Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Superman’ Soared into Theaters On This Day in 1978

‘Superman’ Soared into Theaters On This Day in 1978

Back in 1978, not many people had heard of Christopher Reeve and his acting ability. That would all change with Superman. Reeve, a classically trained actor at Juilliard, found himself in the middle of a $55 million megafilm. Well, with the cast this movie put together, it either was going to sail high or sink deep. Guess what? Just like the “Man of Steel,” the movie was a smash hit.

Why are we talking about Superman? Because it was on this day, December 15, that the movie made its United States premiere. Before talking about the cast, you might be interested to know about its box office take. As we said, there was a $55 million budget.

Well, this movie took in $300 million worldwide at the box office. It made its money back almost six times over. Talk about a haul from movie theaters! People wanted to see Reeve play Clark Kent and Superman. Yet an actor can sometimes be only as good as his supporting cast.

‘Superman’ Put Together One Whale Of A Cast

Have you seen this cast? Holy cow, talking about a winning group. This cast simply was amazing.

Yet Reeve was not the biggest star going into the movie at all. Nope, that honor would go to Marlon Brando. He played Jor-El, who was Superman’s biological father on Krypton. He believes the planet will explode. Well, it does but he sends his infant son off ahead of it. Brando reportedly had some say over who was hired and not hired with the cast. Reportedly, Brando was a bit problematic during the filming. He even sued Warner Bros. for $50 million because he felt that he lost out on his part of the ticket sales.

Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch-enemy. Luthor discovers Superman’s weakness and comes up with a plan that places many people in danger. Ned Beatty appears as Otis, who is Luthor’s henchman. Jackie Cooper played Perry White, Clark Kent’s boss at the Daily Planet. Perry had an irascible side to him, which Cooper played up to the hilt. Glenn Ford and Trevor Howard, veteran actors in their own right, played Jonathan Kent and the Head of the Kryptonian Council, respectively.

Now we come to Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane and famously gets carried by Superman in mid-air. She ended up winning the part after more than 100 actresses had been tested. Kidder also had a strong interaction with Reeve, too. She proved there was something there and made it work in the movie.

Valerie Perrine and Mark McClure also show up as Eve Teschmacher and Jimmy Olsen. Their work stands out in the cast, too.

Richard Donner Directed This Box-Office Smash

Richard Donner directed this mega-hit, based on a screenplay written, in part, by Mario Puzo of The Godfather fame. Puzo was joined in that work by husband-and-wife team David and Leslie Newman, along with future Kramer vs. Kramer director Robert Benton.

Based on its box office sales, Superman was obviously well-received. So, how did the critics see the film? They gave it pretty high marks. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it four about of four stars. In his review, Ebert wrote, “Superman is a pure delight, a wondrous combination of all the old-fashioned things we never really get tired of: adventure and romance, heroes and villains, earthshaking special effects, and — you know what else? Wit”.

What about his counterpart, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune? He gave it three out of four stars. Siskel wrote that Superman is “a delightful mess. Good performances. Sloppy editing. Cheap nonflying special effects. Funny dialog. In sum, Superman is the kind of picture critics tear apart, but still say, ‘You ought to see it.’”