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John Rockwell, star of
The Adventures of Superboy

John Rockwell as Superboy

"I first studied acting with Agnes Moorehead at 20th Century Fox and then did a Playhouse 90 show as an extra.  Paul Newman was the star and he suggested to me that I go back to New York and study with Sandy Meisner.  It just so happened that Sandy once came out to see him, and I said, 'I want to be in this class.'  They said, 'We're only taking professionals,' but I talked my way into the class.  And who was in the class... Barbara Rush, John Erickson, Dyan Cannon and Terry Moore... a few people.  Before the Superboy pilot, I did a few things at ZIV, inluding Lockup, with MacDonald Carey.  I also studied at Warner Brothers.  They had an acting school.  Ty Hardin and I did a film together called As Young As You Are for Paramount.

"When Superboy was casting, I was on the lot working on a pilot called Time Out for Ginger.  As soon as I heard about the part being available, I went over and found out where the office was on a break.  I walked in and Whitney Ellsworth was playing gin rummy with the head of the studio.  I told him, 'You don't have to look any further.  I can fly.'  I was also a very good gin player at the time, so I said I would play the winner.  Whit won, so I started playing him and began winning.  At that point I more or less knew I had the job.  I did have to read a few lines, but I think I got the job because I was a good gin player.

"The Superboy costume was grey and brown.  Initially I didn't know why that was, but I was told that the costume photographed better that way because the pilot was going to be shot in black and white.  There were two costumes made.  They were both returned to Whit after filming and I don't know what happened to them.  The boots were suede.

"The total shooting time was three to four days, with the flying scenes done the following week.  When we were on location and I was about to go through the cabin wall, the crew wanted to make sure I was going through the right one, because they only built one fake wall.

"We shot a couple of things and I wasn't really happy with the way they came out.  I asked if we could do any reshoots and George Blair said, 'No, no.  Keep on going.  It's okay.'  I thought I could have done better on some things.

"A couple of times they had something for me to spring off of, but it looked phony.  So in the end, I just dove over the camera, which had been placed on the ground.  I could dive because I used to do a lot of gymnastics.

"When we were on location in Santa Monica there was a crowd of children around asking for autographs.  Some of the little kids asked me, 'How do you fly?  We want to see you fly!'  I didn't know what to say, so I asked Whit what to do.  He said that George Reeves used to say to the kids, 'If you touch me in the right spot, I'll fly.'  I laughed and went over and said the same thing to the kids.  Shortly thereafter, security roped off the streets so we could continue shooting.

"In order to do the flying scenes, they had me in a studio suspended by wires.  They made a torso cast that fit under my costume and I held my legs up myself.  There was no support.  The backgrounds were added later in a video production studio.  During the shooting, they would tell me, 'You're flying.  Now look down,' etc.

John Rockwell and his dog, from a 1961 newspaper story

"After seeing the finished pilot, everyone thought that the show was going to be sold.  I was told, 'You're going to be working a lot, so you'd better get some rest.'

"I had noticed that in the comics Superboy had a dog, so I began training my own dog to work on the show.  I taught him to walk on his hind legs and to jump out of a second story window into my arms.  He could also open and close doors.

"Some potential sponsors had been invited to the screening of the pilot episode.  One of them was Wheaties, and they wanted to go ahead with the series.

"But I was told that Kellogs didn't want the series sold - there was a conflict with them still having Adventures of Superman on the air.  I was disappointed.  The pilot could have been done better, but I still think the kids would have liked it."

John Rockwell and John Rockwell

Text and photos from Superboy and Superpup: The Lost Videos, by Charles Harter.

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The Adventures of Superboy

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