Joan Alexander

Secret Agent (1943, Seymour Kneitel)

Secret Agent opens with this really exciting car chase. Clark (Bud Collyer) has just called in and been told to get to work on the right story, only then a car crashes through the drug store he’s in and so he hops on the back of it as it chases another car. Then the cops start chasing the car Clark’s on; he pushes up a thug’s gun hand so he can’t shoot at the cops. The whole thing ends with a female secret agent getting away and Clark apparently unconscious and captured by saboteurs.

The chief saboteur has a monocle and a Hitler mustache. It’s unclear how he manages to get around in the United States without people wondering what he’s up to… oh, and a German accent.

So most of the cartoon has to do with the secret agent (voiced by Joan Alexander in a less than impressive performance–she’s got one monologue and it’s flat) trying to get to the airport. The cops are going to give her an escort, but the saboteur ring ambushes them and mows down a bunch of cops before the agent gets through.

But the shootout ambush was just a red herring, the real ambush is at a swing bridge. The secret agent ends up on the bridge’s mechanics, in danger of being crushed. Luckily, when the bad guys call the Hitler boss guy, he and his guys get ready to go and lock up Clark before leaving. Once he’s safely in a broom closet, Clark finally changes into the long johns and saves the day.

Shame he didn’t do anything to save those shot down coppers. Because he was either unconscious or just didn’t think he could break the ropes and take out the guards? Not very super.

There’s some lame jingoism, which the cartoon could’ve gotten away with as cute if it were any good (that opening with the car chase is decent stuff though) and for some reason a lot of focus on the secret agent’s shapely legs.

Secret Agent is a stinker.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Seymour Kneitel; screenplay by Carl Meyer, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Otto Feuer and Steve Muffati; music by Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Secret Agent), Julian Noa (Perry White), and Jackson Beck (Nazis); narrated by Beck.


Jungle Drums (1943, Dan Gordon)

Sitting through the first third of Jungle Drums, I kept hoping the cartoon would keep the African natives in silhouette. I had zero confidence they wouldn’t do some racist caricature and, at least in silhouette, there would be specifics. The natives do get out of silhouette and they are racist caricatures, but… at least there’s no real activity from the natives? It could be a lot worse. The cartoon could go two streams of racist, it just goes one. Yay?

So the story is these Nazis are pretending to be… witch doctors or something? They hide their identities by wearing white robes. Yes, that kind of white robe. Lois (Joan Alexander) and Clark (Bud Collyer) are in Africa for some reason, each taking an individual ride with a pilot to somewhere. Doesn’t matter. Lois’s plane crashes. She gets captured, tied to a stake, burned alive. Lois takes long enough to burn (she just passes out from the heat) Clark can save her. He’s not worried about his pilot seeing him change into his long johns after parachuting out with no warning.

Then it’s Superman versus Nazis in white robes. Then Hitler’s in it.

The setup of the temple–while the natives are silhouetted–is visually striking. The rest of it is less. Orestes Calpini and H.C. Ellison’s animation is mostly competent, Gordon’s direction just isn’t compelling. He does all right with exposition and lead-up, but has very few ideas once the action starts.

Though maybe it’s because the action is more about bombers and conveys and upset Hitler than Superman?

Jungle Drums is an object lesson in the perils of propaganda media. Though Alexander does almost get a good part. When the Nazis are interrogating her, it seems like it might go somewhere good. Unfortunately, it goes to pot.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dan Gordon; screenplay by Robert Little and Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Orestes Calpini and H.C. Ellison; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Julian Noa (German Commander), and Jack Mercer (Lt. Fleming); narrated by Jackson Beck.


The Mummy Strikes (1943, Izzy Sparber)

If it weren’t for the needlessly racist finish from Lois (Joan Alexander), The Mummy Strikes would probably get a pass. Maybe. The action isn’t particularly impressive, but the Egyptian history lesson is pretty cool. Even if it’s all about young King Tush.

Jay Morton’s script is (mostly) strong–it, Sparber’s direction, and animator Graham Place and Myron Waldman’s backgrounds are the highlights. An Egyptologist is murdered, his assistant is charged. Another professor calls the Daily Planet for Clark (Bud Collyer) to come and hear the truth.

The professor–Jackson Beck–is long-winded and gives Clark the whole history of King Tush, which is remarkably similar to King Tut but with giant guards and some other embellishments. Turns out the dead professor tried to get into the sarcophagus, ignoring the curse. There’s also something about him working to revive the mummified giant guards. Doesn’t matter. There’s just a lot of great Egyptian backgrounds (the museum’s recreating the tomb) and Beck’s exposition delivery is solid. Even with the nonsense.

Lois is also at the museum–she snuck after Clark because he kind of scooped her, or at least was a jerk about it. She’s sadly immaterial. Clark’s the one who sets off the sarcophagus trap, which revives the giant guards. Whose skin inexplicably gets darker the more evil they get? Like the guards of the hieroglyphic backdrops don’t match the revived ones.

The resulting action sequence with Superman fighting the giant guards is unsatisfactory–the detail isn’t great on the animation, it’s the detail on the Egyptian-themed stuff (and the mystery angle at the beginning)–and there’s actually no resolution whatsoever given the revived mummified guards at the end. Just Lois’s joke, which could be done without the racist part yet… they felt the need.

So, ew.

But the first half is good, even if it’s obvious they’re not going to be able to get anywhere with it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Izzy Sparber; screenplay by Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Graham Place and Myron Waldman; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane/Jane Hogan), and Jackson Beck (Dr. Wilson); narrated by Beck.


Destruction Inc. (1942, Izzy Sparber)

Destruction Inc. is nearly a success. It’s frustratingly not, particularly because the only thing holding it back is the animation itself. Thomas Moore and Dave Tendlar lack detail on the action, lack detail on the background, and don’t composite the two well. But Sparber’s direction is fantastic. There are some great action sequences in Destruction, they just don’t look good.

The cartoon has Lois (Joan Alexander) going undercover at the munitions plant and discovering a saboteur ring. Bad acting from Julian Noa on the villain doesn’t help things. All of the henchmen are poorly acted as well. And then there’s the pervy news boy, Louis (Jack Mercer), who gets a desperately unfunny bit after ogling Lois.

But still. The sequence where Lois is on the run from the goons, even if she doesn’t have a face in long shots, is great.

Superman shows up after the goons catch her and put her in a torpedo. Saboteurs in munitions plants have all the access.

And even though the Superman saving Lois and fighting goons sequence is, again, beautifully directed, the animation is just the pits. The cel and background compositing just gets worse during as the cartoon goes along, even if overall it’s far from bad… it’s just not good.

Jay Morton’s plotting and pacing are great. His attempts at humor are not. They drag. Sparber doesn’t direct them well either. So Sparber’s got the action down, he’s got some of the expository down, not the humor. And no one’s got the animation detail.

It’s too bad. Destruction Inc. should’ve worked. It nearly gives Alexander a good part too. The animation really sinks it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Izzy Sparber; screenplay by Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Thomas Moore and Dave Tendlar; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Jack Mercer (Louis), and Julian Noa (Chief Thug); narrated by Jackson Beck.


Eleventh Hour (1942, Dan Gordon)

While Eleventh Hour posits Superman as some kind of American war hero–he’s in Yokohama doing all sorts of damage, usually to ships–the cartoon actually portrays him as a big doofus who’s more lucky than anything else.

Clark (Bud Collyer) and Lois (Joan Alexander) are under house arrest. In a hotel. In Yokohama. Almost a year after Pearl Harbor. With no explanation. There’s sabotage going on, which is confusing the Japanese soldiers (personified with some exceptionally racist caricatures), and Lois thinks it might be Superman. Of course, the viewer knows it’s Superman because Hour’s already shown him sneaking back into Clark’s hotel room (and replacing the window bars).

Lois and Clark have been talking through their adjoining wall, with Clark apparently always getting back just in time to answer her questions about the latest act of sabotage. But then one night, knowing she’s looking out her window for Superman, Superman flies past. And she knocks on the wall to tell Clark only a guard gets her. So they post signs about how she’ll be executed following Superman’s next act of sabotage. She’s a hostage.

They post the signs everywhere.

Only Superman doesn’t pay any attention to them. Not when he goes out the next night, not when he’s Clark Kent during the day (presumably). Next night, Superman blows up a ship or something and gets trapped under some steel beams because he’s actually really bad at understanding… gravity? So when the Japanese are about to execute Lois, he’s just lifting himself out and reading the sign for the first time.

Even for wartime propaganda, Eleventh Hour is pretty dumb. Willard Bowsky and William Henning’s animation isn’t particularly good either. Ditto Gordon’s direction. Though Gordon does understand iconic shots, he just can’t pace them or make them work in the context of the cartoon.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dan Gordon; screenplay by Carl Meyer and Bill Turner, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Willard Bowsky and William Henning; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), and Jack Mercer (Japanese soldiers); narrated by Jackson Beck.


Showdown (1942, Izzy Sparber)

The showdown in Showdown is… not much of a showdown. A hapless–if nimble-fingered–thief dresses up like Superman and commits a bunch of crimes. He doesn’t do it on his own, he does it because his boss commands it. His boss looks a little like Edward G. Robinson. No, there’s no showdown between Superman and Edward G. Robinson.

Unfortunately for the fake Superman, when he goes to hit the opera, Clark (Bud Collyer) and Lois (Joan Alexander) are covering the story. Lois tears the S off fake Superman’s chest–guess on his planet it means s.o.l.–and goes to call the cops while Clark changes into his long-johns and goes after the thief. There’s a little showdown on the roof of the opera house, where Superman basically knocks the guy off the roof before saving him.

Superman flies the impostor to his boss, Lois and the cops follow from below. Somehow they’re able to keep following even though Superman has already landed. Edward G. Robinson has Superman outsmarted though, thanks to a trap door and a pit. So there’s a delay in Superman catching the bad guys.

There are a couple good shots in the cartoon and some great background design, but it’s pretty tepid stuff. The Superman action is boring and poorly lighted. The frequent logic jumps are… well, hard to get worked up about because who cares. Sparber’s direction is better than the animation.

Superman terrorizing the petty thief off the roof is something though.

Not even the Edward G. Robinson boss is amusing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Izzy Sparber; screenplay by Jay Morton, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Steve Muffati and Graham Place; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Jack Mercer (Office Boy/Fake Superman), and Julian Noa (The Boss); narrated by Jackson Beck.


Japoteurs (1942, Seymour Kneitel)

Outside the racism, there’s not much to distinguish Japoteurs. There’s a lot of potential for the finale, when Superman (Bud Collyer) has to stop a crashing airplane–the world’s biggest bomber, which Japanese saboteurs have stolen and intend to take to Tokyo–but it’s not an impressive sequence. It’s somewhat thorough, but not impressive.

The plane itself is kind of impressive. It’s big enough to house fighter jets and is taller than buildings. But the cartoon doesn’t do anything with it–save one of the shots of it on the ground at the end and that shot is too little too late. It’s also competent, just not exciting.

Lois (Joan Alexander) and Clark are on board getting a press tour at the beginning of the cartoon; when they’re supposed to leave, Lois stays. Good for everyone she did because after the saboteurs take over, she’s the one who calls it in, which eventually leads to Superman getting involved.

The animation is okay in spots. Not so much with the Superman versus saboteur fisticuffs, but director Kneitel does have a couple decent shots and the animation works in them. Overall, it’s rather mediocre. The villains are all racist caricatures; well, both. There are three saboteurs but two look identical. That bit isn’t the cartoon’s racism coming through, it’s the animators’ laziness. All the guys on the ground look the same, pretty much like Clark Kent (without the glasses). Or if they look a little different, they look the same as the guy who’s two Clark Kent clones away.

Given the cultural ick value of the cartoon, it’s almost unfortunate it’s so darn blah. If it were godawful, it’d be something. If it were technically outstanding, it’d be something. Instead, it’s low middling. Bill Turner and Carl Meyer’s story has got its time constraints, sure, but they still manage to disappoint.

The whole thing disappoints or fails to impress.

Plus ick.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Seymour Kneitel; screenplay by Bill Turner and Carl Meyer, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Nick Tafuri and Myron Waldman; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman/Saboteur), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), and Jack Mercer (Press Tour Guide); narrated by Jackson Beck.


Terror on the Midway (1942, Dave Fleischer)

Terror on the Midway has some mediocre animation, some bad animation, and some excellent design and direction. It’s also got a gratuitous Superman butt shot, which angles to show his curves in the red tights. It’s a weird shot. Especially since it keeps angling.

The cartoon starts with Clark (Bud Collyer) mocking Lois (Joan Alexander) for being stuck covering the circus. He then ditches her to go back to the paper, which isn’t revealed for a while because Midway’s busy with this adorable circus monkey releasing Gigantic the Gorilla, who causes the resulting Terror.

Now, there are circus attendants who try to tame the gorilla; they fail. They also all look exactly the same, basically like Clark without his glasses. When the cops show up, they too look exactly the same. As the circus attendants. The only variety in the character design is in these three little kids who are in danger. Lois saves one of them, which sets the gorilla on her trail.

After the gorilla has wrecked enough havoc to cause all the circus-goers to flee and loose some of the animals. And maybe kill three of the elephants. Midway could care less about animal cruelty. Some of the later sequences kind of revel in it.

Clark comes back to the circus right after he gets to the paper and somehow hears all the people running away. He still takes a cab because he’s not too worried. When he gets there, he tries to help an attendant hold down a loose elephant but can’t. Because, apparently, he doesn’t have any super-strength when he’s in his civvies.

Eventually he changes into the long-johns, beats up some terrified animals, and saves Lois. It takes him a while to save Lois, however, because he can’t quite best the gorilla. The gorilla’s apparently more powerful than two locomotives.

The animation gets shoddier as the cartoon goes on–though still with some great direction–with a particularly unsatisfactory finale. For a while it seems like the inventiveness (Lois the hero) and the design (the circus is visually stunning) might carry Midway, but no.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Jay Morton and Dan Gordon, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Orestes Calpini and James Davis; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; produced by Max Fleischer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), and Jack Mercer (Barker); narrated by Jackson Beck.


Electric Earthquake (1942, Dave Fleischer)

Outside the racist–though not exceptionally racist all things considered–characterization of the villain, a Native American engineer who’s going to level Manhattan because it was stolen from his people, Electric Earthquake is pretty much great. Well, it’s outstanding. For what it does, it’s outstanding.

So there’s the opening, where only Clark Kent (Bud Collyer) thinks the Native American guy has a point–while Julian Noa’s Perry White is a piece of crap, apparently–but neither think the guy is actually going to do anything. Only Lois (Joan Alexander) thinks to trail him back to the docks, where he catches her and takes her down to his undersea laboratory.

The cartoon has already introduced the laboratory, complete with the wires going to the various parts of the ocean floor so the engineer can shock an earthquake. And he does. Manhattan falls apart. Cracks in the streets, skyscrapers crumbling, the Daily Planet having a big chunk fall away. And no nonsense regarding Superman–he’s in action right away (well, after the disaster starts).

And he saves the day. With some complications and some troubles.

There are a couple things not animated well, but otherwise it’s all phenomenal work. Good direction from Fleischer. Some of the animation doesn’t quite match, but it’s still good. The rocky parts are in the explosions. They’re lacking in detail and size.

And, story-wise, it’s not like the engineer turns out to be some great villain or even an interesting one. He doesn’t beat up Lois, which is nice, though he does leave her to drown in his getaway. He’s almost sympathetic.

The Superman action, including his various troubles with electric wiring, collapsing buildings, and just having enough breath, is great. The ending is fun too.

The fun might be the best thing about Earthquake. Even though it’s obviously full of catastrophic danger, Fleischer and his animators enjoy the heck out of Superman’s response to it.

Though Lois gets a particularly bad part. She’s present for almost everything and gets no reaction other than silent fear.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Seymour Kneitel and Izzy Sparber, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Steve Muffati and Arnold Gillespie; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; produced by Max Fleischer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), Julian Noa (Perry White), and Jackson Beck (Lenape scientist); narrated by Beck.


The Magnetic Telescope (1942, Dave Fleischer)

The Magnetic Telescope is about a power-mad astronomer who builds an observatory with a giant magnet on top so he can attract meteors and comets to the Earth for further study. The device, in attracting meteors, is an obvious public safety issue but the astronomer doesn’t care. He’s willing to let thousands die so he can observe a comet.

The cops try to stop him, but he locks himself in and they have to try to destroy the giant magnet’s supporting machinery. They do, but it then means the astronomer can’t control the comet he’s brought to Earth. So he does a run for it.

Lois (Joan Alexander) is the only reporter covering the story. The cops aren’t very worried about her. She ends up trapped. Luckily, when Clark Kent (Bud Collyer) takes a cab over to save her, a fragment of the comet hits the cab and he decides to save the day as Superman. Though his plan isn’t initially much brighter than hitting the comet, which both times knocks him out.

Magnetic is too visually tepid to be exciting. The animation is rushed and lacks detail, the story is weak. Weak might actually be a compliment. The comet fragments hitting the city sequence is all boring–there’s a definite lack of detail throughout, but when not even the set pieces get any attention, well… then there’s nothing to Magnetic Telescope.

The end “it’s all thanks to Superman” tag would almost be amusing if Clark weren’t such a wet blanket. It’s hard to get excited about a Superman too dense to know he can’t stop a comet–and he appears to fly towards it, not jump–not to mention when Clark takes a cab to help possibly mortally injured Lois.

Magnetic it ain’t. But who knows what better animation would’ve done for it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Dave Fleischer; screenplay by Dan Gordon and Carl Meyer, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; animated by Thomas Moore and Myron Waldman; music by Winston Sharples and Sammy Timberg; produced by Max Fleischer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Bud Collyer (Clark Kent/Superman/Mad Astronomer), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane), and Julian Noa (Perry White); narrated by Jackson Beck.


Scroll to Top