Sunday, May 3, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: Superman the Movie

The Story: "Superman" had not been filmed for some 25 years, since the death by gunshot of George Reeves, the television Superman of the 50's. His Superman was business-like and all seriousness until a crisis was over and even then he was scrupulously polite and formal. He was the Superman in the grey flannel suit.

It was like he was from another planet, or something.

When the time came for finding a new "Superman," a massive talent search was started with some of the most prominent (and unlikeliest names...uh, Robert Redford?) being considered. But it all came down to a skinny, callow kid more interested in stage work than movies, who publicly fretted about being type-cast. Consulting a veteran of that problem, Sean Connery, he got this advice: "First make sure you're good enough to get type-cast!" And from one of his stage co-stars, Katherine Hepburn, he got this advice: "Christophuh! Sparkle!"

He took their advice. Reeve's Superman can be just as formal as Reeves,' but there is an air of self-awareness and playfulness that was never there before. This Superman clearly enjoys being the strongest guy on the planet, and in this scene takes a certain delight in being able to bowl over the usually brassy Lois Lane (Margot Kidder's ability to convincingly swing from confident chick to gooey debutante is what got her the part), and his casualness in this "interview" with her is ingratiating. He even makes the cape work.

But there's also a dark side to this Superman; he's manipulative and a there's a definite whiff of hubris. Slouching in one of Lois' balcony chairs, he looks like a football player showing-off after a big game (which water-boy Clark Kent never got to experience), something that Kal-El clearly relishes. He enjoys the obvious flirtations with Lois, and pushes it just enough to get a rise out of her, leaving her flustered and a bit goofy. He literally whisks her off her feet, figuratively and, as the scene ends, literally, for a tour of the city and a little dancing among the stars. It's a different Lois and Clark scene than anyone was used to—romantic and cute, and innocent and just a little smutty (they spend far too much time concentrating on Lois Lane's panties). It brushes the cob-webs off the cliches, and enriches the legacy, letting you see the dramatic potentials of the original concepts.

In that way, more than any special effect could convey, Superman—the original movie—flies.

The Set-Up: After being rescued by "a friend" as he calls himself, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) recieves a note at her reporter job at the Daily Planet from the still-unchristened "Superman" (Christopher Reeve) to meet at 8 o'clock at her convenient penthouse apartment.

Lois Lane: 8 o'clock. He says 8 o'clock. 8 o'clock. Huh. Some friend. Story of my life. Cinderella bites the dust. (She pours herself a drink. View of her penthouse as we fly over it. Superman alights on her balcony)
Superman: Good evening, Miss Lane.
Lois: (spins around, surprised): Uh!...Hi!
Superman: Oh, I'm sorry, did you have plans this evening?
Lois: Oh! Oh, this old thing, no!
Superman: Well, listen, it's no trouble at all for me to come back later if...
Lois: No! Don't move! Um, or, uh...sure, you can move. Just...don't fly away, alright?
Superman: (steps down) Sorry to, uh, drop in on you like this, Miss Lane, but, I've been thinking, you know, there must be a lot of questions about me that people in the world might like to know the answers to, and...
Lois: Yes, uh...uh...(she goes to light a cigarette)
Superman: Uh, you really shouldn't smoke, you know, Miss Lane...
Lois: Don't tell me, lung cancer, right? (He uses his "X-ray vision")
Superman: Well, not yet, thank goodness.
Lois: Um, would you like a glass of wine?
Superman: Uh, no, no thanks. I never drink when I fly...Nice place. 

Lois: Oh, thank you, thank you...uh...should we get started with the...interview.
(He holds her chair for her to sit)
Lois: Oh! Uh, thank you. Well, uh, let's start with your vital statistics...are you married?
Superman: (slightly taken aback) No, I'm not.
Lois: Do you have a girlfriend?
Superman: No, I don't, Miss Lane, but if I did, you'd be the first to know about it. (A beat, two beats, as they lock eyes)
Lois: ...Huh. How old are you?
Superman: Over 21.
Lois: Over...? Oh, I get it. You don't want anyone to know how old...'kay
Lois:...and how big are you--er, how TALL are you?
Superman: Uh, about 6-4.
Lois: And how much do you weigh?
Superman: Around 2...225.
Lois: 2-225?
(He shrugs)
Lois: Hmm. I assume then that all the rest of your bodily functions are normal?
Superman: Sorry, beg your pardon?
Lois: Well, putting it delicately....
Superman: Hm?
Lois: Do
Superman: Uh...yes. Yes I do. When I'm hungry.
Lois: You do. Of course you do! (Laughs nervously and a little too much. She gets up from the table. He follows her) Well, then! Is it true...that you can see through anything?
Superman: Yes, I can. Pretty much.
Lois:(as she asks she walks behind a large decorative planter) And that you're totally impervious to pain?
Superman: Well, so far...
Lois: What color underwear am I wearing?
Superman: (looks) Hmm.
Lois: Oh, I'm sorry, I embarrassed you, didn't I?
Superman: Oh, no!
Lois: I did, I did...
Superman: Oh, no, Miss Lane, it's just that this planter must be made of lead.
Lois: Yes it is, so?
Superman: Well, you see, I sort of have a problem seeing through lead.
Lois: Oh, that's interesting! "Problem seeing through..." Do you have a first name?
Superman: What, you mean like "Ralph?" or something?*
Lois: No, I mean, uh...
Superman: Pink!
Lois: ...huh?
Superman: Pink. (She blushes) I'm sorry, Miss Lane, I didn't mean to embarrass you!
Lois: Oh, you didn't embarrass's your background...where do you hail from?
Superman: Well, that's a little hard to explain, actually. You see, I'm from...well, pretty far away. Another galaxy, in fact. I come from a planet called Krypton.
Lois: Huh?
Superman: Krypton.
Lois: Oh! Krypton!! With a C...R...I...?
Superman: Uh, no...actually. Actually, it's Krypton with a K-r-y...p-t-o-n.
Lois: you like pink?
Superman: ....I like pink very much, Lois.
Lois:(smiles, then it drops): Why are you...?
Superman: I'm...sorry?
Lois: I mean...why...why are you here? There must be a reason for you to be here.
Superman: Yes.
Lois: M-hm?
Superman: I'm here to fight for truth and justice and the American way.
Lois(shocked, laughs): You're going to end up fighting every elected official in this country!
Superman(laughs): I'm sure you don't really mean that, Lois.
Lois: I don't believe this...
Superman: Lois?
Lois: Hmm?
Superman: I never lie.
Lois: Oh. (huh) Um...uh...Oh! Just how fast do you the way?
Superman: Oh, I don't know really. Ya know, I never really bothered to time myself...
Lois: No?
Superman: Say, why don't we find out?
Lois: And how do you propose we do that?
Superman: Take a ride with me?
Lois: You mean, I can fly?!
Superman: Well, actually I'd be handling the flying if that's okay....
Lois: This is utterly fantastic...
Superman: Well, wait, wait a minute, where are you going?
Lois: Are you serious?
Superman: Sure. What's the matter, don't you want to go? Okay. (takes her pad and pen) You won't need these.
Lois: I need a sweater, it must be pretty cold...
Superman: Aw, you'll be warm enough...Ready?
Lois: Clark....said that you're just the figment of someone's Peter Pan.
Superman: Clark...Uh...Who's that? Your boyfriend?
Lois: Clark? Oh, Clark! Oh, he's nothing, he's just a...
Superman: Peter Pan, huh?
Lois: Uh-huh.
Superman: Peter Pan flew with children, a fairy tale.
(They take off)


Words by Mario Puzo, Robert Benton, David Newman and Tom Mankiewicz

Pictures by Geoffrey Unsworth BSC and Richard Donner

Superman is available on DVD and Blu_ray from Warner Home Video.

* That line always gets a laugh, it's origins are from a fluffed line of Marlon Brando's early in the filming, when he stumbled on the name "Kal-El" and broke the scene, saying "...or Ralph, or whatever your name is..." The stumble can be seen for the first time on the Superman Returns DVD.

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