What Says America Like Superman, Baseball, and Sharkey The Seal?
Superman's Then-and-Now Flight Plan
Someone please define for me a modern day hit: The recent Man Of Steel has done $643 million as of 7/28 and this out of touch observer has no idea if that's good or a letdown. Now if Superman and The Mole Men had clocked $643M in 1951, then, yes, Lippert would have had a hit we'd still be reeling over. When does money pass the point of being meaningful? I just go numb at current numbers, movie grosses to me like government spending ... zeroes beyond capacity to grasp. Not caring factors in as well. I didn't see Man Of Steel and probably won't, that not a slam on the product, just indicator of curiosity gone dim for Superman. I'll admit having issues with the suit, and won't go more specific as to why (better informed sites can address that). What brought me roundabout to Man Of Steel was uncover of ads for opening of the 1948 serial with Kirk Alyn as woolly-clad hero that morphs into a cartoon of himself when taking flight. Just occurs to me: Is that sort of what they're still doing, only with keyboard instead of painted cels? Fake is fake: You can't make a man fly without wires, animation, or CGI. "You Will Believe ..." was beginning of a tag line for 1977's Superman --- do we believe any more now than then?
And now to the Congress Theatre, circa 1948. Serials were a staple, but none had generated excitement of Superman the serial. He'd been in cartoons, really fine ones by Max Fleischer, but those had played out several years before. This was the comic hero's first sustained appearance in live action. Men had flown on screen, most notably Captain Marvel, but here was a brand name, cultivated almost a decade by funny books, anticipation higher for his flesh/blood debut than for any comic character so far put to film. I submit these Congress ads because they represent a biggest noise for a serial that I've seen outside of the silent era (chapter-plays were huge during teens/twenties, and promoted accordingly). Johnny Mack Brown and an ancient Frank Buck (Bring 'Em Back Alive a 1932 release) were junior mints beside an event like Superman. Further comment re the serial isn't needed, most considering it a dog --- beyond trailers and clips, I've never watched. Should I? A brief nod to Sunday vaudeville at the Congress: Yes, there was apparently a trained seal named Sharkey (see above), so who said vaudeville was dead? Baseball star Ralph Branca is still with us (age 87). Would he recall tunes he pitched at the Congress in addition to signatures left on "baseballs, books," etc. It certainly wasn't unusual for sport luminaries to travel vaude circuits during earlier century heyday; interesting to find one like Branca still doing so as late as 1948, and performing on stage in addition to personal appearing.