AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Superman
Alternate Title: Superman '76
Director: Richard Donner (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Dec 1978
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 Dec 1978
Production Date:   began Apr 1976 at Shepperton Studios, England
Duration (in mins):   148
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Marlon Brando (Jor-El)  
    Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor)  
    Christopher Reeve (Superman/Clark Kent)  
    Ned Beatty (Otis)  
    Jackie Cooper (Perry White)  
    Glenn Ford ([Jonathan] Pa Kent)  
    Trevor Howard (1st elder)  
    Margot Kidder (Lois Lane)  
    Jack O'Halloran (Non)  
    Valerie Perrine ([Miss] Eve Teschmacher)  
    Maria Schell (Vond-Ah)  
    Terence Stamp (General Zod)  
    Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent)  
    Susannah York (Lara)  
    Jeff East (Young Clark Kent)  
    Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen)  
    Sarah Douglas (Ursa)  
    Harry Andrews (2nd elder)  
  Krypton council Vass Anderson (3rd elder)  
    John Hollis (4th elder)  
    James Garbutt (5th elder)  
    Michael Gover (6th elder)  
    David Neal (7th elder)  
    William Russell (8th elder)  
    Penelope Lee (9th elder)  
    John Stuart (10th elder)  
  [and] Alan Cullen (11th elder)  
    Lee Quigley (Baby Kal-El)  
    Aaron Smolinski (Baby Clark Kent)  
  Smallville Diane Sherry (Lana Lang)  
    Jeff Atcheson (Coach)  
    Brad Flock (Football player)  
  [and] David Petrou (Team manager)  
  Daily Planet Billy J. Mitchell (1st editor)  
    Robert Henderson (2nd editor)  
    Larry Lamb (1st reporter)  
    James Brockington (2nd reporter)  
    John Cassady (3rd reporter)  
    John F. Parker (4th reporter)  
    Antony Scott (5th reporter)  
    Ray Evans (6th reporter)  
    Su Shifrin (7th reporter)  
    Miquel Brown (8th reporter)  
    Vincent Marzello (1st copy boy)  
    Benjamin Feitelson (2nd copy boy)  
    Lise Hilboldt (1st secretary)  
    Leueen Willoughby (2nd secretary)  
    Jill Ingham (Perry's secretary)  
  [and] Pieter Stuyck (Window cleaner)  
  Metropolis Rex Reed (Rex Reed)  
    Weston Gavin (Mugger)  
    Stephen Kahan (Officer 1)  
    Ray Hassett (Officer 2)  
    Randy Jurgenson (Officer 3)  
  [and] Matt Russo (News vendor)  
  Superman's 1st night Colin Skeaping (Pilot)  
    Bo Rucker (Pimp)  
    Paul Avery (TV cameraman)  
    David Baxt (Burglar)  
    George Harris, II (Patrolman Mooney)  
    Michael Harrigan (1st hood)  
    John Cording (2nd hood)  
    Raymond Thompson (3rd hood)  
    Oz Clarke (4th hood)  
    Rex Everhardt (Desk sergeant)  
    Jayne Tottman (Little girl)  
    Frank Lazarus (Air Force One pilot)  
    Brian Protheroe (Co pilot)  
    Lawrence Trimble (1st crewman)  
    Robert Whelan (2nd crewman)  
    David Calder (3rd crewman)  
    Norwick Duff (Newscaster)  
    Keith Alexander (Newscaster)  
  [and] Michael Ensign (Newscaster)  
  Missile convoys Larry Hagman (Major)  
    Paul Tuerpe (Sgt. Hayley)  
    Graham McPherson (Lieutenant)  
  [and] David Yorston (Petty officer)  
  Missile control Robert O'Neill (Admiral)  
    Robert MacLeod (General)  
    John Ratzenberger (1st Controller)  
    Alan Tilvern (2nd Controller)  
    Phil Brown (State senator)  
  [and] Bill Bailey (2nd senator)  
  Golf course Burnell Tucker (Agent)  
  California Chief Tug Smith (Indian chief)  
    Norman Warwick (Superchief driver)  
    Chuck Julian (Assistant)  
    Colin Etherington (Power co. driver)  
  [and] Mark Wynter (Mate)  
  Prison Roy Stevens (Warden)  

Summary: On the planet Krypton, Jor-El explains that the planet is bent on a natural course of self-destruction but the Kryptonian Council rejects his theory that its citizens should evacuate. While agreeing not to start a panic, Jor-El only has enough time to save his baby son Kal-El by sending him to Earth. Wife Lara doubts their son will fit in, but Jor-El tells her that his powers will help Earth’s people survive. The baby is sent off in a rocket capsule carrying crystals filled with Krypton’s history. Couple Martha and Jonathan Kent stop their car to inspect a burnt out crater in the field. A naked Kal-El emerges with his arms outstretched. As Jonathan fixes a flat tire, arguing with Martha whether they should keep the child, the tire jack gives way. The baby lifts the truck before Jonathan is crushed. He is persuaded at that moment to raise the child as family, and they name him Clark. The years go by and Clark doesn’t always fit in with his high school crowd, but a pep talk from his dad reminds him that although he is different, he was put on Earth for a reason. Clark races his dad to the house but Jonathan has a fatal heart attack. One night, Clark goes to the barn and discovers crystals from his Kryptonian rocket. He tells his mother he must go North to discover his birthright, and she gives him her blessing. In the far reaches of the North Pole, Clark creates a Fortress of Solitude. He listens to the archives that Jor-El prepared to explain his heritage. The crystals hold the secrets to Clark’s existence. Clark becomes a reporter at the Daily Planet newspaper as his day job and Superman becomes his secret identity. Editor Perry White introduces Clark to the staff, and reporter Lois Lane is annoyed when he assigns Clark the city beat, which was Lois’ job. Later, two policemen follow Otis, a henchman who works for criminal mastermind Lex Luther. At the train yard, Otis descends a secret passageway controled by Luther. When one officer arrives at the passageway entrance, Luther’s controls push him into the path of an oncoming train. Luther hints to his assistant, Miss [Eve] Teschmacher that his latest crime involves real estate and he reminds her she is fortunate to have a Park Avenue address. The only problem is that the address is two hundred feet underground and she is not impressed. At the Daily Planet, Lois rides a helicopter to get a story at the airport. The helicopter spins out of control and the pilot is knocked unconscious. Lois hangs precariously from the helicopter as it leans off the side of the building. Clark transforms into Superman and saves Lois after she loses her grip and plummets through the air. When Superman grabs the helicopter and returns it safely to the roof, the public watches from below and cheers. Shortly thereafter, Superman catches a criminal and delivers him and his stolen jewels into the hands of a police officer. So begins Superman’s war on crime and good deeds throughout Metropolis. Perry rallies his reporters to find out everything they can about Superman. He wants the Daily Planet to have the best coverage on the caped crusader. Later, Lois gets an anonymous note to have dinner. Superman shows up on her terrace and Lois interviews him. He explains his purpose is to fight for “truth, justice, and the American way.” They fly all over the city and by the time they return to her apartment, Lois has fallen in love with him. When Clark shows up for their date, her thoughts are miles away. While Otis and Miss Teschmacher read Lois’ exclusive interview with Superman, Luther realizes that pieces of exploding Krypton that have landed on Earth are lethal to Superman. Luther sets up a roadside accident to create a diversion for some soldiers transporting a missile, while Miss Teschmacher inputs the coordinates that change the missile codes. Meanwhile, Luther sends a high-frequency message that only Superman can hear. Within five minutes, Luther plans to release poison gas from thousands of air ducts in the city. Clark becomes Superman, burrowing deep in the ground like a drill bit until he steps into Luther’s underground headquarters. Luther shares his plan to send nuclear missiles to the San Andreas fault, which would destroy big cities like Los Angeles and San Diego and increase the value of all the land Luther owns east of the fault. As the military launches its test missile, it’s apparent that the coordinates have malfunctioned and Lois is heading straight into the path of the destruction. Luther says only his detonator can stop the missiles. When Superman searches for it, he opens a lead box and is weakened by some Kryptonite. Luther tosses him and the Kryptonite into the swimming pool to drown. Miss Teschmacher rescues him because he promises to save her mother who lives in Hackensack, New Jersey, in the path of one of the missiles. Superman destroys one missile, while the other missile goes off, causing an earthquake as Luther predicted. He repairs the fault line, saves a train from derailing, and reporter Jimmy Olsen from failing into the Hoover dam. Superman also prevents the broken dam from flooding a town and saves Lois by turning back time after she suffocates when her car is buried in the fault. Alive again, Lois complains to Superman about her crummy day filled with exploding rocks and crumbling roads as he grins at her. She melts at his smile but Jimmy interrupts them. Soon, Superman leaves them to deliver Luther and Otis to prison. The warden thanks him for making the country safer. In turn, Superman tells him they are all part of the same team.  

Production Company: Dovemead, Ltd.  
  International Film Production Inc.  
Production Text: A Richard Donner film
An Alexander & Ilya Salkind production
Distribution Company: Warner Bros., Inc. (Warner Communications, Inc.)
Director: Richard Donner (Dir)
  David Tomblin (2d unit dir/Asst dir)
  John Glen (2d unit dir)
  John Barry (2d unit dir)
  David Lane (2d unit dir)
  Robert Lynn (2d unit dir)
  Dusty Symonds (Prod mgr)
  Peter Runfolo (Prod mgr, New York)
  Les Kimber (Prod mgr, Alberta)
  Austen Jewell (Prod mgr, New Mexico)
  Dominic Fulford (Asst dir & flying unit co-ord)
  Vincent Winter (Asst dir)
  Michael Dryhurst (Asst dir)
  Allan James (Asst dir)
  Gareth Tandy (Asst dir)
  Jerry Grandey (Asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Michael Rauch (Asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Bud Grace (Asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Steve Lanning (2d asst dir)
  Roy Button (2d asst dir)
  Michael Green (2d asst dir)
  Kieron Phipps (2d asst dir)
  Charles Marriott (2d asst dir)
  Vic Smith (2d asst dir)
  Keith Lund (2d asst dir)
  Michael Hook (2d asst dir)
  Patrick Cadell (2d asst dir)
  Peter Jacobs (2d asst dir)
  Simon Milton (2d asst dir)
  Michael Murray (2d asst dir)
  Peter Bergquist (2d asst dir, U.S.A.)
  Candace Suerstedt (2d asst dir, U.S.A.)
Producer: Alexander Salkind (Pres)
  Pierre Spengler (Prod)
  Ilya Salkind (Exec prod)
  Charles F. Greenlaw (Assoc prod)
Writer: Mario Puzo (Scr)
  David Newman (Scr)
  Leslie Newman (Scr)
  Robert Benton (Scr)
  Mario Puzo (Story)
  Norman Enfield (Addl scr material)
Photography: Geoffrey Unsworth (Photog)
  Peter MacDonald (Cam op)
  Alex Thomson (Addl photog)
  Paul Wilson (Model photog)
  Jack Atcheler (Addl photog)
  Robert E. Collins (Addl photog, New Mexico)
  Reginald Morris (Addl photog, Alberta)
  Sol Negrin (Addl photog, New York)
  Harry Oakes (Addl model photog)
  Bob Kindred (Addl model photog)
  Leslie Dear (Addl model photog)
  Darrell Anderson (Addl model photog, U.S.A.)
  Bob Bailin (New York process plate photog)
  Cervin Robinson (New York process stills)
  Peter Allwork (Aerial photog)
  John Harris (Cam op)
  Jimmy Devis (Cam op)
  John Morgan (Cam op)
  Michael Fox (Cam op)
  Gordon Hayman (Cam op)
  Geoff Glover (Cam op)
  Ken Coles (Cam op)
  Ronnie Fox Rogers (Cam op)
  Ginger Gemmell (Cam op)
  Roy Ford (Cam op)
  Jack Lowen (Cam op)
  George Pink (Cam op)
  Lou Barlia (Cam op, U.S.A.)
  Jim Contner (Cam op, U.S.A.)
  Michael Chevalier (Cam op, U.S.A.)
  Jack Courtland (Cam op, U.S.A.)
  Howard Anderson, III (Cam op, U.S.A.)
  Rod Parkhurst (Cam op, Canada)
  Peter Harman (Matte cam op)
  Peter Hammond (Matte cam op)
  Ronald Goodman (Wesscam photog)
  John Campbell (Cam asst)
  Jonathan Taylor (Cam asst)
  Trevor Coop (Cam asst)
  Peter Versey (Cam asst)
  Ronnie Anscombe (Cam asst)
  David Lenham (Cam asst)
  John Deaton (Cam asst)
  Alan Gatward (Cam asst)
  Domenic Mastrippolito (Cam asst, U.S.A.)
  Tom Ryan (Cam asst, Canada)
  Bob Penn (Stills)
  Douglas Luke (Stills)
  Maurice Gillett (Chief elec, Lee Electric)
  John Tythe (Chief elec, Pinewood)
  Ray Evans (Elec, Lee Electric)
  Ray Meehan (Elec, Lee Electric)
  John May (Elec, Pinewood)
  Harry Woodley (Elec, Pinewood)
  Bert Bosher (Elec, Pinewood)
  Fred Webster (Elec, Pinewood)
  Jack Thetford (Elec, Pinewood)
  Wesscam (Aerial cam seqs)
  Samuelson Film Service Ltd. (Cam equip supplied by)
  Lee Electric (Lighting) Ltd. (Lighting equip by)
Art Direction: John Barry (Prod des)
  Maurice Fowler (Supv art dir, England & New York)
  Bill Brodie (Supv art dir, Canada & New Mexico)
  Norman Dorme (Art dir)
  Norman Reynolds (Art dir)
  Ernest Archer (Art dir)
  Tony Reading (Art dir)
  Les Dilley (Art dir)
  Stuart Craig (Art dir)
  Gene Rudolf (Art dir, U.S.A.)
  Philip Bennet (Art dir, U.S.A.)
  Stan Jolley (Art dir, U.S.A.)
  Tony Rimmington (Draughtsman)
  Reg Bream (Draughtsman)
  Ted Ambrose (Draughtsman)
  Dennis Bosher (Draughtsman)
  Alan Cassie (Draughtsman)
  Ivor Beddoes (Illustrator)
  Roy Carnon (Illustrator)
  Reg Hill (Illustrator)
  Jan Stevens (Modeler)
  Peter Voysey (Modeler)
Film Editor: Stuart Baird (Ed)
  Michael Ellis (Film ed)
  Bob Mullen (1st asst ed)
  David Beesley (Asst ed)
  Tim Jordan (Asst ed)
  Mike Round (Asst ed)
  Neil Farrell (Asst ed)
  Christopher Morris (Asst ed)
  Colin Wilson (Asst ed)
  George Akers (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Peter Howitt (Set dec)
  Fred Weiler (Set dec, U.S.A.)
  Ed Gimmel (Star ship by)
  Ernest Smith (Scenic artist)
  Bill Beavis (Scenic artist)
  Norman Hart (Decor & lettering artist)
  Larry Cleary (Const mgr)
  Jack Carter (Const mgr)
  Harry Kersey (Const mgr, U.S.A.)
  Herman Lowers (Const mgr, U.S.A.)
  Michael Redding (Model const mgr)
  Roy Evans (Asst const mgr)
  Terry Reed (Model maker)
  Cyril Forster (Model maker)
  Andrew Kelly (Model maker)
  Jeff Luff (Model maker)
  Tony Dunsterville (Model maker)
  Tadeusz Krzanowski (Model maker)
  George Ball (Prop master)
  Danny Skundric (Prop master)
  Eddie Francis (Props)
  John Lanzer (Prod buyer)
  Peter Palmer (Prod buyer)
Costumes: Yvonne Blake (Cost des)
  Betty Adamson (Ward supv & addl des)
  Ruth Morley (Addl cost)
  Helen Gill (Ward asst)
  Eddie Silva (Ward asst)
  Austin Cooper (Ward asst)
  Janet Tebrooke (Ward asst)
  Colin Wilson (Ward asst)
  Barbara Gillett (Ward asst)
  Elvira Angelinetta (Ward asst)
  Bermans & Nathans Ltd. (Cost by)
  Barneys Inc. (Clark Kent's ward furnished by)
  Cartier (Jewellery by)
  Timex (Watches by)
Music: John Williams [composer] (Mus)
  Bob Hathaway (Mus ed)
  Ken Ross (Mus ed asst)
  Herbert Spencer (Orch)
  Arthur Morton (Orch)
  Anvil Studios (Mus mixed & rec at)
  Eric Tomlinson (Mus mixed & rec by)
  The London Symphony Orchestra (Mus played by)
  Warner Tamerlane Publishing Corporation (All original compositions © 1978)
Sound: Chris Greenham (Supv sd ed)
  Gordon K. McCallum (Sd mixed & re-rec)
  Peter Pennell (Sd ed eff)
  Michael Hopkins (Sd ed dial)
  Pat Foster (Sd ed dial)
  Stan Fiferman (Sd ed footsteps & eff)
  John Foster (Sd ed footsteps & eff)
  Geoff Brown (Asst dubbing ed)
  Leonard Green (Asst dubbing ed)
  Patrick Brennan (Asst dubbing ed)
  Jupiter Sen (Asst dubbing ed)
  Tony Orton (Asst dubbing ed)
  David Fisher (Asst dubbing ed)
  Graham Hartstone (Asst dubbing mixer)
  Nicholas Le Messurier (Asst dubbing mixer)
  Otto Snel (Asst dubbing mixer)
  Roy Charman (Sd mixer)
  Norman Bolland (Sd mixer)
  Brian Marshall (Sd mixer)
  Charles Schmitz (Sd mixer, U.S.A.)
  Dick Ragusa (Sd mixer, U.S.A.)
  Chris Large (Sd mixer, Canada)
  Michael Tucker (Asst)
  George Rice (Asst)
  Keith Pamplin (Asst)
  Des Edwards (Asst)
  Pinewood Studios (Sd mixed & re-rec at)
  Max Bell (Dolby sd consultant)
Special Effects: Colin Chilvers (Creative supv & dir of spec eff)
  Roy Field (Creative supv of opt visual eff)
  Les Bowie (Creative supv of mattes & composites)
  Denys Coop (Creative dir of process photog)
  Derek Meddings (Model eff dir & created)
  Brian Smithies (Addl model eff)
  Denis Rich (Spec visual eff des)
  Stuart Freeborn (Creative supv of make-up & spec visuals)
  Zoran Perisic (Zoptic spec eff)
  Peter Watson (Supv ed of opt & spec eff)
  John Richardson (Spec eff, Canada & New York)
  Bob MacDonald (Spec eff, New Mexico)
  Russell Woolnough (Asst ed of optical & spec eff)
  Roy Spencer (Spec eff tech)
  Terry Schubert (Spec eff tech)
  Bob Nugent (Spec eff tech)
  Joe Fitt (Spec eff tech)
  Ron Burton (Spec eff tech)
  Brian Warner (Spec eff tech)
  Rodney Fuller (Spec eff tech)
  Michael Dunleavy (Spec eff tech)
  Jimmy Harris (Spec eff tech)
  Peter Biggs (Spec eff tech)
  Frank Richardson (Spec eff tech)
  Peter Pickering (Spec eff tech)
  George Gibbs (Addl model eff)
  Wally Veevers (Flying systems & process projection)
  Charles Staffell (Process systems)
  Dennis Bartlett (Travelling matte supv)
  Martin Shorthall Harrow College of Technology & Art (Opt liaison)
  David Speed (Zoptic operation)
  Mike Drew (Zoptic operation)
  James Aspinall (Zoptic operation)
  Doug Ferris (Matte artist)
  Ray Caple (Matte artist)
  Liz Lettman (Asst matte artist)
  Derek Botell (Flying effects)
  Bob Harman (Flying effects)
  Camera Effects Ltd. (Title & spec opt seq photog)
  Roy Pace (Title & spec opt seq photog, Camera Effects Ltd.)
  Sheldon Elbourne (Title & spec opt seq photog, Camera Effects Ltd.)
  Howard A. Anderson Co. (Spec seqs)
  Continental Camera Systems Inc. (Spec seqs)
  Oxford Scientific Films Ltd. (Opt seqs)
  Peter Parks (Opt seqs, Oxford)
  Sean Morris (Opt seqs, Oxford)
  National Screen Services Ltd. (Opt seqs)
  Gillie Potter Productions Ltd. (Opt seqs)
  Delecluse Realisations (Opt seqs)
  Cinema Research Corporation (Opt seqs)
  Van Der Veer Photo Effects (Opt seqs)
  Rank Post Productions Ltd. (Opt seqs)
  Cinefex (London) Ltd. (Opt seqs)
  Vee Films Ltd. (Opt seqs)
  General Screen Enterprises Ltd. (Opt seqs)
  Chris Warren (Video op)
  Brian King (Video op)
  Steve Frankfurt Communications (Main title credits)
  R. Greenberg Assoc. Inc. (Main title credits)
  Denis Rich (Main titles des)
Make Up: Philip Rhodes (Make-up artist)
  Basil Newall (Make-up artist)
  Kay Freeborn (Make-up artist)
  Graham Freeborn (Make-up artist)
  Nick Maley (Make-up artist)
  Sylvia Croft (Make-up artist)
  Connie Reeve (Make-up artist)
  Louis Lane (Make-up artist, U.S.A.)
  Jamie Brown (Make-up artist, Canada)
  Pat McDermott (Hairdresser)
  Joan White (Hairdresser)
  Stella Rivers (Hairdresser)
  Cathy Kevany (Hairdresser)
  Darby Halpin (Hairdresser, U.S.A.)
  Iloe Elliott (Hairdresser, Canada)
Production Misc: Tom Mankiewicz (Creative consultant)
  Lynn Stalmaster (Casting)
  Elaine Schreyeck (Continuity supv)
  Geoffrey Helman (Prod exec)
  Robert Simmonds (Prod supv)
  Timothy Burrill (Prod supv for North America)
  Tim Hampton (Prod supv for New Mexico)
  Maria Monreal (Exec asst to the prods)
  Jeanne Ferber (Exec asst to Richard Donner)
  Chris Coles (Loc mgr, New York)
  David Lane (Visual co-ord)
  Ernest Walter (Visual co-ord)
  Michael Campbell (Visual co-ord)
  Michael Duthie (Prod co-ord)
  Yves Gaumont (Trainee asst)
  Paul Storey (Trainee asst)
  Waldo Roeg (Trainee asst)
  Bill Rudgard (Trainee asst)
  Kay Rawlings (Continuity)
  Doris Martin (Continuity)
  Betsy Norton (Continuity, U.S.A.)
  Katya Kolpaktchy (Asst cont)
  Josie Fulford (Addl continuity)
  Rita Davison (Addl continuity)
  Angela Martelli (Addl continuity)
  Pat Carr (Prod asst)
  Jeannie Stone (Prod asst)
  Ann Green (Prod asst)
  Jean Hall (Prod asst)
  Liz Green (Prod asst)
  Joy Bayley (Prod asst)
  Diane Appleby (Prod asst)
  Sally Ball (Prod asst)
  Norma Hazelden (Prod asst)
  Norma Garment (Prod asst)
  Adeline Leonard (Prod asst, U.S.A.)
  Dick Liebegott (Prod asst, U.S.A.)
  Patti Allen (Prod asst, Canada)
  Jennie McClean (Spec unit secy)
  Jane Cox (Spec unit secy)
  Jane Dixie (Spec unit secy)
  Sue Edwards (Spec unit secy)
  Sue Hausner (Secy to the exec prod)
  Trudy Balen (Secy to the prod)
  Marc Wolff (Helicopter pilot, New Mexico)
  Al Cerullo (Helicopter pilot, New York)
  Douglas Noakes (Prod accountant)
  Graham Henderson (Asst accountant)
  Gordon Arnell (Pub)
  June Broom (Pub asst)
  Pat O'Reilly (Pub asst)
  Mary Selway (English casting)
  TVC Laboratory Inc. (Chemtone seqs by)
  J.V.C. (TV & audio by)
  General Mills Inc. (Cheerios by)
  Armand Rubin (Sales consultant)
Stand In: Alf Joint (Stunt co-ord)
  Vic Armstrong (Stunt co-ord)
  Alex Stevens (New York stunt co-ord)
  Paul Weston (Addl stunts)
  George Cooper (Addl stunts)
  Wendy Leech (Addl stunts)
  Bill Weston (Addl stunts)
  Stuart Fell (Addl stunts)
  Dick Butler (Addl stunts, Canada)
  Richard Hackman (Addl stunts, Canada)
Color Personnel: Technicolor (Processed by)
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: Great Britain, Switzerland, Panama and United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Can You Read My Mind," music by John Williams, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, performed by Margot Kidder.
Composer: Leslie Bricusse
  John Williams
Source Text: Based on the comic strip "Superman" by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, copyrighted by DC Comics (1933--1988).
Authors: Jerry Siegel
  Joe Shuster

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Film Export, A.G. 13/12/1978 dd/mm/yyyy PA20921

PCA NO: 25403
Physical Properties: Sd: Recorded in Dolby Stereo
  col:
  Widescreen/ratio: Filmed in Panavision

 
Genre: Adventure
Sub-Genre: Superhero
 
Subjects (Major): Crime
  Heroes
  Reporters
  Superman (Comic book character)
  Super powers
 
Subjects (Minor): Adoption
  Adventures
  Accidents
  Barns
  Codes
  Comic books
  Earth (Planet)
  Earthquakes
  Editors
  Explosions
  Family life
  Farms
  Floods
  Flying--Fantasy
  Fortresses
  Guided missiles
  Helicopters
  Hoover Dam (AZ and NV)
  Honor
  Love in the workplace
  Newspapers
  North Pole
  Orphans
  Planets
  Prisons
  Real estate
  Soldiers
  Spaceships
  Swimming pools
  Time travel
  Trains

Note: According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Superman was alternately known as Superman ’76, Superman – The Movie, Superman I, and Superman, Part I.
       The following text appears onscreen before the opening credits: “This picture is dedicated with love and respect to Geoffrey Unsworth. O.B.E.” Unsworth, the film’s photographer, died 28 Oct 1978, shortly before the picture was released.
       The end credits include the following acknowledgements: “In memory of Terry Hill, John Bodimeade,” as well as: “The producers wish to thank: The Mayor’s Office for Motion Pictures & Television, New York; The New Mexico State Film Commission; The Alberta Government Film Industry Development Board; Canadian Pacific Railways; The National Satellite Visual Survey Space Council for Space Photography.” The end credits state that the film was “Made by Dovemead Limited at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Bucks, England. And on location in Canada & The United States of America and at Shepperton Studio Centre, England.” As the credits conclude, the following statement appears onscreen: “Next year ‘Superman II.’”
       On 8 Jul 1975, DV announced that producer Alexander Salkind and his son, executive producer Ilya Salkind, paid $3 million to acquire the film rights to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s DC Comic, Superman, for a twenty-five year period. A 29 Mar 1976 Publishers Weekly brief stated that screenwriter Mario Puzo was hired for $350,000 plus five percent of the film’s profits to adapt the comic book. However, Puzo’s screenplay was initially rejected when it deviated from the well-established Superman myth. A 22 Dec 1978 NYT article reported that Puzo’s early version portrayed “Clark Kent” as a television reporter with a “crime van” and “Lois Lane” as a meteorologist, or “weather girl.” “Lex Luthor,” who was rebranded “Luther Lux,” had a headquarters that was “protected by a mirrored maze.” On 24 Feb 1976, a DV news item announced that Robert Benton, David Newman, and his wife, Leslie Newman, had been hired to rewrite Puzo’s script. According to NYT, the writers restored Superman’s familiar elements, while heightening the special effects on Krypton and baby “Kal-El’s” journey to Earth. Unbeknown to the Salkinds, Benton and David Newman had worked on a 1966 Broadway musical adaptation of the comic and were familiar with the story. When Benton later left the project to write and direct The Late Show (1977, see entry), the Newmans worked on “six or seven rewrites,” as well as the script to the sequel, Superman II (1981, see entry), which was to be filmed at the same time. Although a 1 Aug 1977 Time article stated that Tom Mankiewicz was hired to polish both scripts during principal photography, he is credited onscreen as a creative consultant, not a writer.
       While a 9 Aug 1975 LAT article reported that Peter Yates, Alan Pakula, Irwin Allen, Ken Russell, Maximilian Schell, and Roman Polanski were being considered for director, the 30 Oct 1975 DV announced that Guy Hamilton was hired to direct. According to LAT, the picture was budgeted at $15 million, but the figure jumped to $20 million when the film and its sequel were scheduled to be shot “back-to-back,” as reported in the 5 Apr 1976 New York. An Oct 1977 Sundancer article noted that the Salkinds had applied the strategy of photographing a film and its sequel at the same time during the production of The Three Musketeers (1974, see entry) and The Four Musketeers (1975, see entry), but actors were infuriated when they were only paid for one film. In the aftermath, a “Salkind Clause” in actors’ contracts was established “for the first time in industry history,” stipulating that “an actor’s services” were “for one film only.” The budget continued to increase throughout production; while the 27 Nov 1978 Time reported that the film was made for $35 million, a Dec 1978 Los Angeles article estimated the cost at $50 million. According to an 8 Jul 1987 Var article, the escalating costs of special effects and reshoots caused by a change in directors pushed the budget into the $70 to $80 million range. In 1981, producer Pierre Spengler went on the record to state that the combined budgets of the film and its sequel totaled $109 million.

       After a two-year casting process, according to production notes, a 5 May 1976, Var news item announced that “unconfirmed but reliable” sources revealed Burt Reynolds as the next Superman. However, several months later, an 8 Jul 1975 DV news item noted that following actors were being considered for the starring role: Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, and Al Pacino. The Aug 1976 edition of Cinemaphile stated that Ryan O’Neal and Terrance Hill were rumored to be in the running for the lead role, while Marlon Brando had been cast as Superman’s father “Jor-El.” Brando’s salary was $2.25 million for “twelve days’ work,” according to Time. As casting continued, the 9 Sep 1976 Beverly Hills Post reported that James Caan passed on the opportunity to play the title role because he did not want to work on two movies at the same time, noting that the Salkinds’ previous two-film shoot was decried by the Screen Actors Guild. Olympic gold-medalist Bruce Jenner was considered, but rejected for photographing too young, according to an 18 Sep 1976 LAT brief. The 15 Jan 1977 LAT stated that Robert Redford, Perry King, Sylvester Stallone, James Brolin, Neil Diamond, and college basketball player Denny Miller were also considered for the title role. The Dec 1978 issue of Los Angeles noted that Jon Voight was rejected because his celebrity was considered too distracting.
       On 15 Feb 1977, DV announced that relatively unknown New York City-based actor Christopher Reeve was selected for the role of Superman. While Time reported that Reeve trained with a “former Mr. Universe” to gain twenty pounds and add “two inches to his chest and to his biceps,” a 12 Dec 1978 Us Weekly article named Reeve’s trainer as David Prowse, who performed the role of “Darth Vadar” in Star Wars. (1977, see entry). Production notes reported that Reeve transformed his body with a daily regimen of ninety minutes of trampoline and two hours of weight lifting, supplemented with a high-protein diet. Us Weekly noted that Reeve devoted himself to weight training because he did not want to wear a “Styrofoam muscle suit under the Superman uniform.”
       A 19 Feb 1977 LAT news item reported that filmmakers’ search for the leading man had concluded and actresses Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange and Stockard Channing were under consideration for the role of “Lois Lane.” Los Angeles added Lesley Ann Warren, Susan Blakely and Deborah Raffin to the list of screen-tested actresses and on 9 Mar 1977, LAT announced that Anne Archer was hired. However, Margot Kidder was cast in the role shortly before principal photography began.
       As stated in the 8 Jul 1975 DV, the following actors were considered for the role of Lex Luthor: Yul Brynner, Jack Palance, Lee Marvin and Telly Savalas, but Gene Hackman was cast for approximately $ 2.25 million for three months’ work, according to Time. A 2 Aug 1977 HR news item announced the casting of two veteran actors from the 1948 Superman serial. While actress Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in the serial, was cast in the role of Lois Lane’s mother and Kirk Alyn, who played Superman, was cast as Lane’s father, neither actor or role is credited onscreen.
       Although a 30 Oct 1975 DV news item announced that principal photography was scheduled to begin 29 Feb 1976 in Los Angeles, CA, the production start date was pushed back several times. On 1 Sep 1976, Var stated that filming would begin early 1977 at studios in Italy and then move to locations in Australia and the U.S. However, Brando was not welcome in Italy after his “obscenity conviction” resulting from Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1972 French-Italian film, Last Tango in Paris, and the producers were forced to change locations to Pinewood/Shepperton Studios in England, according to a 3 Nov 1976 DV brief. In turn, the switch created problems for Guy Hamilton, who maintained a “tax exile” status in England that prohibited him from remaining in the country for longer than thirty days. When the director opted to maintain his exemption from taxes and left the project, Richard Donner was hired to replace him, as announced in a 5 Nov 1976 DV news item. On 16 Feb 1977, Var reported that the production start date was scheduled for 28 Mar 1977, with shooting to occupy “eight of the nine stages at Shepperton Studios,” but Los Angeles stated that principal photography did not begin until Apr 1976. On the first day of filming, Brando performed a lengthy monologue in one take, despite suffering from a cold, 105-degree heat under the stage lights, and a thirty-pound costume, according to production notes. Superman was filmed over two-years in locations including New York City, Gallup, NM, Washington, D.C., Alberta, Canada, and England’s Pinewood Studios. On 2 Aug 1977, DV reported that the production was scheduled spend five weeks in Calgary, Canada, shooting “special effects at missile sites” and an HR article published the same day stated that sequences “depicting Lois Lane’s childhood on the farm” were also shot in Calgary. No such scenes of Lane’s childhood appear in the film.
       According to the 27 Nov 1978 Time article, production designer John Barry had eleven weeks to “design and build Krypton.” Barry based his ideas on “a book about crystal photography,” which displayed “futuristic shapes such a planet might contain.”
       The 1 Aug 1977 Time article stated that Reeve had twenty-five different costumes, including approximately six capes specifically designed for “standing, sitting, flying and coming in for a landing.” The flying cape was “stretched out with wires” so that “it appeared to be billowing in the wind.” A 100-foot crane with wires lifted Reeve fifty feet in the air to simulate flying in some sequences. Los Angeles reported that the five-minute sequence of Superman flying Lois around the New York City skyline took three months to film. The “aerial ballet” was filmed in close up from “every conceivable angle” without doubles or stunt people.
       Both DV and HR reported huge box-office earnings following the film’s release. According to a 19 Dec 1978 DV article, the film set a record for “the third highest opening weekend domestic box-office figures in film history” behind Jaws 2 (1978, see entry) and Grease (1978, see entry), earning $7, 465,343 in 501 theaters. A brief in the 26 Dec 1978 HR stated that the film earned a “record-breaking” $12,044,352 after its first week of domestic release. Three weeks later, on 8 Jan 1979, DV reported that the film continued its earning streak of $47,333,567 from 805 prints, marking a new industry high. A Warner Bros. press release in AMPAS library files announced that the film earned $64,423,042 at 821 theaters in thirty-three days. According to the 8 Jul 1987 Var article, Alexander Salkind claimed he was in debt $15 million despite the film and its sequel’s huge revenues from worldwide and ancillary markets.
       Review were mostly positive. On 13 Dec 1978, DV praised the “delightful” performances of Reeve, Kidder, Hackman, Valerie Perrine and Ned Beatty and the expertise of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, production designer Barry and the “bold score” of John Williams. A NYT review found Reeve and Kidder “charming,” and the performances of the supporting cast high caliber. Brando was praised for capturing both humor and gravitas in his performance. The special effects were recognized for being “mostly very good.” While the 25 Dec 1978 Village Voice noted that the film’s charm hinged on Kidder’s “fully articulated character,” the 8 Jan 1979 New York criticized the film for being a “mishmash of styles and moods.” The 15 Dec 1978 LAT stated that the film was hampered by a weak script and found Superman’s flying repetitive.
       As noted in a 3 Apr 1980 LAT article, several legal and financial difficulties emerged as the film was released. During its intensive, $7 million promotional campaign, Warner Bros. sold the picture “sight unseen” to 750 U.S. theaters; however, Alexander Salkind needed to compensate his backers and requested that Warner Bros. pay $15 million “to purchase additional distribution rights for ‘certain foreign territories,’” implying that he would withhold the negative as leverage. According to LAT, the “additional distribution rights” were worth only a “fraction” of Salkind’s asking price, but Warner Bros. was under pressure to make the film available to exhibitors by the 15 Dec 1978 opening. When Salkind reminded the studio that his contract stipulated a 31 Dec 1978 release date and he was legally entitled to keep the negative until that time, Warner Bros. agreed, ultimately recouping their losses and more; the film reportedly grossed as much as $60 million overseas at the time of the article. Arguing that he had initially “undersold” the picture’s foreign distribution rights, Salkind denied that he used the film as “ransom.”
       Shortly after the Warner Bros. deal was signed, Salkind was arrested in Switzerland for allegedly stealing $20 million from a German company owned by William Foreman, a Los Angeles theater mogul, but Salkind won immunity by exploiting his credentials as a Costa Rican “diplomatic attaché.” In an ongoing civil complaint, Foreman accused Salkind of forcing the German company to embezzle funds to benefit “Salkind-controlled firms” and the alleged misappropriations were to be compensated to Foreman with twenty-five percent of the producer’s net gross from Superman. The criminal case was dropped and a settlement ensued, but the details were not publically recorded. However, Salkind told LAT that he agreed to pay Foreman $23.4 million in a “buy-out” of Foreman’s share of the film.
       A 28 Jan 1979 LAHExam article reported that Mario Puzo filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on 11 Nov 1978, alleging that Alexander Salkind’s Panamanian company, Film Trust, had violated his contract by failing to deliver “a detailed statement breaking down the cost of production ninety days after the movie’s completion.” Puzo argued that this statement would allow him to be properly compensated for his five percent share of the film’s gross. In addition, the suit maintained that the Salkinds improperly refused to pay Puzo a percentage of the film’s foreign gross, and illegally published portions of Puzo’s screenplay without his permission.
       On 13 Dec 1978, two days before the film’s release, Marlon Brando sued the Salkinds for $50 million, arguing that the producers orchestrated and carried out “a fraudulent scheme to withhold a substantial portion of… revenues.” As Brando’s contract awarded him approximately sixteen percent of the film’s box office gross worldwide, he maintained that he would be denied his share of the assets. However, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge rejected Brando’s petition to prevent the defendants from distributing monies accrued from the film’s distribution until a proper “accounting of revenues” had been made, as noted in a 3 Jan 1979 Var news item. A 13 Sep 1981 LAT article stated that Brando signed his contract without full disclosure; the Salkinds had vested film’s distribution rights in Export, a Swiss company owned by a “longtime friend,” who was granted “50% interest in eventual profits.” Arguing that Brando would not have agreed to the deal if he were privy to this information, the suit also contended that Warner Bros. “embarked on a program” of guarantees, payments and shares to investors “knowing full well the precarious financial position of the entire Superman venture.” Ultimately, the studio gained creative and financial control over the Superman series, negating any earlier financial agreements between Brando and the film’s producers. Brando’s suit alleged that Warner Bros. did not intend to compensate the actor until it “had repaid to itself its investment in the project,” including distribution costs and “every percentage point of its whopping participation in the movies’ revenues.”
       Salkind denied any wrongdoing or participation in premeditated schemes to defraud Brando and Puzo. The outcomes of the lawsuits have not been determined.
       A Warner Bros. press release in AMPAS library files stated the film would be honored with a Golden Halo Award on 7 Feb 1979 by the Southern California Motion Picture Council, a nonprofit organization promoting the best in motion pictures. The organization cited the film as a ”thoroughly delightful all-family, all-entertainment gem of a film.” The Council also recognized the film for its “outstanding photography, music, casting and a beautifully done story by Mario Puzo.”
       The film received three Academy Award nominations, including Film Editing, Music (Original Score), and Sound. Superman received an honorary Special Achievement Award from the Academy for Visual Effects. Additionally, John Williams received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture.
       Superman ranked #26 on AFI’s Hero List for the 100 Years… 100 Heroes & Villians television show in 2003.
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Beverly Hills Post   9 Sep 1976.   
Cinemaphile   Aug 1976.   
Daily Variety   8 Jul 1975.   
Daily Variety   30 Oct 1975.   
Daily Variety   24 Feb 1976.   
Daily Variety   3 Nov 1976.   
Daily Variety   5 Nov 1976.   
Daily Variety   15 Feb 1977.   
Daily Variety   2 Aug 1977.   
Daily Variety   13 Dec 1978   p. 3, 12.
Daily Variety   19 Dec 1978   p. 1, 22.
Daily Variety   8 Jan 1979   p.1, 30.
Daily Variety   9 Feb 1979   p. 1, 24.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 1977.   
Hollywood Reporter   13 Dec 1978   p. 16, 24.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Dec 1978.   
Los Angeles   Dec 1978   pp. 244-249, 405, 444.
LAHExam   28 Jan 1979   Section E, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times   9 Aug 1975.   
Los Angeles Times   18 Sep 1976.   
Los Angeles Times   15 Jan 1977.   
Los Angeles Times   19 Feb 1977.   
Los Angeles Times   9 Mar 1977.   
Los Angeles Times   24 Aug 1977.   
Los Angeles Times   15 Dec 1978   Section IV, p. 1, 18.
Los Angeles Times   29 Dec 1978.   
Los Angeles Times    3 Apr 1980   p. 1, 12-15.
Los Angeles Times   13 Sep 1981.   
New York   5 Apr 1976.   
New York   8 Jan 1979.   
New York Times   15 Dec 1978   p. 15.
New York Times   22 Dec 1978.   
New York Times   29 Dec 1978.   
Publishers Weekly   29 Mar 1976.   
Sundancer   Oct 1977.   
Time   14 Apr 1975.   
Time   1 Aug 1977   p. 64-66.
Time   27 Nov 1978   p. 60-61.
Us   12 Dec 1978   p. 24-27.
Variety   5 May 1976.   
Variety   1 Sep 1976.   
Variety   16 Feb 1977.   
Variety   13 Dec 1978   p. 24.
Variety   3 Jan 1979.   
Variety   8 Jul 1987   p. 32.
Village Voice   25 Dec 1978   p. 46.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.