There have been numerous big- and small-screen versions of Superman, from the 1940s animated adventures and 1950s black and white TV series starring George Reeves, to the teen-friendly TV shows Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-97) and Smallville (from 2001). But this movie version remains the one against which all others will be compared, and deservedly so.
The planet Krypton is dying, so Jor-El (Brando, who reportedly got $4 million for just ten minutes of screen time) packs his baby son into a pod and sends him into space, and the little tot ends up on Earth, where he is raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter). Of course, little Clark Kent (as he becomes known) is stronger, faster and more super than your average kid, so when he grows up and moves to Metropolis to become a reporter, he dons that iconic red and blue bodysuit and cape to fly around and battle bad guys like Lex Luthor (Hackman) while saving the always-in-jeopardy Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).
Beautifully bringing the back story of Clark/Superman to the screen (and Jeff East as the young Clark is a cutie), then adding action and adventure for the second half (and Oscar-winning flying effects), this is a terrific movie for everyone. The cast is a who’s who of stars – alongside Brando (who, rumour has it, refused to learn his lines, and during one scene read his dialogue off baby Superman’s nappy), Hackman and Ford, there’s Susannah York, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Trevor Howard, Terence Stamp and Valerie Perrine – and Reeve was perfectly cast as the Man of Steel.
Is Superman suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...