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Robert Maxwell was given charge as head of this latest Superman production.
National also hired Whitney Ellsworth from the New York offices
to prepare a pilot script. The producers decided to launch the project
as a motion-picture just in case television failed to catch on. Filming
began in the summer of 1951 on the back lot of a movie studio in Culver
City, California. The movie was called Superman and the Mole Men
and was filmed in twelve days. The project was produced by Barney
Sarecky. George Reeves was cast in the lead role of Superman. Phyllis
Coates was cast as Lois Lane. Superman, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane were
the only regular cast members included in the film as Robert Maxwell was
still in the process of finalizing the rest of the casting for the series.
The movie was a blend of science-fiction and social commentary and
provided plenty of opportunity for Superman to establish himself as the
In November of 1951 Superman and the Mole Men was released theatrically and became an immediate success. The story was a plea for tolerance on behalf of a subterranean race and the public was impressed with the affable dignity and earnest conviction that George Reeves brought to his interpretation of Superman.
The television episodes were edited, special effects elements were added, and the background and theme music added.
These episodes were introduced to the airwaves in early 1953. The
first episode, Superman on Earth, featured Superman's origin much as it
had been presented in the George Lowther novel: Krypton's ruling
council was lead by "Ro-zan" - unlike the Ro-zan of the movie serials,
who was a young contemporary of Jor-el, this Ro-zan was an elderly, white
bearded statesman. The council was located in the "Temple of Wisdom"
and Clark Kent's foster parents were named "Eben" and "Sarah" Kent, names
taken directly from the novel.
With the initial success of the first twenty six episodes already a proven fact, production of another twenty six was ordered by National Comics. The series went back into production in the summer of 1953 after nearly a two year hiatus since the first episodes had been finished. But now the series was under new leadership. Robert Maxwell and his team were replaced by Whitney Ellsworth as producer and comic book editor Mort Weisinger as story editor.
They were both from National Comics. National had felt that although Maxwell generated a solid show, it was a little too serious and hard-hitting for their taste. Whitney Ellsworth was brought in to tone it down by underplaying the violence and injecting more humor and wholesome entertainment. Ellsworth made more frequent use of Jimmy Olsen and Inspector Bill Henderson in his episodes of the show.
Phyllis Coates was not available to reprise her role as Lois Lane, so the production was in need of a new actress. Ellsworth turned to the perfect replacement, someone with just the right experience: Noel Neill was brought in to reprise the same role that she had portrayed for Sam Katzman in the 1948 and 1950 Superman serials at Columbia Studios.
In 1953, Whitney Ellsworth produced another 26 episodes. Color was introduced in 1954 and would be used for the remaining 56 episodes, produced from 1954 to 1957.
The standing sets got a fresh coat of paint and the wardrobes were reconsidered for their appearance on color film.
The first thing to be replaced was George Reeves' chocolate and gray Superman suit - now Superman would be outfitted in his traditional red and blue action uniform. The new color suits, however, were designed to still provide enough contrast between the red and blue to suggest the different colors in the black and white prints that were initially made. 1954 was still ten years away from color television broadcast capabilities being commonplace and viewers would not actually see Adventures of Superman in color until years later.
By the time the series ceased production in 1957, George Reeves had become the definitive Man of Steel for generations of television viewers.
Television : The Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the
Present (4th Ed)