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Facts About “The Adventures of Superman” Only True Fans Know

Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The Adventures of Superman aired from 1952 to 1958 and starred George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman. Serving as one of the first small-screen series to broadcast the crime-fighting antics of the superhero, it was well-received by audiences of all ages. Sadly, the show came to an end prematurely, as a result for multiple reasons. Check out these facts about the beloved television series.

The colors of the first costume

George Reeves stands on a riser holding hands with Phyllis Coates.
George Reeves and Phyllis Coates smile while holding hands in a publicity portrait issued for the US television series The Adventures of Superman, circa 1952. (Photo Credit: Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images)

When you think of Superman, you undoubtedly think of his tight blue costume with the red “S” on his chest set upon a yellow background, accompanied by a red cape and yellow belt. This primary color combination makes up one of the most iconic costumes ever created, but Superman didn’t always sport them. In fact, when filming first began on The Adventures of Superman, Reeves actually wore a brown, gray, and white costume instead. This was so that the producers could get the right monochromatic tones on-screen back when televisions were still airing in black and white. 

A wind machine made Reeves fly

George Reeves flying through the air.
Many techniques were used to make Reeves appear as though he were truly flying through the air. (Photo Credit: Motion Pictures for Television / bigpix / MovieStillsDB)

Back in the day, producers had to get creative in order to portray Superman flying through the sky. Without CGI, they had to physically make it look like he was soaring. Using a mechanical arm and a piece of plexiglass, several crew members would manipulate the tool to make it look like he was flying. A wind machine would be switched on, the camera would pan from one side to the other on a hydraulic dolly, and the background would move to make it appear as though Reeves was truly soaring through the sky. 

There was an uptick in child injuries

George Reeves in Superman costume running.
Wearing Superman’s cape made children believe they really could fly, resulting in some injuries. (Photo Credit: ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content / Getty Images)

Children have long wished to be like their heroes, and watching Superman on television only made this dream stronger. When stores began selling Superman capes, kids really started to believe that once they tied it around their shoulders, they would be able to fly just like their hero. Unfortunately, the capes did not give children the ability to fly, and some sustained some pretty serious injuries. Learning of this, Reeves begged that the capes be taken off the market and even starred in a public service announcement warning kids that “No one, but no one can do the things Superman does. And that goes especially for flying!”

The first Lois Lane quit because of alcohol

George Reeves and Phyllis Coates.
Actors George Reeves as Superman/Clark Kent and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane in the American television series The Adventures of Superman, circa 1952. (Photo Credit: Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images)

Over the course of its run, The Adventures of Superman featured two different actresses in the role of Lois Lane. Originally, it was played by Phyllis Coates, but after her departure following the first season, it was taken on by Noel Neill. Apparently, the producers tried to negotiate with her to have her stay with the production, but she could not be persuaded. One of the reasons she left the series was because she was scared to be typecast. She had committed to a pilot for a comedy and left to pursue that. She also cited difficult working conditions on set that pushed her away.

Reeves’ death was a shock

Headshot of George Reeves.
George Reeves’ death came as a shock to everyone. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros. / Getty Images)

On June 16, 1959, George Reeves was found dead in the bedroom of his home in Benedict Canyon. He was found with a gunshot wound to the head and was said to have died around 2 A.M. during an impromptu party at his residence. While the authorities concluded that his death was a suicide, many believe he had actually been murdered. One of the main suspects was his fiancee, Leonore Lemmon, but she insisted that his death was the result of depression caused by his “failed career.” Another suspect was Toni Mannix, Reeves’ former mistress. He had broken things off with Mannix to pursue Lemmon, and she became so enraged that Reeves had to file a restraining order against her. To this day, the true nature of his death remains unclear.

They were going to try and carry on without him

Promotional shot of George Reeves as Superman.
They wanted to get two more seasons released until tragedy struck twice. (Photo Credit: ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content / Getty Images)

Prior to Reeves’ shocking death, the show had suffered a big loss. John Hamilton, who played the newspaper editor Perry White, unexpectedly died on Oct. 15, 1958. They cast Pierre Watkin to serve as his replacement for the final two seasons they planned to film, but Reeves’ death secured the end of the show. Replacing one actor might be doable, but replacing the main character would be a real challenge. In the end, the sixth season would unknowingly be their last.

Lois and Clark couldn’t be seen in commercials together

Noel Neill on the shoulder of George Reeves as superman.
Producers felt that broadcasting the pair together would suggest something a little too scandalous for the times. (Photo Credit: Motion Pictures for Television / Pepito38 / MovieStillsDB)

The Adventures of Superman aired thanks to its sponsorship by Kelloggs. During the show, commercials for the brand were broadcast featuring characters from the show, but neither Superman nor Lois Lane ever made it into these advertisements. That was because, at the time of their airing, producers believed that showing the two of them eating breakfast together would be too  suggestive. Knowing that they were love interests in the series and seeing them sharing breakfast could only mean other things were also going on, even if they weren’t explicitly shown, so they avoided it altogether.

Superman really needed glasses

George Reeves wearing glasses and talking on the phone.
George Reeves wore glasses when he portrayed Clark Kent. (Photo Credit: ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Content / Getty Images)

We all know that Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, wore glasses. This was effectively what hid his superhero identity from the public. Glasses were considered super nerdy back then, and having Clark Kent wear them created two very different versions of the same person: one who was supposedly weak and lame and one who was super strong and suave. In the earlier seasons, Reeves is seen wearing glasses with no lenses in them. However, as seasons progressed and Reeves got older (he was 38 when he started playing Superman), he actually ended up really needing to wear glasses. In the later seasons, Reeves can be seen wearing glasses with lenses in them thanks to the reflection of the light. 

It was Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s favorite show

Emperor Hirohito in uniform.
Emperor Hirohito, 124th Emperor of Japan, circa 1930. (Photo Credit: Imagno / Getty Images)

The show was such a smash hit with audiences that it transcended territorial boundaries. The Adventures of Superman became a hit in Japan with the program being dubbed over in Japanese. It is no surprise then that Emperor Hirohito, the 124th Emperor of Japan, was a big fan of the series. He loved it so much that he actually wrote a fan letter to Reeves calling the show his “ninkimono” meaning his favorite program.

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How many of these facts did you know about The Adventures of Superman?

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!