Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1941: The Last of the Clipper ShipsReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: March 05, 1941-April 18, 1941
"The Last of the Clipper Ships"
Mister Barwick, the owner of the Daily Planet, has bought the Clara M, the last of the sailing clipper ships, to boost cirulation of the newspaper. Perry White has ordered Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen to write a series of articles about the boat's last voyage around the world. Once the Clara M's trip is finished, Barwick will turn the clipper into a museum.
After Clark and Jimmy leave for the docks to board the Clara M, a man named Teak Barnaby enters Perry's office. He's called Teak Barnaby because he has a leg made of teak wood. He's come to Perry to buy the Clara M at any price. However, White turns down Barnaby's offer by saying the ship is not for sale. Barnaby does not take the refusal well and says that it's a mistake to not sell the Clara M.
Later, Clark and Jimmy have arrived at the docks. They find Captain Hawkins, the Clara M's commanding officer, is still asking for people sign on as members of the crew. For some reason, nobody wants to be a part the clipper's staff, and some change their minds about being crewmen after learning the boat's name. However, Hawkins does get a group signed up after Clark and Jimmy have had lunch. After Jimmy and Clark board the Clara M, Captain Hawkins introduces them to his first mate. The first mate is none other than Teak Barnaby. So far, nobody suspects anything as the ship has set sail southward without any problems.
At dinner in the captain's cabin that night, Clark asks Captain Hawkins why it was so difficult to get a crew and why Teak Barnaby and his men signed on when nobody else would. Barnaby answers Clark by saying he and his men needed work and don't believe in superstition. Despite Captain Hawkins' objections, Barnaby then begins to tell everyone about the legend of the Whistler.
Many years ago, a first mate aboard the Clara M loved to whistle. He had been steering the clipper during a raging storm at sea. After some time, he was nowhere to be seen. Some say the first mate was washed overboard, while others say he just disappeared. The first mate's whistle, however, can be heard as a sign of danger. Barnaby is then ordered by the captain to stop talking about this silly superstition before he can continue.
Suddenly, in the foggy night, the sound of whistling can be heard on deck. The captain and the others go to investigate the source of the noise. Barnaby is about to continue telling about the Whistler in spite of Captain Hawkins' orders not to do so. However, he, Jimmy and Clark hear the captain scream before more can be said about the legend.
Using the fog to his advantage, Clark Kent becomes Superman. He pulls the captain out of the water and back onto the Clara M with incredible speed. After resuming his guise of Clark Kent, he tells Jimmy that he believes that Captain Hawkins was pushed overboard even if the captain says that he fell. Clark also reveals that he's suspicious of Teak Barnaby.
The next day, Clark is writing a story for the Daily Planet, and Jimmy goes over his school composition on Teak Barnaby. Clark chides the young man for using the slang word "swell" too much in his writing.
Shortly afterwards, Clark and Jimmy meet Captain Hawkins on the deck of the Clara M. Teak Barnaby is in the crow's nest. The captain offers to let Jimmy take the wheel of the ship.
Suddenly, a laying pin falls from the crow's nest. Had Clark not moved Hawkins out of the way, the captain would have been killed. Hawkins then scolds Barnaby for neglecting the pin.
Later that night, after Clark helps Jimmy go over his Algebra and English History, the young copy boy goes to bed while Clark goes on deck for some air. The mild mannered reporter overhears Teak Barnaby talking to someone named Limey in the shadows. It turns out that the crew is working for Barnaby - not Captain Hawkins, and Limey wants to leave the Clara M and reveal the plans of Barnaby to the authorities. Barnaby then threatens Limey into following his orders because it appears that Limey is wanted for various crimes. They both part ways. A surprised Barnaby then sees Clark and says good night to him.
Meanwhile, Jimmy is having trouble falling asleep. He suddenly hears the eerie sound of the Whistler. He then sees a shadowy form climbing up the rigging and follows him. However, the dark figure steps on Jimmy's hands and causes him to fall. Before the young copy boy can land on the deck and be injured, he faints just after Superman catches him. The Man of Steel changes back into Clark Kent before calling Teak Barnaby to help him get Jimmy back to his cabin. Once he regains consciousness, Jimmy tells Clark and Barnaby about following the Whistler. Clark asks Barnaby to stay with Jimmy while he investigates what happened.
Seeing the captain, Clark tells him of the events, and despite believing Hawkins is deliberately ignoring the strange events occurring on the Clara M, he asks that the ship's crew look for the person Jimmy was trying to follow. Captain Hawkins promises to search the clipper from stem to stern.
When Clark returns to Jimmy's cabin, he finds Teak Barnaby is entertaining the boy with tall tales about how he lost his leg. Jimmy becomes disappointed when Barnaby teases about being saved by Superman after losing his leg. Jimmy continues to say that Superman is no fantasy, and the first mate promises to tell the real story of how he lost his leg some day. Barnaby then accompanies Clark out of Jimmy's cabin.
On the way to his room, Clark notices something peculiar. He confronts the crewman steering the Clara M. The course is supposed to be south by east. However, according to the North Star, the ship is going south by west. The helmsman seems embarassed and resumes the normal course to Panama. Clark, on the other hand, believes the course change was deliberate.
As a storm approaches the Clara M, Clark goes to Captain Hawkins and voices his suspicions about Teak Barnaby and the crew. The captain goes to the helmsman to hear if what Clark said is true. The crewman says that he fell asleep and got off his course. The captain believes him, but Clark still has his doubts.
When the captain and Clark are out of earshot, Barnaby orders the helmsman to go back onto the south to west course. The peg-legged first mate then enters Clark's cabin. Clark catches him in the room. Barnaby then says that he's searching for the Whistler as the captain ordered. However, the lights were off when Clark entered his cabin. Saying that he'll search his own cabin, Clark asks Teak Barnaby to leave. Clark then removes his mild mannered disguise to become Superman. The Man of Steel thinks there are answers to the strange events on board the Clara M in Metropolis. He flies back there as the storm intensifies.
During the storm, Jimmy Olsen is looking for Clark Kent, but he doesn't find him. Barnaby latches the boy to the brace so he doesn't go overboard. Just then, the ship's anchor cable breaks. The anchor is swinging against the hull of the Clara M. Someone has to bring down the anchor to plant it, and Captain Hawkins chooses to do it himself dispite the protests of the crew and Jimmy. Trying to attach the broken cable, the captain loses his grip on the anchor. Though he was gavely injured by the anchor, Hawkins orders someone to latch the anchor down. Even with his wooden leg, Teak Barnaby follows the captain's orders.
Suddenly, Barnaby's leg is stuck in a hole. The storm is getting worse, and in spite of the Clara M's crew's best efforts, all hope seems lost. Barnaby's wooden leg is smashed. After he's hauled back up to the ship, a hole in the Clara M's hull, which was caused by the anchor, is making water enter the clipper. Barnaby has no choice but to send a distress call.
In Metropolis, Clark Kent is in the Waterfront Tavern questioning a sailor about the Clara M, Captain Hawkins and the Whistler. The seaman is willing to answer questions about everthing except the Whistler. He even suggests to Clark to not ask further questions about the Whistler to anyone.
After ending his investigation as Clark Kent, Superman flies back to the Clara M, but he does not know how bad the storm is and the extent of the danger to the clipper ship. He learns of it when his superhuman ears hear the Morse Code of Barnaby's distress call. Superman moves at fantastic speeds to take the anchor to the deck of the Clara M. Only Jimmy believes that Superman brought the anchor. Barnaby and the rest of the crew are sure that the last wave from the storm brought it to the Clara M. The Last of the Clipper Ships is safe as the storm subsides.
Later, Clark Kent, Barnaby and the others check the extent of Captain Hawkins' injuries. It looks as though some of his ribs are crushed. The San Jose, a ship that responded to Barnaby's distress call, is on the way. Clark, Barnaby and some other crewman carry the severely injured Captain Hawkins to the radio room. Jimmy and a seaman look in the captain's cabin and find bandages, iodine, and ether. The radio operator is asking if a doctor is aboard the San Jose. With the doctor and radio operator's help, Clark will operate on Captain Hawkins. Outside, Teak Barnaby promises that if something happens to the captain, Clark Kent will answer for it.
Hours later, radio contact has ceased, and Clark Kent comes out of the radio room. He tells Barnaby and Jimmy that Captain Hawkins will live long enough for the San Jose's doctor to care for him, but even though things seem calm now, other events are brewing like the storm that injured the captain mere hours earlier. The rest of the crew that had come aboard with Barnaby is meeting. All of them are wanted by the maritime authority for various crimes at sea and are scared of the Whistler. The group led by Limey plans to mutiny against Barnaby and take the Clara M someplace where nobody will find them. Once they get to freedom, they'll burn the last of the Clipper Ships. Should anyone - even Teak Barnaby and Clark Kent - get in the way, they'll kill them.
Suddenly, Scotty MacTavish speaks out. He doesn't want to mutiny. He tells his crewmen that Limey's plan is too risky, everyone will end up in irons if they follow Limey. Besides that, the captain's life is in danger. They'll be risking the medical attention needed for Hawkins if they mutiny. Limey and the crew tie Scotty to his bunk. They later ask the helmsman if he wants to join their group. However, he needs time to think of an answer. As a result, Limey ties him up and has one of his men change course.
In the meantime, Jimmy Olsen finds Scotty and unties him. He tells the young copy boy of the mutiny as they head for the radio room to send a distress call to the San Jose. Once in the radio room, they find the radio operator tied up and unconscious with the helmsman. MacTavish is about to send the distress call to the San Jose when Limey enters and pulls a gun on him and Jimmy. He leads them to the deck, where most of the crew - except for Clark Kent - are. Clark, as Superman, is actually in the crow's nest.
Superman forces Limey's helmsman to steer the Clara M toward the San Jose instead of away from it. The Man of Steel then singlehandedly stops Limey's mutiny and flies away.
Later, Clark Kent is in his cabin. He tells Teak Barnaby that he'll have the San Jose escort the Clara M to Caracas. He intends to have the mutineers arrested. Barnaby, however, convinces Clark to do otherwise because he claims that the men mutinied because they were scared of the Whistler. Clark reluctantly agrees with Barnaby. After Barnaby leaves, Clark says to himself that the first mate is after something. He plans to keep an eye on Barnaby and the rest of the crew so he can become Superman when the time is right.
Elsewhere on the Clara M, Teak Barnaby is convincing the former mutineers that nothing will happen to them. He also threatens them into helping him to do the job he paid them to do with the old clipper. Barnaby still hasn't found whatever it is that he's looking for. The peg legged sailor then hears someone near the door. It's Jimmy Olsen. He wanted to come by and talk to Scotty, but he didn't expect to find Barnaby talking to Limey and the others. Barnaby sharpens a knife to carve a new wooden leg for himself. However, he does it in manner that threatens the life of Jimmy. The young man promises never to reveal what he overheard to Clark Kent.
After the men of the San Jose take Captain Hawkins to their ship for further medical attention, Clark notices something is troubling Jimmy. He feels Jimmy wants to say something, but for some reason, he won't reveal what it is to the mild mannered reporter. Teak Barnaby then gives a small wooden matchbox to Jimmy. He then throws his knife. The blade makes the matchbox fly out of Jimmy's hand before it sticks it to the wall. The knife in the box is clearly a message for Jimmy to keep quiet.
Several days later, Barnaby, Clark and Jimmy are having dinner. Clark is still trying to get Jimmy to say what's bothering him, but he's unsuccessful. He then changes the subject by saying why the Clara M changed course a few nights ago.
Captain Hawkins told Clark a secret before the men of the San Jose took him to their doctor. He had deliberately had the old clipper's course changed. He'd been captain of the Clara M for over thirty years, and Hawkins had a great affection for the boat. Knowing that this was the final voyage of the Clara M before its turned into a floating museum, Captain Hawkins wanted to take the ship to a remote area of the world and sail her until the day he dies. Unfortunately, his plan didn't succeed.
Suddenly, the cook screams and runs to Barnaby and the others. He claims to have heard the Whistler. Clark, Jimmy and Barnaby go into the galley to investigate, but they only find that the roasted chicken that was about to be served for dinner is missing. They continue their search on the fog covered deck. Clark lights a match, but Barnaby and Jimmy notices that the flame doesn't burn him when it reaches his fingers. However, they don't think much of it when they find the helmsman unconscious. Teak Barnaby almost tripped over his body when they found him.
When he wakes up, the helmsman says that he saw someone on deck. When he called out to the person, he didn't get a response. This prompts a more frantic search for the Whistler. Jimmy goes back to his cabin to get his flashlight, but he hears something in the darkness while he searches for it. In a secret panel in Jimmy's room, there is a boy not much older than Jimmy, and the lad has a case of indigestion from eating too much roasted chicken. Apparently, the boy is the Whistler. Jimmy gives the boy a bicarbonate to help his stomach. Jimmy is about take the boy to Clark and Barnaby, but the boy won't go without a fight. The two youths end up hitting each other until they both fall overboard.
Meanwhile, Clark hears Jimmy and the Whistler boy fall over with his superhuman hearing. However, Teak Barnaby tells him that the fog makes people hear and see things as they continue to search for the Whistler. What they don't know is that the Whistler and Jimmy are trying to swim back to the Clara M. However, Jimmy's forced to knock out the other boy in order to be able to swim properly back to the ship.
At the same time, Clark is still convinced that he heard something. He then goes on a search for Jimmy. He doesn't find the young copy boy in his cabin, but he is thoroughly convinced that Jimmy is in danger after seeing the disorderly state of the cabin. He then takes a piece of oilsilk from the secret panel before changing into Superman. Moving as fast as he possibly can, Superman saves Jimmy and the Whistler.
After the two boys regain consciousness, the young Whistler reveals that his real name is Mike Flannigan. However, he prefers to call himself Pug. Pug had stowed away aboard the Clara M and overheard the crew talking about the legend of the Whistler. He reveals that he only pretended to be the Whistler when he needed food. It was Pug that encountered the helmsman and made Jimmy fall off the rigging. The identity of the Whistler has been revealed, or has it. Pug says that there is another Whistler aboard the Clara M, and Pug has heard him just as everyone else is hearing him at this moment.
To prevent more fighting and mutiny, Clark suggests that those that aren't afraid of the Whistler go on deck to search for the shadowy figure. Pug, Barnaby, Jimmy and Clark go to begin the search. While Barnaby and Pug search the aft side of the deck, Clark and Jimmy take port the side. While looking for the Whistler, Clark convinces Jimmy to tell him what's been bothering him recently. Jimmy tells him what he'd overheard from Teak Barnaby and the crew. Shortly afterwards, Clark and Jimmy hear the Whistler, and they are about to close in on him. However, when they reach the tip of the ship's bow, Jimmy and Clark find nobody, but they still hear the whistle. Clark climbs onto the Clara M's figurehead and finds some pipes similar to those in an organ. When the wind blows a certain way, the pipes make a whistling sound.
When Jimmy and Clark go to tell the crew about the whistling pipes, they find Teak Barnaby interrogating Pug Flannigan at knifepoint. Barnaby apparently wants the oilsilk that Clark now has, and Clark wants to know why. Removing a piece of roasted chicken Pug had saved, Clark and Jimmy clean the oilsilk in Clark's cabin. After it's cleaned, the oilsilk reveals something that amazes Clark Kent. It is a treasure map of all the pirated booty of Samuel Sol - a former captain of the Clara M, and the treasure is located on the island of Sumatra near Borneo.
As Jimmy and Clark discuss what to do with the map and its treasure, Teak Barnaby enters Clark's cabin. He's making it clear that he wants the treasure map. This is why he asked Perry White to sell the last of the Clipper Ships to him. When unsuccessful, Barnaby hired a crew with his own money so he could be first mate aboard the Clara M. He pulls a knife on Clark and Jimmy, takes the treasure map and puts Pug, Jimmy and Clark into the Clara M's brig. Barnaby intends to leave them there until he finds the treasure, which could take months.
In the brig, Clark is waiting for the nearby oil lamp to go out so he can conceal his Superman identity in the shadows. Once it's pitch black, Clark makes Pug and Jimmy believe Superman is with them and wants to help them escape. He does this by using Clark Kent's voice to talk to Superman's voice. Superman then goes to find Teak Barnaby with Clark Kent in the darkness, but he promises to either get the two boys out of the brig or have someone come get them.
Meanwhile, Barnaby and the crew are arguing about how to divide the treasure as Superman confronts them. Barnaby throws his knife at the Man of Steel. The knife bounces off our hero's chest, and Superman orders the rest of the crew to turn the Clara M in the direction of Metropolis. Clark Kent is to be the new captain, and Scotty MacTavish is to be his first mate. Scotty is to put Barnaby in irons and free Pug and Jimmy from the brig.
Suddenly, the radio operator rushes into the room. A tanker rammed another boat in the fog, and distress calls were sent by both tankers. Superman orders that the Clara M go to the sinking vessels. However, he knows the clipper ship is too slow and must fly to save both ships.
At the same time, Limey has made an agreement with Teak Barnaby. Barnaby is to give Limey half the treasure if he helps the peg legged seaman escape. They'll take the treasure map from Clark Kent, and Barnaby will wire dynamite to blow up the Clara M as they escape in a lifeboat. Before setting their plan in motion, Limey and Barnaby go to the captain's cabin to take the treasure map from the safe. Knowing the safe's combination, Barnaby takes the map. He and Limey go below to put holes in the other lifeboats so they are not followed. The greedy treasure hunters then set the fuse to blow up The Last of the Clipper Ships
Meanwhile, Superman is moving at his best speed and using all his strength to save the two sinking tankers. However, he doesn't know of Barnaby's escape and the danger to the Clara M.
At the same time, Pug, Jimmy and Scotty learn of Barnaby's escape and the missing treasure map. Just then, the first explosion occurs, and the flames begin to take the clipper. With no lifeboats, Jimmy Olsen and his friends are stranded on the blazing Clara M. However, Scotty doesn't want to give up without a fight. He's going with Pug and Jimmy to the radio room, where the operator has already sent a distress call.
Meanwhile, Superman, having pulled the two tankers to the mainland, is returning to the Clara M. He sees the boat carrying Limey and Teak Barnaby. They had fought over the treasure map. Both men are dead as a result of killing each other. Limey died from knife wounds, while Barnaby had been shot.
On the bridge of the Clara M, the radio man tells Scotty that a United States Navy destroyer responded to their distress call. However, the last of the Clipper Ships only has five to ten minutes before it's completely underwater. The destroyer may not reach the Clara M in time. However, Superman does get to the boat. Saying that he made sure that Clark Kent is safe, the Man of Tomorrow carries the radio man, Scotty, Pug and Jimmy to the naval vessel. Assisting the navy with the rescue of the Clara M's crew, Superman has brought this serial to a close, but another mystery awaits our hero next time in The Adventures of Superman, boys and girls. Be sure to stayed tuned for another exciting story.
Some time back, Steve Younis used "The Last of the Clipper Ships" as an example in his article on the use of the word "swell" in the Superman universe.
Am I the only one that wanted to feed Pug Flannigan to the sharks? He wasn't an unnecessary character like Tumbleweed Jones, but there's something about the little stinker that makes one want to give him a good swift kick in the butt. I think he's portrayed that way on purpose. It feels like the writers clearly wanted to show how two different children from single parent homes (I'm assuming Pug's mother is no longer with his father because he only mentions his father in this story arc) are as different as night and day. Jimmy is raised by his mother who loves and nurtures him, whereas the listener is given the impression that Pug's father was abusive and/or neglectful toward the lad. In every case, it seems that the writers' intention for Pug was to make us want to beat him with Teak Barnaby's wooden leg even if we feel some sympathy toward him.
Whatever the reasons may be, Pug does not take any quality away from "The Last of the Clipper Ships". It's still an amazingly entertaining story, and the gray, foggy weather that's here as I write this added the perfect atmosphere to this wonderful arc. I think this helped me to enjoy it more. I honestly couldn't find anything wrong with this serial.
One thing that really helps "The Last of the Clipper Ships" is that all twenty chapters move at an even pace and don't move away from the story. One problem with the previous serials with more than twelve chapters was that some chapters tended to drift away from the story and add elements that feel unnecessary for the arc's progress. "The Howling Coyote" and "The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery" both suffer from this problem. However, everything in "The Last of the Clipper Ships" works well together and doesn't feel like it was just put into the serial just to fill fifteen minutes.
One extremely delightful thing in "The Last of the Clipper Ships" is perhaps my favorite part of the entire story arc. That is the scene in which Clark Kent and Superman are having a converation with each other. In my opinion, only Bud Collyer could have pulled this off. The actors that followed him in the Superman role probably would not have done this as well. Kirk Alyn would have done his best, and he has done different voices for both Clark and Superman. However, Collyer really makes it more believable in the theater of the mind that is radio. Visual mediums like movies, TV and comic books most likely would not have given this scene the impact that the listeners' imaginations could do. Collyer's extremely great in the roles of both Clark Kent and Superman. He makes the listener feel like both characters are in the same room together, even if everyone hearing knows Clark and Superman are one and the same.
"The Last of the Clipper Ships" was a joy for the ears, and I hope we see more stories like it in the future. Next week, "The Nitrate Shipment" comes to Metropolis. We'll see what happens to Superman and company when it arrives. Until then, Superfans, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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