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Jackson Beck (July 23, 1912 - July 28, 2004) was a prolific voice actor in radio, animation, and commercials, who was perhaps best known as the Narrator on radio's The Adventures of Superman. He reprised the role on the animated series The New Adventures of Superman and its spin-offs, as well as in records and various live recreations.
Superman's Narrator and Everythug
One of New York radio's busiest actor-announcers, Jackson Beck was first heard on The Adventures of Superman in an episodic role on February 18, 1942, in an installment of "The Ghost Car" serial. Beck plays the South American gaucho Alfredo, a fiery and proud ranch employee who Clark Kent initially suspects, but who is endangered himself as the story progresses.
By 1942, Beck was a regular as sidekick Tank on Hop Harrigan, another comic-inspired juvenile serial, (based on the All American Comics stories; the publisher would later be purchased by DC Comics in 1946, where the character continued until 1948). The actor returned to the Superman series as narrator, replacing George Lowther (whose primary chores as director and writer had become more complex). Beck recalled the transition: "I was co-starring as Tank Tinker on Hop Harrigan when I annoyed director Jessica Maxwell by pointing out a technical error... I warned her that the kids who listened to the show were up on such things and would know better. She ignored my advice and went ahead with the script, then fired me when the kids' letters started pouring in. It turned out all right for me though; the following week, her husband, Bob [Maxwell], called me up and gave me the narrator job on Superman."
As the only actor whose presence was required for every broadcast (since even Superman actor Bud Collyer was occasionally absent), Beck effectively became the show's utility actor. He essayed a wide range of episodic supporting roles and bit parts, often in dialect, from Irish cops to Russian generals, plus a steady stream of thugs, bystanders, radio newscasters, and one-liners. A few of these tertiary roles became recurring characters: copyboy Beany Martin, Inspector Henderson's assistant Sergeant Healy, and even butler Alfred Pennyworth (for his brief walk-ons in a few of the Batman guest arcs).
In addition to innumerable henchmen and secondary villains, Beck was occasionally used as the main villain in shorter arcs, notably bigoted ex-governor "Uncle" Ed Clayton in "Drought in Freeville" and greedy fisherman Ike Barnaby in "The Phantom of the Sea." On several occasions, he would also fill in for actors in larger guest roles (imitating their voice), either due to the actor's scheduling conflicts, or a story arc had reached its conclusion and the character had only a few lines.
- The Adventures of Superman (1943-1950): Narrator, Beany Martin, Sergeant Healy
- "The Phantom Car" (February 1942): Alfredo
- "The Scarlet Widow" (Sep. 26-Oct. 10, 1945): Papa Raush, Svenson, Turk, policemen
- "The Atom Man" (Oct. 11-Dec. 3, 1945): Corporal Harry Marks, Krauss (10/12), Sgt. Nelson (10/15), Asylum Attendant (10/25), Henchman Willie (chs. 15-16), other bits
- "Drought in Freeville" (Jan. 21-Feb. 11, 1947): Uncle Ed Clayton, Henchman Charlie/Hank, Cab Driver (ch. 1), Steve Larson (ch. 3), Lem Hawkins (ch. 7), Tollkeeper (ch. 8), John Murray (ch. 12), Doctor (ch. 14)
- "Knights of the White Carnation" (Feb. 26-March 18, 1947): Henchman Fargo, District Attorney Frank Agnew (chs. 6, 9-10), Charles Canfield (ch. 1), Henry Mortimer (ch. 3), Principal Radin (ch. 7)
- "The Phantom of the Sea" (April 28-May 12, 1947): Ike Barnaby
- "Superman vs. Kryptonite" (May 14, 1947 – June 27, 1947): Henchman Gus, Officer Riley (ch. 2), Radio Newscaster (ch. 7), Ed North (Ch. 16), Railroad Porter (ch. 20), Condutor (ch. 21)
- "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume" (March 10-April 1948): Slick Bailey, Dr. Asa Bushmill, Mr. Johnson (ch. 1)
- "The Skin Game" (April 2-April 14, 1948): Coach Claude Thorn
- The New Adventures of Superman (1966): Narrator, Perry White
- The Official Adventures of Superman (1966): Narrator
- Superman 50th Anniversary (1988): Announcer
- ↑ Tollin, Anthony. Superman on Radio. p. 20. Radio Spirits Inc. Booklet accompanying tape/CD box set. 1997.
- ↑ Tollin, Anthony. Superman with Batman on Radio. p. 13-14. Radio Spirits Inc. Booklet accompanying tape/CD box set.