Unsung actors: Ron Ely

ron ely doc savage torn

Ron Ely, we love you despite the broken promises you represent.

More precisely, we love you because you played three of the great characters from geek literature … even if only one was in a well-executed, fully-formed manner.

ron ely tarzan

Ely is most familiar, of course, as “Tarzan” in the TV series of the same name from 1966 to 1968. I haven’t seen one of these shows in decades but my memory of it is that the stories, while not the equal of the fantastic yarns written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, were pretty good. And Ely looked good in a loincloth, as I’m sure female viewers would agree.

And then there was “Doc Savage.”

In 1975, Ely played Clark “Doc” Savage, the epitome of the pulp magazine hero, in a Michael Anderson directed big-screen movie.

ron ely doc savage twinkle

“Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” was awful. Campy and silly and played like the worst episodes of the 1960s “Batman” TV series, it was an incredible disappointment for fans of the books like me.

Then Ely played Superman … kind of.

ron ely superman superboy series

In the late 1980s/early 1990s syndicated “Superboy” TV series, an episode sent Superboy (Gerard Christopher) to an alternate timeline – dare I say the darkest timeline – where he met a mysterious white-haired man with a familiar “S” curl on his forehead. Yes, this gentleman was Superman, now retired, and he gives Superboy some advice before the show’s normal timeline is restored.

The producers, who had made the Christopher Reeve “Superman” movie but no longer had the rights to the adult superhero, couldn’t credit Ely as playing Superman and Ely didn’t wear the costume. But he definitely was and did a pretty nice job.

Somewhere there’s an alternate timeline where Ely played Superman in a 1960s movie or TV show and then made a serious-minded “Doc Savage” movie.

Definitely not the darkest timeline.


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