The Ominous Octopus

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Billy ( "Whitey" ) Benedict And Captain Marvel

Billy "Whitey" Benedict appeared first in the Captain Marvel serial and later in the comic books themselves as one of the characters.

Adventures of Captain Marvel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Adventures of Captain Marvel

Original theatrical poster for Adventures of Captain Marvel Episode 10: "Doom Ship"
Directed byWilliam Witney
John English
Produced byHiram S. Brown, Jr.
Screenplay byRonald Davidson
Norman S. Hall
Arch B. Heath
Joseph Poland
Sol Shor
Based onCharacters by
Bill Parker
C. C. Beck
StarringTom Tyler
Frank Coghlan, Jr.
William Benedict
Louise Currie
Robert Strange
Harry Worth
Bryant Washburn
John Davidson
Music byCy Feuer
CinematographyWilliam Nobles
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date(s)
  • March 28, 1941 (1941-03-28)
Running time12 chapters / 216 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$135,553 (negative cost: $119,343)[1]
Adventures of Captain Marvel is a 1941 twelve-chapter film serial directed by John English and William Witney for Republic Pictures, adapted from the popular Captain Marvel comic book character then appearing in Fawcett Comics publications such as Whiz Comics and Captain Marvel Adventures. It starred Tom Tyler in the title role of Captain Marvel and Frank Coghlan, Jr. as his alter ego, Billy Batson.
This serial was the twenty-first of the sixty-six serials produced by Republic and their first comic book adaptation, not counting comic strips.



The serial featured an adaptation of the Fawcett Comics superhero, placed within an original story. He fights a masked criminal mastermind called The Scorpion who is determined to gain control of a magical weapon disguised as a scorpion figurine.
During an archaeological expedition to Siam, the power of the Golden Scorpion allows Billy Batson meets the ancient wizard Shazam, who grants him the power to become Captain Marvel and protect the device.
The lenses from the Golden Scorpion are divided among five scientists. The Scorpion attempts to acquire all of the lenses and the Scorpion device. Several expedition members are killed in his quest despite Captain Marvel's continual efforts to thwart the villain. Billy Batson soon decides that the man behind the Scorpion's mask is one of the archaelogical team.
The Scorpion discovers the connection between Billy and Captain Marvel. After capturing him, the Scorpion interrogates Billy for the secret. Billy transforms into Captain Marvel and reveals the Scorpion to be one of the scientists, who is then killed by an angry Siamese native. Captain Marvel tosses the scorpion statue into a volcano's molten lava to prevent it from ever being used for evil. Once it is destroyed, Captain Marvel is instantly transformed back into Billy Batson as there is no need for a protector for the scorpion.



DVD front cover for The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial.
Adventures of Captain Marvel was budgeted at $135,553 although the final negative cost was $145,588 (a $10,035, or 7.4%, overspend).[1] It was filmed between December 23, 1940 and January 30, 1941 under the working title Captain Marvel.[1] The serial's production number was 1098.[1]
The serial was an outgrowth of Republic's failed attempt at a chapterplay to feature National Periodical Publications (today DC Comics)'s Superman, the script for which had become the studio's Mysterious Doctor Satan. The film company approached Fawcett Comics for their most popular character, and that publishing house did not refuse. Director William Witney was, however, skeptical about trying to film Captain Marvel after the problems with Superman.[2] As a result, Adventures of Captain Marvel became the first superhero film adaptation of a comic book.[3][4]
National attempted legal action to prevent the filming, citing the previous attempt at a Superman serial, but was unsuccessful. Writing in his autobiography of the period, William Witney revealed that in his deposition he had claimed that both Superman and Captain Marvel were derivatives of Popeye.[2] About a decade later, following a legal battle with National and a declining market, Fawcett ceased publication of all its comic series. In the 1970s, the Captain Marvel family of characters was licensed and revived (and ultimately purchased) by DC Comics.
The opening military scenes are taken from a 1938 Republic Pictures film Storm Over Bengal.


Republic cast Frank Coghlan as Billy Batson due to his physical resemblance to the character.[5] However, there was some criticism that Tom Tyler did not sufficiently resemble the "beefy, baby-faced Captain Marvel."[5] At the time, Tyler was a weightlifting champion and the costume matched Captain Marvel's original appearance, even down to slenderness. The appearance of the comic version had changed by this time, however.[6]
Tyler, who was described as clumsy, knocked over props with his "lanky arms". Punches in fight scenes would sometimes connect.[6]
Due to his performance in King of the Royal Mounted, Robert Strange as John Malcolm was the choice as the villain in this serial; however, in the end he was not actually the villain.[7]

 Special effects

Example of flying effects.
The flying effects were performed with a dummy. The dummy was slightly larger than life, at 7 feet tall, and made of paper mâché so that it weighed only 15 lbs. The uniform was made of thin silk and a cotton jersey. Four pulleys connected to each shoulder and calf, which were strung on two wires so the dummy moved along them by its own weight. The wires were attached to two objects across the view of the camera, and the dummy slid from one to the other, giving the appearance of flight. This system was originally intended for a Superman serial, a prototype of which was built but discarded.[6] The flying pose used for the dummy, arms outstretched and back arched, was based on drawing by Mac Raboy.[6] If Captain Marvel needed to be seen flying upwards, the cape was weighted down and the dummy slid backwards. The film of this was then reversed.[6]
Dave Sharpe was the human part of the effect. Dressed as Captain Marvel, he would leap from a high point with his body straight, as if able to fly, then roll to land at the last second. The combination of effects and stunts produced the overall illusion of a flying person. Sharpe also performed other stunts as Captain Marvel, such as back flipping and knocking down attacking natives in the first chapter.[6] Some shots of Captain Marvel flying were filmed with Tyler against rear projected clouds. However, some of these scenes show the wires used to hold him up.[6]
According to Stedman, the flight scenes were "the most successful illusion of such aerobatics ever put upon the screen, in serial or feature."[8]
The technique had been developed in the earlier serial Darkest Africa (1936) and was later used again in the "Rocket Man" serials (King of the Rocket Men, Radar Men from the Moon, Zombies of the Stratosphere and Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe) released during 1949-1953.
The much cheaper Columbia Pictures Superman serials which appeared in the late 1940s used animated cartoon sequences to represent various actions, most frequently Superman's flights (Columbia produced the cheapest serials of the period and producer Sam Katzman was notorious for cutting costs).


One of the tunics later appeared as the costume of a member of the Kryptonian science counsel in the first episode of The Adventures of Superman television show, filmed in 1951.[9] The lightning bolt on the tunic is partially concealed by means of an oversized collar around the actor's neck.
After the usage in Episode 1 of Superman, two Captain Marvel tunics were sported by actors in early episodes of the original U.S. version of the pioneering TV series Space Patrol. Very soon into the series, however, the Marvel tunics were replaced by shirts custom made for the series.
At The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington, one of the remaining Captain Marvel tunics has been on public display.[10]



Adventures of Captain Marvel's official release date was March 28, 1941, although this is actually the date the sixth chapter was made available to film exchanges.[1] The serial was re-released on April 15, 1953 under the title Return of Captain Marvel, between the first runs of Jungle Drums of Africa and Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders.[1] Due to the 'nostalgia' craze in the spring of 1966 resulting from the hit Batman TV show, the serial was re-released as a 4-hour movie compiling all 12 chapters.

Home media

Republic Pictures released the serial as a two-tape VHS set in 1995. The serial was released on DVD in 2003.

 Critical reception

Harmon and Glut claim that Adventures of Captain Marvel is "unquestionably one of the finest movie serials ever made, possible the best with the exception of the three Flash Gordon epics."[6] Cline describes this as one of the most outstanding of all serials[11] and Republic's "masterpiece."[7] He writes that Tyler's "striking performance...remains in thousands of minds as the most memorable serial hero of all time - bar none."[12]


The characters of Betty Wallace, Whitey Murphy, and John Malcom all appeared in the Fawcett comics in the 1940s starting with "Capt. Marvel And The Temple Of Itzalotahui"‏ (Whiz Comics #22, Oct. 3, 1941) featuring Murphy and Malcolm;[13] Murphy made several appearances in the 1970s DC Comics incarnation of Captain Marvel.[14]
Fawcett also published a sequel to the film in 1941. Titled The Return of the Scorpion, it was one of the four releases in its Dime Action Books series which imitated the format of the popular Big Little Books. The book is notable for reusing several characters from the movie and for being Otto Binder's first writing assignment at Fawcett; he went on to being a prolific scripter for the company.
In 1994, comic book writer/artist Jerry Ordway wrote and painted a graphic novel, The Power of Shazam!, and an ongoing comic book series spin-off which ran from 1995 to 1999. Ordway used the Republic serial as his initial inspiration in his handling of the Captain Marvel characters.[15]


  1. "Curse of the Scorpion" (30 min.)
  2. "The Guillotine" (16 min.)
  3. "Time Bomb" (17 min.)
  4. "Death Takes the Wheel" (16 min.)
  5. "The Scorpion Strikes" (16 min.)
  6. "Lens of Death" (16 min.)
  7. "Human Targets" (17 min.)
  8. "Boomerang" (17 min.)
  9. "Dead Man's Trap" (16 min.)
  10. "Doom Ship" (16 min.)
  11. "Valley of Death" (16 min.)
  12. "Captain Marvel's Secret" (16 min.)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mathis, Jack (1995). Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. Jack Mathis Advertising. pp. 3, 10, 52–53. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8.
  2. ^ a b Witney, William. In a Door, Into a Fight, Out a Door, Into a Chase: Moviemaking Remembered by the Guy at the Door. (McFarland & Company) ISBN 0-7864-2258-0
  3. ^ Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "5. Shazam and Good-by". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5. "First superhero "taken directly from a comic book""
  4. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 20. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. ""Adventures of Captain Marvel in 1941 pioneered a completely new type of screen champion - the SuperHero [sic].""
  5. ^ a b Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. pp. 20, 26. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "9. The Superheroes "Could Superman Knock Out Captain Marvel"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 219, 222, 223, 226, 227, 230. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  7. ^ a b Cline, William C. (1984). "9. They Who Also Serve (The Citizens)". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 142. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  8. ^ Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "5. Shazam and Good-by". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5. ""It was the most successful illusion of such aerobatics ever put upon the screen, in serial or feature.""
  9. ^ Adventures of Superman-The Complete First Season (1952; Warner Home Video; Release Date: 10-18-05; Episode 1, "Superman on Earth.")
  10. ^ "costume display". Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/calamityjon/2316048043/. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  11. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "3. The Six Faces of Adventure". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 37. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  12. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "5. A Cheer for the Champions (The Heroes and Heroines)". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 83. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  13. ^ "Whiz Comics 22 "Capt. Marvel And The Temple Of Itzalotahui"". Silverage.greatnow.com. 1941-10-03. http://silverage.greatnow.com/reviews/Whiz_Comics_22.htm. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  14. ^ "The Earth-S Index". Darkmark6.tripod.com. http://darkmark6.tripod.com/shazam_index.html. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  15. ^ (April 1998) Interview with Jerry Ordway. WestfieldComics.com. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  16. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 230. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.

 External links

The flight scenes in THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL compare favorably with similar scenes in Superman movies and television programs made years later. At the same time, this serial is obviously a less faithful adaptation than the later Superman serials, to which it has frequently been compared. Captain Marvel is shown machine-gunning bad guys, throwing them off roofs, and otherwise killing them in ways that he never did in the comic books. The actor playing Billy Batson is too old for the part. And the career of Captain Marvel ends with the serial, even though the comics would go on for years afterwards.

The Superman serials beat the pants off the Captain Marvel serial at the box office. It wasn't just that Superman was the more popular character. Captain Marvel was actually outselling Superman at some point and if he wasn't ahead at the time this serial was made, sales were somewhere in the same range.

But THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL was actually pretty good for a serial, something that can also be said for the same studio's CAPTAIN AMERICA, who no longer had the same secret idenity and didn't even fight in World War II, which was still going on at the time it was made. These details look kind of odd, but they don't do away altogether with the entertainment value of the films.

The character of "Whitey" began with Billy Benedict's part in the serial.

Whitey is most prominently featured on this poster, but also appears on others as well.
         Poster with photo of Billy Benedict with Louise Curry, the feminine lead in the serial.

Poster with photo of Billy Benedict between Louise Curry and Frank Coughlin Jr., who played "Billy Batson". Billy Batson is the boy who is transformed into a boy whenever he speaks the magic word "Shazam".

 Whitey is prominently shown on many of these posters.
Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel with the scoprion. Louise Currie and Billy Benedict at right center.
Frank Coghlin, Louise Currie, Billy Benedict.

The comic book version of Whitey is clearly recognizable as a depiction of Billy Benedict.
And actually I think Billy Benedict was one of the best things the serial had going for it.

William Benedict

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Benedict

William Benedict.
Born(1917-04-16)April 16, 1917
Haskell, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedNovember 30, 1999(1999-11-30) (aged 82)
Haskell, Oklahoma, U.S.
Years active1935–1992
Spouse(s)Dolly Benedict (1969-?)
William Benedict (April 16, 1917 – November 29, 1999) was an American actor. Born in Haskell, Oklahoma, he took part in school theatricals, and on leaving school he made his way to Hollywood. His first film was $10 Raise (1935) starring Edward Everett Horton, which launched Benedict on a busy career. The blond-haired Benedict almost always played juvenile roles, such as newsboys, messengers, office boys, and farmhands. In 1939, when Universal Pictures began its Little Tough Guys series to compete with the popular Dead End Kids features, Billy Benedict was recruited into the cast. These films led him into the similar East Side Kids movies (usually playing a member of the East Side gang, but occasionally in villainous roles). The East Side Kids became The Bowery Boys in 1946, and Benedict stayed with the series (as "Whitey") through the end of 1951.
Other films included Way Down East (1935) with Henry Fonda, My Little Chickadee (1940) starring W. C. Fields and Mae West, The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) with Henry Fonda, The Sting (1973) with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and Farewell, My Lovely (1975). Benedict never shook his juvenile image completely, and continued to play messengers and news vendors well into his sixties. He also worked often in television commercials.[1]


Benedict died at age 82 on November 29, 1999 at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.[1]


  1. ^ a b Staff. "William Benedict Character Actor, 82", The New York Times, November 30, 1999. Accessed March 30, 2009.

External links


 Billy Benedict went on to make other serials.
 With Clayton Moore at left and Kay Aldridge as Nyoka, and Whitey at right.

Billy Benedict also appeared in the "East Side Kids" series, which developed into "The Bowery Boys".
Whitey at left, Leo Gorcey at center, Huntz Hall at rear.
 Glenn Strange as "Atlas", left, Whitey, Leo Gorcey at right.
Whitey, Leo Gorcey, Bernard Gorcey, Huntz Hall, David Gorcey
BLUES BUSTERS also had Phyllis Coates in it.

She later played "Lois Lane" on the first season of the Superman show. Which is sort of like having characters from Captain Marvel and Superman stories running into each other.
Billy Benedict went on to other things after the Bowery Boys series ended. He frequently played the same sort of parts as an older man that he had played as a younger man. Same as with the Bowery Boys. Nobody seemed to mind.
I guess he liked his work, he went right on working after he was old enough to retire.

Billy Benedict Serials:


  1. I thought Billy Benedict was the best of the "background guys" in the Bowery Boys films. He was especially funny in "Blonde Bombshells" when he was dancing with the girls. I'd liked to have seen him given more to do.

  2. I liked Billy Benedict in the Bowery Boys films too, but none of the others were as important in that series as Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, so they usually didn't have much to do.