This M*A*S*H Cardinal was the first actor to play Superman in public

Ray Middleton's original Superman costume lacked a rather iconic detail.

There is a particularly emotional moment toward the end of the M*A*S*H episode "Blood Brothers."

It features Father Mulcahy giving an impassioned sermon on brotherhood just before introducing "His Eminence" Cardinal Reardon to speak to the camp.

Joining Father Mulcahy onstage, the Cardinal embraces the M*A*S*H priest warmly and says, "If I do say so, Father, you’re a tough act to follow."

While your eyes start to sweat during this scene, blink hard, and you can see in the austere Cardinal Reardon’s firm brow and set jaw the first actor to ever appear as Superman in public.

Ray Middleton was an actor who never really achieved much success in movies. But as a kid growing up in a small-town family that loved singing, he became a gifted performer who caught attention in theater productions and ended up cast in movies in the 1940s.

Just before he leapt to the big screen, though, Middleton famously appeared at "Superman Day" on July 3, 1939, at the New York World’s Fair.

According to the Des Moines Register in 2006, Middleton "made history as the legendary hero," becoming the first iteration of Superman to be introduced in real life to boys and girls.

If you’re a fan of the comic, you might laugh at how Middleton’s Superman costume came together, failing to depict the giant S on the hero’s chest.

What happened was that Middleton had been cast to play the "Man of Tomorrow" in the "World of Tomorrow" exhibit.

When the idea to host "Superman Day" was floated, they decided Middleton would make a fine Superman, too – they just needed to figure out what exactly Superman wears.

The Register reports: "Because the Superman costume was the first ever produced, no one was certain how it should look. The outfit Middleton wore during his personal appearance had Superman written across the chest field emblem, trunks that were on the large size, tights and lace-style boots."

After playing Superman, Middleton appeared in movies, including twice as the guy who loses the girl to John Wayne.

In the Fifties, he started appearing on television, and he could be glimpsed on hit shows through the mid-Eighties, with M*A*S*H one of his final major TV roles.

In 1984, Middleton passed away, following a career that newspapers said started because of his distinct singing voice and ability to do cartwheels and handsprings onstage.

Those talents made him the first Superman in history, and eventually a "Blood Brother" to Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H.

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ttenchantr 26 months ago
That's wonderful drawing of Superman by the late, great George Perez.
RobertM 26 months ago
He was also on "Too Close for Comfort", playing the wayward father of Ted Knight's character.
Cyn_Finnegan 26 months ago
The illustration of Superman was drawn by George Perez, who passed away last week. Please give credit where credit is due.
RichLorn 26 months ago
When I take my shirt off I reveal a big red "S" too. It stands for Senile.
JHP RichLorn 26 months ago
when I do that - it stands for 6 pack X4:)
Zip RichLorn 26 months ago
I can't remember what the S on my shirt stands for.
AgingDisgracefully 26 months ago
I remember that M*A*S*H character.
And his Harrumph of Power.
Popular with frauds everywhere.
trylon7 26 months ago
Superman Day at the New York World’s Fair was July 3, 1940, not 1939.
Andybandit 26 months ago
I wish one of Superman shows would go on after Svengoolie instead of sventunie. That show is lame.
PPZJD Andybandit 26 months ago
Agreed, I think I laughed three times during that whole show -- although I have to admit, they were pretty hard laughs! I think the only thing I really like about it is that Sventoonie at least shows different horror movies, for the most part...
LoveMETV22 Andybandit 26 months ago
Well they advertise(d) Sventoonie as a "Limited Run Series". Who knows what the "limit" is LOL. . Maybe you'll get lucky or your wish will come true.
Michael LoveMETV22 26 months ago
They can drop it and add a second Batman episode, so no weeklong cliff hangers.
JHP LoveMETV22 26 months ago
if it's labeled limited - in marketing-speak means 2 friggin years
LoveMETV22 JHP 26 months ago
Lets hope not LOL
LoveMETV22 Michael 26 months ago
They could. There are enough episodes. Even with 2 episodes it would take a year to run through the rotation.
CoreyC Andybandit 26 months ago
The George Reeves Superman is on Heroes and Icons on the weekends.
Catman 26 months ago
First, schmirst.
George Reeves will always be my Superman.
Honest Catman 26 months ago
Yes, Jim Reeves was my favorite too.
Catman Honest 26 months ago
George, not Jim, but yeah, he's the best.
RichLorn Catman 26 months ago
I don't know how many remember seeing the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940's. THAT has always been my favorite Superman!
Catman RichLorn 26 months ago
I love those cartoons. Really, any Max Fleischer is great.
LynCarceo Honest 26 months ago
George, not Jim
LoveMETV22 26 months ago
Interesting story. The image sounds like the Superman Day at the Worlds Fair in 1940. The S is not as iconic as the established Superman character.
justjeff LoveMETV22 26 months ago
Here's a screen shot from some color home movies, and the link to this footage on YouTube:
justjeff LoveMETV22 26 months ago
In the early days of Superman's existence, the "S' design varied wildly in letter form, coloring and shield shape...
justjeff justjeff 26 months ago
Here's some examples...
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