Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Great Metropolitan Newspaper

Fans of The Adventures of Superman should recognize this building: it's the one used as the Metropolis Daily Planet during the first 26 episodes, which were filmed in the summer and early fall of 1951. Located at 5225 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and reaching 12 stories high, it was for years the tallest structure in the entire city, with the exception of City Hall... which would double as the Daily Planet beginning with the show's second season in 1953.

The E. Clem Wilson building still stands. Here's what it looks like today:

Notice the "Samsung" billboard that wraps around the top. That billboard has changed a few times over the years.

Here's what it looked like from 1991 until early 2003. When I moved to LA in 1982, Mutual of Omaha Insurance occupied that space.

A question that has puzzled me over the years is why this building did not continue as the Daily Planet for the run of the Superman series. To be sure, City Hall was a very impressive structure (in fact, it is also used in the "Leaping tall buildings in a single bound" upward pan shot, minus the dome), but it was highly visible nearly every week on Dragnet, which by 1953 was fast becoming TV's second-most popular show. Dragnet also had a large juvenile audience, and there had to have been at least a little confusion about why Joe Friday would be working in the Planet building.

Ironically, I discovered the reason for the change just a couple of days ago while watching an old Dragnet from 1952.

This is the opening shot of the Dragnet episode, "The Big Seventeen," which was filmed in August of 1952, although this stock footage could have been made as early as January of that year. This is Wilshire Boulevard, eastbound toward La Brea Avenue, and there's the building on the left... complete with billboard! General of America Insurance was apparently the first to advertise their services in this spot. After doing a little research, I learned that this was the one and only building in all of Los Angeles licensed to have a neon billboard.

By the time Superman's second season began production (in June 1953), the billboard was a fait accompli. Since he apparently wanted a variety of stock shots, as opposed to the same slow downward pan, producer Whitney Ellsworth had no choice: he'd have to change skyscrapers. Which meant he had only one other from which to choose: City Hall.

Incidentally, the white building you see just behind "the Daily Planet" is the Carnation Milk building at 5045 Wilshire. That structure also figures in Superman history - it served as the entrance to the Planet. You can see Lois and Jimmy hurriedly leaving its front door in "Superman on Earth", and all four Planet staffers going in and out in "Crime Wave" - both classics from the beloved first season.


DENNIS L. LARK said...

Good detective work Michael. That is an awesome photo of opening scene of THE BIG SEVENTEEN. DENNIS

John said...


Excellent stuff! I always liked that building...and NEED to go by there and see it in person. As much as I like the 'daily planet' from the 2nd season on...there's something very special about that building...


Anonymous said...

Well done, Michael. I have been searching for info about this for weeks.

Did the City of Los Angeles ever give an official name to this building?

Has anyone got any "old" photos of the Carnation Milk building (or know an Internet site with photos) which was at 5045 Wilshire? Sadly, I have just found out that the building, which was Carnation Co.'s national headquarters since 1948, was demolished in October 1990 and transformed into a $50 million Art Deco-style high-rise.

Unknown said...

I just read this again and Michael Hayde does super work. I know it was posted some time ago but this news never gets old especially to The Adventures of Superman real fans. Thank goodness we have people like Michael. DENNIS L. LARK

Michael J. Hayde said...

I guess I should check in here more often! :-)

To wsc3: I just learned that it's called "the Wilson Building."

To Dennis: Thank you very much!


Unknown said...

Michael, I dont have your e-mail address but wanted to tell you that I see you live in Virginia. I live in Kansas but in 1972-1974 I lived in Falls Church as I worked at Ft. Mead (army). My e-mail is

Armand Vaquer said...

Good stuff! I just did my own article on the Wilson Building. Go to:

Anonymous said...

Just drove by this Wilson building yesterday when my passenger said "that sure looks like the building in Superman." I guess it sure was.