Kirk Alyn

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Kirk Alyn
Kirk Alyn as Superman in a publicity still from 1948.jpg
Kirk Alyn as Superman in the 1948 movie serial
Born John Feggo Jr.
(1910-10-08)October 8, 1910
Oxford, New Jersey, U.S.
Died March 14, 1999(1999-03-14) (aged 88)
The Woodlands, Texas, U.S.
Cause of death Alzheimer's disease
Occupation Actor
Years active 1942–1988
Spouse(s) Virginia O'Brien (m. 1942; div. 1955)
Children 3

Kirk Alyn (born John Feggo Jr., October 8, 1910 – March 14, 1999) was an American actor, best known for being the first actor to play the DC Comics character Superman in live-action for the 1948 movie serial Superman and its 1950 sequel Atom Man vs. Superman, as well as Blackhawk from the Blackhawk movie serial in 1952, and General Sam Lane in 1978's Superman: The Movie.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Kirk Alyn was born as John Feggo Jr. on October 8, 1910 in Oxford, New Jersey, to Hungarian immigrant parents.[1][2][3] In his youth he lived in Wharton, New Jersey. A plaque commemorating his life in the borough is hung in the municipal building.


Alyn started as a chorus boy for Broadway plays, appearing in notable musicals such as Girl Crazy, Of Thee I Sing, and Hellzapoppin' during the 1930s.

Alyn (right) in the film The Trap (1946).

He also worked as a singer and dancer in vaudeville before relocating to Hollywood during the early 1940s to act for feature movies, but he was successful only in gaining bit parts for low-budget movies before obtaining the role of Superman in 1948.[4] During World War II he served in the United States Navy.

Alyn also featured in movie serials, including Federal Agents Vs. Underworld Inc. (1948), Radar Patrol Vs. Spy King (1950) and Blackhawk (1952).

Alyn recalls the day producer Sam Katzman asked him to play Superman:

I thought it was a publicity stunt. I didn't think you could ever put Superman on film. They brought the people from D.C. Comics [sic] over and they said, 'Hey, he looks just like Clark Kent.' They said take off your shirt, so I did and flexed my muscles. Then the guy said, 'Take off your pants' and I said, 'Wait a minute.' I was 37 when I played Superman. I picked up that girl and ran up that flight of stairs like it was nothing."[1]

Alyn played Superman for the first live-action Superman movie serial, released in 1948.[1] The serial consisted of 15 episodes which recounted Superman’s arrival on Earth, getting a job as a reporter at the Daily Planet newspaper, and meeting Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. The main plot consisted of Superman’s battle against the arch criminal the Spider Lady.

Two years later, Atom Man vs. Superman was released, featuring Lyle Talbot as Superman’s arch-villain Lex Luthor. This serial also included a sequence involving an eerie alternate dimension, not unlike the Phantom Zone, which would not appear in the comics for another 11 years.

Alyn gave the Man of Steel a different portrayal to Clark Kent, adding to the element of disguise. This was in the tradition of radio's Superman, Bud Collyer. By contrast, his successor George Reeves played the dual roles more alike, as pointed out in Gary Grossman's book, Superman: Serial to Cereal. The character's flight was effected by having Alyn jump up, at which point he becomes represented by an animated character by way of rotoscoping, which flew away. Alyn had tried "flying" while suspended by hidden wires for the first serial but the wires turned out to be clearly visible and that footage was scrapped.[citation needed])

After playing Superman, he again suffered casting problems. Apart from featuring in some similar comic book-type serials, he had few roles in television series and movies, some even uncredited, until he retired.

Alyn was reportedly offered the part of Superman for the television version of 1951, but refused it. In 1971, he published an autobiography entitled A Job for Superman.[citation needed]

Alyn shared a very brief cameo with his serial co-star, Noel Neill, as Sam and Ellen Lane, the parents of the young Lois Lane for the 1978 feature movie, Superman. In a brief on-set interview, he explains his method of portraying Superman and Clark Kent, contained in a documentary narrated by Ernie Anderson, The Making of Superman: The Movie (1978).

In 1981, Alyn appeared as "Pa Cant" in the parody movie Superbman: The Other Movie, a role that lasted only seconds, as Cant dies from heart failure immediately after discovering the strange visitor from the planet "Krapton".

Alyn made his final movie, the horror movie Scalps, In 1983.

In 1988, he participated with the 1988 TV special Superman 50th Anniversary Special as himself.

Personal life[edit]

When he first went to Hollywood, Alyn met another dancer and actress, Virginia O'Brien. They were married in 1942, and had one son and two daughters. They were divorced in 1955.[3][5]


Alyn died on March 14, 1999 in The Woodlands, Texas, at the age of 88 from Alzheimer's disease.[1][2] He was survived by three children he had with O'Brien: daughters Terri O'Brien and Elizabeth Watkins, and son John Feggo III, and several grandchildren.[3][6] He was cremated. His ashes were scattered off the coast of California.


Alyn was the Grand Marshal of the Metropolis, Illinois Christmas parade and Annual Superman Celebrations several times. In 1985, DC Comics named Alyn as one of the honorees in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Kirk Alyn, 88, the Superman To Leap Tall Buildings First". New York Times. Associated Press. March 20, 1999. 
  2. ^ a b c "Kirk Alyn, The First Superman Of Cinema, Was Born 100 Years Ago". Los Angeles Times. October 8, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Vallance, Tom (March 29, 1999). "Obituary: Kirk Alyn". The Independent. London. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Katz, Ephraim (2005). The Film Encyclopedia, 5th Ed. New York City: Harper Collins. p. 32. ISBN 0-06-273089-4. 
  5. ^ "Virginia O'Brien Wins Divorce". New York Times. June 25, 1955. 
  6. ^ "Child Born to Virginia O'Brien". New York Times. June 22, 1945. 
  7. ^ Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Kirk Alyn Superman, Matinee Idol" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 22 (1985), DC Comics


  • Grossman, Gary (1976). Superman: Serial to Cereal. Popular Library. ISBN 0-445-04054-8. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Actor to portray Clark Kent/Superman
Succeeded by
George Reeves