Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Adventures of Superboy-1961


THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY was supposed to be producer Whitney Ellsworth’s solution to how to continue the successful ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV series in spite of its star’s death in 1959. This 1961 pilot starred Johnny Rockwell and was produced and directed by the same folks who did the original series. Missing, of course, were Lois, Jimmy and Perry but in there place you had Lana Lang and Police Chief Parker. A half season’s worth of scripts were commissioned and one was chosen to shoot. Although it never aired, modern viewings reveal it to be well acted and of good quality. The whole story of the aborted project can be found in the book pictured here (along with the equally bizarre story of SUPERPUP). Although cheaply printed, author Chuck Harter’s book offers tons of screen shots and behind the scenes photos of both projects along with more detail than you might think possible at this late date. Rockwell, an acting student of Agnes Moorehead (and I read somewhere a friend of Hugh Hefner) was 23 years old at the time and gives a suitably boy scoutish performance as both Clark Kent and Superboy. The overall feel of the project is that of Andy Taylor’s Mayberry invaded by gangsters and a superhero. That small town vibe was popular all over the television landscape at that time so what was the problem? Why didn’t we see several full seasons of super heroics from Rockwell, Ellsworth and friends? According to the book, the bottom line seems to be that it was squashed by the sponsers when they reasoned that they could continue to syndicate and profit from the George Reeves originals without having to pay for any new production.
The book presents a summary and detailed information on the making of ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY pilot and the author even found Rockwell for a great then and now picture. There's even a detailed summary of each of the unproduced scripts for the series! The whole concept was a missed opportunity perhaps but an interesting bit of Super-trivia in the week in which, at long last, SUPERMAN RETURNS.

5 comments:

Emilio Pacheco said...

In 1990 I visited Universal Studios in Florida and took a few pictures and got some video footage while they were shooting a scene of the "Superboy" series. It was explained that the scene took place in the 1930's where Superboy had taken a time warp to and was being called "the leader of the world". I never got to see the actual episode, I think it was never shown in Brazil. But I still have the VHS tape. If they ever release this series on DVD, I could offer my tape to be used in the extras!

Larry Shell said...

Emilio, your dreams have come true as last week, they released the complete Season 1 of the syndicated Superboy TV show. I sure wish they could have put this earlier attempt at a show on there as a bonus feature! Perhaps one of the next sets in the series will!

Larry Shell said...

The episode where Superboy goes through a time warp into a parallel dimension is called "Roads Not Taken" and was definitely one of the stand-out episodes of the four years of the series and one of the few I can remember to this day. That one and the 2-parter which introduced Bizarro were my favorites. If anyone is not familiar with the series, its definitely worth checking out the DVDs!

Emilio Pacheco said...

If I remember correctly, the episode that they were shooting while I was there could not be from the first season. The first season was shot in MGM studios, then the production was moved to Universal, also in Orlando. That's what I remember reading, anyway. They changed the actor, too. But thanks for the great piece of information!

Emilio Pacheco said...

Better late than never, here's the footage I got:

http://br.youtube.com/watch?v=skAYdyYN39w

No big deal, actually, but worth watching for its historical value, anyway.