On this date 40 years ago, director Richard Donner, stars Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder and many more were in the thick of two days of filming Superman at the New York Daily News offices. The Warner Bros. movie would be released the following year to great acclaim.
As part of the paper’s ongoing Flashback series, the News has republished online a pair of articles that ran in the July 8, 1977 edition. The first, by editor in chief Pete Hamill, was headlined “Look! It’s a Bird!… It’s a Plane!… It’s Supergoy!” Hamill’s piece is full of great sideline detail, like the vendor of a newspaper called The Daily Planet who talks about the cease-and-desist letter he received from Warner Bros. As far as the headline, it was derived from this Hamill observation:
Reeve and Kidder rehearsed twice for the director, and then did one for the photographers. Reeve’s dialogue ended with the line: “On the while, I think it’s swell.” Swell. And you immediately knew why Mario Puzo, David and Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, and Tom Mankiewicz had such trouble with the screenplay: They had a hero who said “swell.” In short, they had to write about a goy.
Hamill’s column sat below another report, by Peter Coutros, about the stunt work attached to such a movie. Under the headline “Clark Kent Uses the News Lobby for a Phone Booth:”
Lois Lane going out the window was filmed in London two weeks ago. Lois Lane bouncing off a canopy into a fruit vendor’s cart is being filmed here outside The News building; cause and effect 3,000 miles and two weeks apart.
“We got $400 worth of watermelons and bananas and grapes and cherries,” says Bob Wilson, prop man in charge of watermelons, bananas, grapes and cherries, as he instructs [stunwoman] Ellen [Bry] on the best way to fall onto the cart, fashioned from plywood and cushioned with layers of foam rubber.
In both pieces, there are great black and white shots taken by Harry Hamburg, who worked at the Daily News for 39 years. And funnily enough, in this case, it’s wrong to suggest they don’t make movies like Superman any more. This summer’s Wonder Woman, also from Warner Bros., has been compared by more than a few critics to Donner’s flick.
Previously on Fishbowl:
Newspaper Man Extraordinaire Pete Hamill Curses Out Hospital Stay