Sunday, June 02, 2013

Ray Middleton As Superman

One thing is certain and that is that Wednesday, July 3rd, 1940, was SUPERMAN DAY at the legendary World's Fair in Flushing. In the mid-seventies when DC Comics ran a photo feature showing pics from that day, it was alleged that the name of the actor playing Superman had been lost to history. But then someone contacted them and pointed out that it was actor Ray Middleton, then still working on stage, screen (1776) and television (M*A*S*H). So they printed that information. 

More recently, someone on the Internet has claimed that, in fact, Middleton was NOT the man of Steel that day but simply a judge in the "Superchildren" contest along with, among others, Frank Buck and Charles Atlas. The piece below, supposedly copied from the next day's NEW YORK TIMES, would seem to confirm that to be the case, indicating that they were unable to ascertain the name of the person playing Superman.

The only thing is...that looks like Middleton as Superman. Compare these various shots from the same time period (some gathered by Terry Beatty). Add to the that various unconfirmed sources that indicate that Middleton would often clim the role later in life as well as sometimes sign autographs with an added 'Superman."

Ray Middleton in 1940 was NOT a major star although, on Broadway at least, he would soon become one. Why, then would he be one of the judges in this contest...unless perhaps he was at the Fair anyway because he had been, in the earlier parade, Superman?

Then I found this which, presuming its legitimacy, would seem to clear up the argument once and for all. This was on eBay. It's a first day issue New York World's Fair envelope postmarked October, 1940 and commemorating the then recent SUPERMAN DAY at the Fair by actually including Ray's SUPERMAN!


  1. Could he have been a judge AND Superman, perhaps? Maybe he had time to be both? Just a thought.

  2. That's my assumption but why the NYT claimed they couldn't ID who played Superman doesn't make any sense. Supposedly there's a photo of Ray in a suit and tie presenting the trophies but I haven't seen it. The thing is, if he WASN'T the actor playing Superman why did HE get to present the trophies when other judges (some reports say Buster Crabbe was there as well) were easily better known at that time?

  3. Maybe Buster was out of their price range, but what you say makes sense to me. You'd have thought they'd have padded Ray out a but 'though. He looks a little skinny.

  4. Hmmm....Chris H. on Facebook commented: Nothing settled at all. I saw this when it was for sale on eBay. The listing clearly stated that while the stamps and postmarks were original, the Superman stuff was added recently. Sorry to disappoint.

    So while I am still convinced it was Ray, I guess the certainty levels have dropped.

    1. The guy in the Superman costume looks like a local farmer. Nothing wrong with that but given the pictures of the actor named Ray Middleton and the fuzzy Superman pics, it's still fairly clear they were two different men.

  5. Go to the Superman Through The Ages website and you will find pictures from the Superboy and Supergirl contest, July 3rd, 1940. One of the pics shows Middleton standing with the winners, (he's on the right side of the photo). It's clearly not the guy that played Superman. Taken the same day as the Supreman pics but his hair is even parted on the opposite side. Decide for yourself. Thanks, Nostalgia King.

  6. Nostalgia King! Cool! Glad you found us. It was your posts elsewhere that started this inquiry here and on Facebook. And yes, I have that picture and my first thought was it definitely proves it WASN'T Middleton! But one friend who was already IN that camp is NOW not so sure after seeing that pic! I have a friend in NYC researching the old newspaper archives at the Library there and a couple mutual friends with a guy who KNEW Middleton. We also have inquiries out to some of the folks who worked on the DC mag that originally named Middleton to see if anyone remembers where they got the info. Apparently, this isn't going to end until someone finds a shot of Middleton shaking hands with Superman! Thanks for the comment! Keep watching.

  7. Great stuff here -- I didn't hear about this until recently. I have some photos/ideas/info to add fuel to the debate over here:

  8. Might not the NYT's not identifying the actor who played Superman be related to Superman's secret identity? If I recall, in the early serials, while Kirk Allyn was id'd as lark Kent, Superman's identity remained a mystery.