DC History Club: Superman The Movie (May 2020) Quiz, Polls & Discussion

Cool, you don’t have to answer them all, we went a little crazy with the topics

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Writers Associated with Superman the Movie 1978

Based on
Superman

by Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster

Story by

Mario Puzo

Screenplay by

Mario Puzo
David Newman
Leslie Newman
Robert Benton

All above were associated with the project before Richard Donner was hired to direct.

Tom Mankiewicz
was drafted by Donmer
to rewrite the script and was given a “creative consultant” credit

Details

Siegel and Shuster

See also video on the subject in a post above

In 1975, a Warner Bros lawyer contacted Jerry Siegel in an effort to make any new lawsuit over ownership of Superman go away.

There was, Siegel learned, a Superman movie in the works, and it could not proceed unless they put this unpleasant business behind them. A modest annual stipend was preliminarily agreed to.

For months after that opening conversation, Siegel didn’t hear anything—until he read in the trades that father and son producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind had bought the rights to Superman from Warner Brothers / DC for $4 million.

Siegel was incensed. He wrote a ten-page, single-spaced screed against the executives who had nickel-and-dimed him for decades even as they pocketed huge profits from his and Shuster’s creation. “I, Jerry Siegel, co-originator of Superman, put a curse on the Superman movie!” He sent it to newspapers and radio and television stations across the country.

Eventually, comic book Neal Adams recived that letter from Jerry Siegel and then Adams got veteran comics artist and Joker-creator Jerry Robinson, then president of the National Cartoonists Society [NCS) involved.

Adams and Robinson decided that they would circumvent the courts and take Siegel and Shuster’s case to the people, essentially shaming Warner Bros. and DC into doing the right thing.

Adams spearheaded a media blitz; Robinson gathered the support of the NCS, the Screen Cartoonists Guild, the Writers Guild of America, and other associations; eventually, an agreement was reached.

Siegel and Shuster would each receive $20,000 every year for the rest of their lives, and the words “Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster” would henceforth return to all printed material and the credits of television programs and movies. The money, of course, was an infinitesimal fraction of the fortune their creation had made for DC, but Siegel and Shuster were tired and broke, and their medical expenses were growing. And for the first time in years, the character they’d brought into the world would bear their name.

That night—Christmas Eve—on the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite signed off his broadcast with the story of the settlement, concluding: “Today, at least, truth, justice and the American way have triumphed. And that’s the way it is, December 24, 1975.”

Alfred Bester

Ilya Salkind hired Alfred Bester, but Alexander Salkind didn’t think he was famous enough.

Bester would have been an interesting choice.

He had written two.famous Science Fiction.Novels. The Star My Destination fused the revenge plot from the novel The Count of Monte Cristo with a future setting where space travel existed and people could teleport thousand of miles in.an instant. The Demolished Man concerned a murder case where the police had high grade telepaths in their employ.

And Bester.was also a proficient Comic. Book writer. in.rhe 1940s, he had written many Alan Scott Green Lantern stories and created Vandal.Savage and Solomon Grundy.

Mario Puzo

Instead Alexander Salkind hired Mario Puzo for $600,000.

Maruo Puzo.was famous for writing the best selling Godfather novel.

Puzo’s Godfather had recently been made into two movies that earned him a pair of Academy Awards for best screenplay. An Oscar was the kind of credential Alex could relate to, and Ilya signed Puzo up for 5 percent of the film’s gross sales.

What did Puzo know anout Superman?

Apparently very little.

In the documentary in our video library
Look up in the sky. The Amazing Story of Superman

https://www.dcuniverse.com/videos/look-up-in-the-sky-the-amazing-story-of-superman/34

Superman writer Elliot S Meggan says
He and fellow Superman.writer Cary Bates spent two days with Puzo, smoking Havana cigars

After a while, Puzo.dermed Superman to be like a Grerk Tragedy, which it wad not, since Superman always was triumphant and lacked the hubris that brought down.many a Grerk Hero

His Superman was a TV anchorman at a station where Lois Lane was the weather girl and there was no competition from the Daily Planet, which had folded. Lex was there, too, or rather “Luthor Lux.” When Superman went looking for Lux he found a bald Kojak in a trench coat who, sucking a lollipop, asked, “Hey! Superman! Who loves ya, baby?”

Puzo thought camp like that gave his movie pizzazz.

Everyone who read it, especially the DC Comics people, was sure it would undermine the film’s credibility and Superman’s.

Puzo’s opus read more like a novel than a screenplay and would have cost a billion dollars to produce, says Ilya.

In October 1975, Puzo delivered a 550 page script that the Salkinds felt was unfilmable. The producers asked him to pare it down, but Puzo had had his fill of the Man of Steel and bowed out

Both sides found silver linings when Puzo walked away at the end of 1975: He eventually got his promised 5 percent, with $300,000 of that up front and an on-screen credit for a largely useless product, while the Salkinds got bragging rights to one of the world’s best-known writers, whose legend they used to refill their dwindling coffers.

Next up were Robert Benton and David Newman, who had written the script for the Broadway production It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane Superman, along with Newman’s wife and writing partner, Leslie.

Superman the Musical

When the musical It’s a Bird . . . It’s a Plane. . . It’s Superman, produced and directed by Harold Prince, premiered on Broadway in March 1966—just three months after Batman’s television debut—the country was still deep in the grip of Bat-mania.

Cowritten by David Newman and Robert Benton (both of whom would later work on the screenplay for Superman: The Movie), with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams (the team behind 1960’s Bye Bye Birdie), It’s a Bird attempted to thread Batman’s mock-serious, high-camp needle, but its status as an old-fashioned sing-your-guts-out Broadway spectacle, filled with splashy dance numbers, meant its humor couldn’t help but come from a broader, showier place.

The muscular Bob Holiday made a striking Superman and handled the role’s many stunts with aplomb—lifting a bleacher full of spectators, swooping over the footlights on a wire. Song-and-dance man Jack Cassidy received top billing as Max Mencken, a slick Daily Planet columnist who makes a play for Lois and conspires with mad scientist Dr. Abner Sedgwick (Michael O’Sullivan) to unmask Superman. The King and I’s Patricia Marand, playing Lois Lane, did her best with the show’s unremarkable love ballads.

Holiday’s Superman had three solos in the show and handled them well—though any Superman fans in the audience may have bristled at the elbow-in-the-ribs jokiness of the show’s lyrics, as in the opening song “Doing Good”: It’s a satisfying feeling When you hang up your cape To know that you’ve averted Murder, larceny, and r a p e. In an inevitable nod to the Batman craze, Holiday’s final number, in which Superman effortlessly beats up a gang of evil Chinese acrobats, is called “Pow! Bam! Zonk!”

The show’s breakout number (which would live on as an audition song and become a minor cabaret standard) was sung by Daily Planet gossip columnist Sydney, played by Linda Lavin. “You’ve Got Possibilities” finds Sydney reevaluating the schlubby Clark Kent as a possible suitor: Hair cut—simply terrible. Neck tie—the worst. Bearing—just unbearable. What to tackle first? Still, you’ve got possibilities, Though you’re horribly square. I see possibilities; Underneath there’s something there. On the word underneath, Lavin would seductively undo Holiday’s necktie and open his shirt, while Holiday scrambled to recinch and rebutton, lest she glimpse his Superman costume.

The show received lukewarm reviews, with the New York Times’s Stanley Kauffmann noting, “It is easily the best musical so far this season, but, because that is so damp a compliment, I add at once that it would be enjoyable in any season.” (To place that in context: Man of La Mancha and Sweet Charity had opened scant months before; Mame would open two months later.)

At first, ticket sales were brisk. Soon, however, producers noticed that the audience was composed of a great number of kids, so matinees were added. Cassidy, O’Sullivan, and Marand were nominated for Tony awards on June 1, but by then the show was fighting off a growing public perception that it was a piece of “children’s theater,” and the nominations did nothing to help ticket sales.

Some have conjectured that the timing simply wasn’t right—in interviews, writer David Newman has said he believes the show was a victim of “capelash” caused by the television Batman’s wild popularity.

The show closed on July 17, after just 129 performances.

Superman the Musical on ABC

On Friday, February 1, 1975, ABC aired a ninety-minute adaptation of the 1966 It’s a Bird . . . It’s a Plane . . . It’s Superman Broadway musical, as part of its late-night Wide World of Entertainment programming block.

The production was done on the ultra-cheap. Sets were constructed and painted to seem like black-and-white comic-book panels, but the net effect looked more like an elementary-school play.

Four of the musical’s songs were chopped to accommodate the program’s ninety-minute time slot, and the original script’s troupe of Chinese acrobats was changed to a squad of “dese-and-dose” gangsters in pinstripe suits.

Where the Broadway show had ensconced itself squarely in the established musical theater tradition, which imparts a sense of timelessness, the 1975 TV adaptation is awash in the bell-bottomed, wah-wah pedal zeitgeist of its time. The comedy is seventies variety-show broad, the performances constantly wink at the audience, and scenes move with a sluggishness that borders on the narcotic.

In a representative example of the show’s fundamentally mis-thought nature, the Broadway show’s only standout song, the bright, tinkly “You’ve Got Possibilities,” in which gossip reporter Sydney flirts with Clark, is now a low, slow, and fuzzy funk number, full of saxophones and electric guitars. Imagine “Tea for Two” arranged by Barry White.

Links to Superman Musical

Revial 1

Revival 2

Lois Lane Song

https://youtu.be/t-OqPLmQf3A

Other Girl Sees Possibilities in.Clark Kent

Album part 1

Album part 2

Musical on TV

Only way to understand plot

Actual Musical Community threatre with Small Space and Limited Performers

Back to Writers

David Newman

Leslie Newman

Robert Benton

They producers deemed the script by Puzo too long and they reached out to David Newman and Robert Benton (who’d cowritten the book for the 1966 Superman Broadway musical), and later, when Benton dropped out, Newman’s wife, Leslie, was asked to work on Lois Lane’s dialogue.

IIya offered the new team a million dollars and simple instructions: “Fix it.”

They spent their first three days tossing out big chunks of Puzo’s work,

They set about dividing the Puzo script in two, saving a battle with Kryptonian villains for the second movie. Then they went about excising some of Puzo’s jokier elements (Superman straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa? That would never work!), while inserting a few of their own.

Then they got their own bead on the hero.

“We decided that Superman is our King Arthur, he’s our legend,” says Leslie.

What fascinated Benton was the Clark Kent–Superman split: “Is he Clark Kent until that emergency call happens, or is he Superman? Does he miss going full tilt or does he get used to being this guy who sits in a coffee shop and has a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch?”

As for what the Salkinds wanted, “They had no idea and couldn’t have cared less,” says Benton, although they made clear they wanted screenplays for a film and a sequel.

Newman says Alex often asked about what was happening with “Mr. Superman and Mrs. Lois Lane,” but “when we would start telling him he would fall asleep in about five minutes. I said to David, ‘It’s like telling bedtime stories.’ ”

They did get paid—at the end of each day, in cash, with money from whatever country had the best currency exchange rate.

They also got ongoing guidance from DC’s E. Nelson Bridwell, who was a living encyclopedia of everything that Superman had said, done, or imagined.

Heeding Bridwell’s advice was less a matter of choice than of law, as spelled out in a fifty-four-page agreement between DC Comics and the Salkinds. It prescribed that the films “shall not be satirical or obscene.”

They had to be G-rated, or at worst PG, and had to be consistent with the way Superman spoke and acted in the comic books. DC would get to vet the screenplay and be there during filming. Costumes for Superman and Superboy had to be preapproved, as did the actors who played them and Lois. Just to be sure, the publisher submitted its preferred lists for these parts.

Their script was submitted in July 1976, and carried a camp tone, including a cameo appearance by Telly Savalas as his Kojak character. The scripts for Superman and Superman II were now at over 400 pages combined.

Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz

After seeing The Omen, the producers hired Richard Donner in January 1977 for $1 million to direct Superman and Superman II.

Richard Donner was a perfect fit. He had grown up in the Bronx as a “comic book man” and his first true love was Lois Lane. He had just finished directing The Omen and was ready for new work.

So he listened intently when he got a call on a Sunday morning from a man with what sounded like a Hungarian accent saying, “I am a world famous producer. I am making Superman and I want you to make it.”

Two hours later Alex Salkind’s messenger was at Donner’s door with a copy of the Puzo-Benton-Newman script. But the deeper he read, the more alarmed Donner became. “It was a parody on a parody. They were destroying Superman,” he recalls.

To see whether it could be salvaged, he invited over Tom Mankiewicz, a friend and the screenwriter for some of the James Bond movies.

By the time Mankiewicz arrived, Donner had put on a Superman costume and convinced himself that if Mankiewicz agreed to rewrite the script, and Salkind agreed to hire both of them, he would do the movie.

“I took the job to protect Superman,” he says, “plus the fact that I was being paid a million dollars.” It actually was a million dollars as an advance against 7.5 percent of the film’s gross, which made it even more attractive to Donner but still looked like a bargain to the Salkinds.

With the big roles filled and the big names signed, Donner and Mankiewicz could zero in on telling their story.

Their key was recognizing that, to fans, Superman was not a fantasy character but an embodiment of real hopes and ideals. “It’s as simple as that: truth, justice, and the American way. What other comic book hero could say that?” asks Donner.

Over the years, Superman’s handlers had labored over whether they should aim for kids or parents, longtime fans or new ones.

Donner had a less complicated calculus: “I was making it for me.… This picture is the biggest Erector Set given to the biggest kid in the world.”

Out went Lex Luthor’s habit of eating Kleenex nervously, as well as a scene in which Superman scours Metropolis in search of Luthor and, spying him, swoops down and seizes the villain—only to realize that he’s nabbed actor Telly Savalas, who removes a lollipop from his mouth and intones, “Superman! Who loves ya, baby?”

Some of the Newmans’ jokes would remain, but Donner’s watchword was verisimilitude—he hung it on signs around the Superman offices—and he expressed to all who would listen the need to play the material straight.

According to Mankiewicz “not a word from the Puzo script was used] It was a well-written, but still a ridiculous script. It was 550 pages".

Donner said, ‘You can’t shoot this screenplay because you’ll be shooting for five years’,” Donner continued. “That was literally a shooting script and they planned to shoot all 550 pages. You know, 110 pages is plenty for a script, so even for two features, that was way too much.”

Mankiewicz conceived having each Kryptonian family wear a crest resembling a different letter, justifying the ‘S’ on Superman’s costume.

Mankiewicz was told by Donner to concentrate on the Love Story between Superman and Lois Lane. Then everything else would work out

The Writer’s Guild of America gave screenplay credit to Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, and Robert Benton. Many involved with the production, including Richard Donner, credit Tom Mankiewicz with writing much of the final shooting script. Donner gave him a “Creative Consultant” credit, which appears after the screenplay credit during the opening titles

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They obviously thought it would work by the time they got to the third film.

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Behind the Scenes Minitures work on Krypton
stmsmall655 20181223_081851-400x300

These remind me that the best modern movies use a mix of miniatures and CGI. You do this kind of work and enhance it with CGI, it just gives it a feeling of greater weight.

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scouring the DCU Community for Superman The Movie goodies, this one was posted by @Nightroia

Dec '19

Found these in an antique shop! I’m sure the gum is super stale by now.

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And here’s a link to @DocAtlas’s bootlegs which includes a Superman: The Movie souvenir program.
I stole one page, go check out the rest.

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@msgtv : Thank you for the acknowledgement!

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No problem, credit where credit is due.

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Re Krypton

There seems to be objects in the rooms but what are they?

Where are the works of arts, the lamps the chairs, the tables, the beds?

Did people from Krypton sleep standing, like horses?

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That’s pretty good

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Sometimes you have to work hard to understand the Krypton scenes.

I have to assume that the Council turned off their screens before Zod tries to give a piece of his non exsistent power to Jor el for his freedom.

And though Zod continally demands that Jor el vote, there is no sign Jor el does anything of the sort

I have to assume Jor el pushed a button to open the half circle and bring down the Phantom Zone object.

Also the only reason this whole scene is necessary is because the producers had already decided not to pay Brsndo.for Superman II.

This scene has nothing to do with Siperman 1. It is not mentioned again in the rest of the movie.

This scene is crucial for Superman II whose Premiere was two yeats later.

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For this movie by itself I think the only thing it does is place Jor-El in Zod’s place to an extent when he pleads with them to listen. It’s not as stark and they aren’t just disembodied heads, but there is a bit of role reversal. Watching it as a comic fan though, I was thrilled to see Zod and the Phantom Zone.

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That is a good reason.

To me the logic is more simple

The producets had already agreed to pay an enormous amount of money for Brando.to be in the first film because his name will selll the movie.

All scenes of Brando (and Hackman) for both movies were filmed firsr, because of their contracts

The more time Brando is in the first film, the more his fans will be satisfied. So include as much of the footage shot as posdible.

The scene belongs in.Superman IIi to motivate Zod against the son of Jor el.

No way were the producers going to ihave Brando in Superman III because it would cut into their profits and Brando had served his purpose.

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Two points I’d like to add.

One, Mr. Reeve did not care for Mr. Brando, although I am unsure when this became publically known. However, Mr. Reeve made this known on NBC on an episode of Late Night With David Letterman:

Two:,I would highly recommend to DC Universe to add not only the multiple versions of the first Superman movie (the TV versions, etc.) but also both the Richard Donner cut of Superman II as well as the Richard Donner cut of Superman II with the commentary track by Mr. Donner and Mr. Tom Mankiewicz. I’ve watched and heard both. Time well spent!

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What still stands out for me so much when I watch this film along with its majestic score and truly unforgettable performances by its stellar cast is the stark contrast in texture that can be seen within the masterfully crafted production/set design by John Barry, Ernest Archer, and Peter Howitt. Krypton’s otherwordly luster and gleam, the organic warmth and brightness that cascades over the rolling landscape of Smallville, the staccato pacing of life among the tall buildings of Metropolis- every locale in this movie has a palpable difference both in look and feel that is readily and sometimes boldly discernible for the audience. One of the biggest bonuses that Barry, Archer, and Howitt along with helmer Richard Donner gives us in this film is a time capsule level snapshot of late 1970s New York City (where a large portion of the film’s exterior photography was captured), a time when NYC was believed to be at it’s pique in as far as its culture and singular uniqueness was concerned. Such an amazing visual contrast to the city as we know it today. Just simply stunning visuals to be seen all throughout the panorama of this unforgettable motion picture.

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Lots of interesting Brando stories with this movie, most centering around the fact that he didn’t want to work and was there for the paycheck. He says he didn’t read the full script until just before shooting. He didn’t memorize his lines to the point that they would have the lines somewhere he could read them while filming including another actor’s chest. You know this bothered Reeve because the guy was a trained, serious actor who believed in the work.
100% Agree on adding multiple versions to DCU. That’s a niche this service could fill. I have not seen any commentary tracks for these films, and I haven’t seen the Donner Cut. Even though he would have had more filming and it’s not exactly what he would have presented given the option of finishing, I’d like to see what his version would have looked like.

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The contrasts is something I definitely had in my notes. The white of Krypton, the all blacks/grays of the trial of Zod, the gleaming whites of Jor-El and Lara sending Kal-El off. In fact, the only real color I saw in this whole long sequence was Lara’s hair and the yellow, red and blue of Kal’s blanket, then finally the green of one crystal. Then we get red skies.
Is this the first use of red skies in DC?
In the Smallville portion, love the location of Pa’s funeral on a hilltop which gives them a chance for a long pan down a valley. Then in the goodbye scene with Ma, they’re standing in a golden field of rye (which they had planted months earlier). This whole part feels like a John Ford Western. The entire thing feels epic.

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Re
The various versions of Superman

It includes the fact that
Superman.1 and
Superman 2 was filmed at the same time

With.all work at a location
Completed before moving to another location

And
Brando and Hackman.scenes filmed first
Because of their limored availabily.and fixed time period

70% of Superman 2 was completed befkre it was decided to concentrate on Superman 1.

The original ending of Superman 1
Was a cliffhanger
Superman had to stop only one missle
He divered it to space
The missle hit the Phantom.Zone obkect
Containing Zod and the other two Kryptonians
The ending was the three
Flying toward Earth
Then the Zod scenes at the beginning of the movie made sense
Because he showed up at the end of the movie

It was decided to use the idea of
Superman changing time
Which was to be the climax
Of Superman 2
And make it the ending of Superman.1

For the Donner cut of Superman 2
They used
The 70% already completed by Donner
A screen test whete Lois shoots Clark
And the scenes directed by Lester
To make a complete movie.

Lester had to direct 50% of the movie to get credit as director.

He solely fimed

Zod and the others arriving in a small town
The big battles

Then he redid some of the scenes already done by donner.

A lot of this is described in a very good video with a dumb name

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Re

The Krypton scenes

The building were miniatures

Though I accepted them as real
They felt cold rigid and unliveable.

The opening of the dome and arrival of the Phantom Zone is very convincing.

It is not clear whether Krypton.had spaceships or whether the ship Kal el was placed in was experimental

While Kal.el is in.space there is talk of the 28 known qalaxies. For Krypton to know of them there must have had spaceships for exploration at some time.

If Krypton turned inward, to the rigid closed off society it appears to be, spaceships may bo longer exist and the Council is right to warn Jor el against causing panic.

The contrasting conversation on Earth between Jor el and Lara is interesting. He stresses the positive while she stresses that “he will not be one of them.”

The beginning lines of this conversation.are spoken by Superman and Lois Lane in the TV Crisis on Infinite Earths, as they send their son Jonathan away by rocket from a doomed Argo.City.

Without Marlon.Brando this movie would not have bern made.

His speeches are spoken well especially since he did not study the script and was reading the lines off of cue cards.

Just before Jor el.sends gis son to Earth, his dialogue becomes stanard Christianity, with all the talk of Father and Son.

Nothing about the destruction is in any way convincing. Especially the reaction of the people and the stuntwork.

Seeing Brando run as Krypton is being destroyed is inadvertigly funny. Joe el is shown to be a couch potato for many years. (if Krypton ever had couches)

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