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Subject: Archive: Kirk Alyn, Mar. 14, 1999


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First actor to play "Superman"
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Date Posted: Thursday, March 14, 04:31:20pm

Kirk Alyn, the first movie Superman, died Sunday at a hospital near Houston after a long illness. He was 88.

Alyn portrayed the Man of Steel in two 15-part movie serials in 1948 and 1950. Columbia Pictures hired him because he looked like Superman's mild-mannered alter ego, Clark Kent, and had dance training that helped him to dive out of windows and leap over cameras.

Although he always blamed his success as Superman for stifling his acting career, Alyn benefited from a wave of nostalgia for the superhero in the 1970s, when he found himself in demand on the college circuit and at comic book conventions.

"Playing Superman ruined my acting career and I've been bitter for many years about the whole thing. But now," he said in 1972, "it's finally starting to pay off."





Alyn was born John Feggo Jr. in Oxford, N.J. As a young man he performed in vaudeville acts and chorus lines in New York. He followed his friend Red Skelton to Hollywood, where he met and married dancer and actress Virginia O'Brien in 1942. They were married for 12 years and had three children.

When he was approached to play Superman, Alyn said, Columbia had already interviewed 100 actors but "had trouble getting someone with a good build who could read lines."

The producer and casting director invited the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Alyn to their office and asked him to remove his shirt and then his pants. Alyn was alarmed ("I thought this only happened to actresses," he recalled) until they told him that they had to be sure he would look good in Superman's form-fitting suit and tights.

Making Superman fly, Alyn once said, was no simple feat. He had to wear a metal harness attached to steel wires. In the first rushes, he said, "you could see the wires plain as day," which led to the firing of the entire technical crew. The producers then turned to trick photography to create the illusion of flight.

Columbia stopped making the Superman serials in 1951. That's when Alyn, who couldn't walk two blocks without hearing fans honk and yell "Hiya, Superman!" found himself out of work and with little hope of landing other roles. Max Arnow, Columbia's chief, told him that no one would find him believable as anyone but Superman.

When Alyn was offered the television role in 1951, he turned it down in disgust. The part went to George Reeves, who came to despise the role so much that at the end of each season he performed a ritual burning of the Superman outfit, minus the big red "S" that he cut out and saved for a friend.

Two years after the series ended in 1957, Reeves was found shot to death in what was officially ruled a suicide.

Alyn found stage work in New York and acted in about a dozen Broadway plays. Eventually he moved to California, where he acted in television commercials during the 1950s and 1960s.

Then came the '70s, when nostalgia began to swell for the character originated by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster and marketed by Action Comics in 1938.

Alyn discovered a new public platform as a speaker on college campuses and at comic book conventions. He was somewhat chagrined to discover how seriously latter-day fans took their caped crusader when he tried out some Superman jokes. No one laughed.





"They don't like anybody making fun of Superman," Alyn said. "They wanted me to be like the Superman they remembered on the Saturday afternoon matinee."

In 1978, he played Lois Lane's father in the "Superman" movie that starred Christopher Reeve.

Videos of Alyn's Superman serials are still in release, including "Atomic Man vs. Superman" and "Superman: The Serial".

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Replies:
Subject Author Date
One night on Tommorrow Kirk Alyn ,Roy Rogers & Tim McCoy had a great discussion of making movies (NT)Lemnpiper ( Tom Snyder was way underated as a interviewer)Friday, March 15, 12:49:28pm


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