Classic Cinema: Superman Serials (1948 & 1950) – By Jason S. Lockard

Before we believed a man could fly! Before the big blockbuster movies! Superman first came to the screen in weekly serials and the man who would don the cape for the first time little known actor Kirk Alyn.

Kirk Alyn was born John Feggo, Jr. on October 8, 1910 to Hungarian immigrant parents in Oxford, New Jersey. He started out as a chorus boy on Broadway in the 1930s. He also worked as a singer and dancer in vaudeville before moving to Hollywood in the early 1940s to make feature films, but was only able to gain bit parts in low-budget films.

When he first went to Hollywood, he met fellow dancer and actress, Virginia O’Brien. They were married in 1942, and had one son and two daughters. They were divorced in 1955. While he made a living he never made a huge mark on Hollywood until 1948 when he would don the colors red, blue and yellow and play ‘The Man of Steel’ Superman.

In 1948 Kirk Alyn starred in a 15 chapter serial, a sort of origin story of ‘Superman‘. As he is sent from Krypton to Earth, raised by the Kents and eventually becomes the Man of Steel, Superman. The villain of this story is a woman who calls herself the Spider Lady.

In 1950 Kirk would return in another 15 chapter serial ‘Atom Man vs. Superman‘. This time out Superman faces his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, a scientist who invents a number of deadly devices to plague the city, but Superman manages to stop his evil scheme. Lex Luthor is not that easily deterred as he decided to create a synthetic Kryptonite to try to eliminate Superman.

Kids wanted to see Superman fly and while they tried the wires were just too visible so the producers decided to have an animated Superman fly instead. That was a little bit of a downer, but both serials are still lots of fun.

After playing Superman, Alyn would suffer from type casting. Apart from starring in some similar comic book-type serials, he landed few roles in TV series and movies, some even uncredited. In 1981, Alyn appeared as “Pa Cant” in the parody film “Superbman: The Other Movie”, a role that lasted only seconds.

On March 14, 1999 in The Woodlands, Texas, at the age of 88 Kirk Alyn passed away. He was survived by three children. His ashes were scattered off California.

While never a huge star Kirk Alyn will always be the first Superman on screen. Alyn was the Grand Marshal of the Metropolis, Illinois Christmas parade and Annual Superman Celebrations several times. Than in 1985, DC Comics named Alyn as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.

So if you’ve never seen the Superman Serial, do yourself a favor and check them out. I think you’ll be surprised how much you’ll like them! So as always this is Jason S. Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good film check out a classic.

Moral Rating: mild violence
Audience: families
Genre: action/adventure/superhero
Length: Almost 500 minutes total
Released: 1948 and 1950
Rating: A