes. So if they had had a color opening they could have made a b&w print of it (just like they did with the episodes themselves) to air on the ABC Network run, then why didn’t they?
Since I’ve already made a lot of assumptions, let’s assume the color opening was not filmed until the end of 1957. Perhaps Kellogg’s or National then requested that there be a color opening with the correct copyright for each season that it was so done. That being the case, a set of color openings with 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958 copyright dates would probably exist.
Perhaps this particular print of “The Big Freeze” was a copy with an “after the fact” color opening spliced onto it. True or not? Don’t know. But this scenario is certainly plausible... a lot more than good old Aunt Harriet’s is... and it would easily explain the copyright date. And as Happy J. King would say, “Checkers win out!”
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In 1958-59, there were no more new episodes and the series returned to syndication for re-broadcast. My guess is that they continued using the second season opening (which referenced Kellogg's as the sponsor) for the 1954, 1955, 1956 episodes. And they may, or may not have, restored the original closing audio to the 1953, 1956 and 1957 episodes that had been broadcast on the ABC Network in 1957-58.
There are still a couple of the second season b&w episodes that have that “alternate” closing audio from 1957-58. It is possible that the color opening (the color episodes were still being broadcast in b&w only) may have started to surface (in b&w) at this time.
But whether or not that actually occurred, I simply don’t know. Once again, the 1951 episodes were left alone, as they only mentioned Kellogg’s as the sponsor. (None ever being sponsored by Tootsie Roll.)
In 1960, Kellogg’s ended their sponsorship of the program, and it was at this point that the distributor, or local stations themselves, started cutting “Kellogg's” from the intro. Some prints have just the generic b&w title card of the ©1957 color opening, on the episodes. This includes some of the 1951 episodes too.
Another guess on my part is that if a different color opening for each color season ever existed, all but the 1957 opening were disposed of... lost for all time.
And apparently, that “alternate” closing audio with no sponsor mentioned and first used for the network run was dubbed over onto all of the color episodes.
But then again, why they didn’t do that with all the b&w episodes? Again, I don’t know... but I’m eternally grateful for that omission.
There are still prints of one or two color episodes that have their original “Kellogg’s” closing audio floating around out there in the hand of collectors. Here's one:
It was September 1965 when the color episodes were finally broadcast in color for the first time. And the color opening, minus any reference to Kellogg’s, appeared at the beginning of each:
This all sounds reasonable enough, but again, it’s all just guesswork on my part. Or as someone who is much more wiser than I am would say:
Hope you enjoyed the show.
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Thanks to Jim Nolt, Michael J. Hayde, Don Holmes, Jody McGhee and Dave Orbach for technical assistance, and to Lou Koza, who contributed to the original version of this article.
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