August 24, 2016: When Did Perry White First Yell, “Great Caesar’s Ghost”?

Perrywhite_comicsBy Steve Younis

As a Superman fan, whenever you hear the phrase “Great Caeser’s Ghost”, you automatically think of Perry White.

The Editor of the Daily Planet newspaper is famous for uttering that famous line, most notably on the 1950s “Adventures of Superman” television series by the late, great John Hamilton.

John Hamilton even took the spotlight in an episode titled “Great Caesar’s Ghost” (Season 3, Episode 5), which aired on May 21, 1955.

But when did Perry White first holler those famous words, and where did the phrase originate?

“Great Caesar” refers of course to Julius Caesar, the famous Roman politician and general who lived from 13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC.

While Perry White no doubt made the phrase more popular, “Great Caesar’s Ghost” pre-dates Perry White by decades.

Great Caesar's GhostAccording to popular belief, before the 19th century, people were known to exclaim “Great God”, however due to changing sensibilities, the English-speaking world began to replace that expression with exclamations such as “Great Sun”, “Great Scott” (which we’ve often heard Superman exclaim) and “Great Caesar’s Ghost”. (In case you were wondering, the “Great Scott” being referenced would have been General Winfield Scott, a hero of the Mexican War).

From 1913 to 1914 there was a newspaper strip titled “Great Caesar’s Ghost & Great Caesar’s Goat,” by A.E. Hayward. The strip follows the exploits of Julius Caesar who is living in a Rome that has more than a passing resemblance to the society of the mid 1910’s.

But what of Perry White? When did the famous fictional newspaper editor from the world of Superman first use the phrase? From the research conducted to write this article, Perry White first exclaimed the words “Great Caesar’s Ghost” in the second episode of “The Secret Letter” saga on the Superman Radio Series which was broadcast on November 26, 1946. Years before his TV counterpart would make the phrase synonymous with the character.

You can listen to the episode below, in which Perry White (voiced by Julian Noa) speaks the phrase 2 minutes and 52 seconds into the show, which are actually the first words spoken by Perry White in this episode.

It’s no surprise that this should be the first place Perry White would use this phrase, as it was within the radio series that Perry White debuted. The character was created for the radio series (making his initial appearance in the second episode of the series on February 14, 1940), and would be adopted into the comic books later that same year.

Great Caesar's Ghost!As Superman fans who watched the 1990s TV series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” would know, Perry White (played by Lane Smith) would exclaim a different phrase – “Great Shades of Elvis!” instead of “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”.

Michael McKean, who played Perry White in the TV series “Smallville”, could be heard yelling “Great Caesar’s Ghost” in the very last scene of the series finale.

There are many notable times the famous line has been spoken by Perry White, some that come to mind include: The Ruby Spears “Superman” animated series (1988), Frank Langella in “Superman Returns”, The “Battle of the Superheroes” episode of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (voiced by Richard McGonagle), and countless times within the comic books… There was even an issue (No. 9) of the “Scooby-Doo Team-Up” comic book in which Caesar’s ghost haunts Perry White at the Daily Planet.

“Great Caeser’s Ghost!”

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August 24, 2016 12:31 am

Great Caesar Ghost! What a great and interesting Trivia, I always thought it was started by the old TV Superman TV show, John Hamilton did a great job playing Perry White. Now I know the famous quote started on the Radio. Did anybody know that Jimmy Olsen and Kryptonite first appeared on a Superman radio show also? Had it not been for the radio show we would be having a very different Superman stories through out the years. 🙂

August 25, 2016 9:31 pm
Reply to  Reaganfan

I think that goes to show that sometimes what’s done with the characters in other media can effect the comics in a good way. Provided the creators understand why those things worked there rather than just kinda tacking them on. But it’s funny that with something like Kryptonite they were just trying to find a practical solution to a production problem (Superman’s voice actor needing a vacation at a time when reruns were not a thing) yet the idea that an element of his birth world is one thing that could potentially destroy him was a genuinely dramatic one. Granted… Read more »

August 25, 2016 3:52 am

Great article. Loved it.

August 25, 2016 11:45 am

Thanks for the fun Trivia. Even though the knowledge is still inside the head, it’s fun to read something that refreshens the memory.