Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1940: Happyland Amusement ParkReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: July 08, 1940-July 19, 1940
"Happyland Amusement Park"
Lois Lane and Clark Kent are covering the grand opening of the Happyland Amusement Park. The only competition for Happyland is Carnival Town, a carnival five miles away that is owned by Midway Martin. Happyland is owned by Lois' friend Nancy Bardett, a 19 year-old girl whose father built the park. Unfortunately, her father passed away six weeks ago before he could see Happyland's grand opening. Nancy wanted to give up Happyland, but Lois convinced her that her father would want her to continue running the amusement park. Nancy is planning a parade with floats and a silver carriage drawn by six white horses to begin the grand opening ceremonies.
When Lois and Clark arrive, they overhear Midway Martin offer Nancy $15,000 for Happyland. She refuses, and the Carnival Town owner says that Nancy will be sorry if she doesn't sell because Metropolis isn't big enough for two amusement parks. Clark believes that Martin was threatening both Nancy and Happyland. Lois, however, doesn't think Martin meant anything with his words. She consoles the downhearted Nancy before Kelly, Happyland's superintendent, says that the grand opening ceremonies will begin shortly. Lois offers to ride with Nancy in the silver carriage while Clark says that he wants to take a look around Happyland for their story.
Clark is actually going to investigate Carnival Town. When he asks Midway Martin for a job as a strongman, the park owner refuses him. Clark then says that he'll ask for a job at Happyland. Martin replies that the only thing Happyland will need soon is headache medicine. Clark becomes suspicious and decides to go back to Happyland to keep an eye on Nancy Bardett and Lois. Suddenly, he decides to go into the shadows to change into Superman when he sees Happyland Superintendent Kelly going to meet Midway Martin.
Meanwhile, the Happyland Grand Opening Parade draws quite a crowd as it goes down the streets of Metropolis. Nancy Bardett is overjoyed by the success of the parade. Suddenly, the horses get spooked. Nancy finds it hard to control them. The horses bolt and run wild in the direction of a bridge that is closed for repairs. One of the carriage's wheels then comes loose. The previously happy crowd is now frightened.
Meanwhile, Superman overhears Martin and Kelly talking. Kelly tells Martin that Nancy Bardett will never survive the carriage crash after he put acid crystals in the harnesses of the horses. Superman speeds back to Happyland, grabs Lois and Nancy from the runaway carriage and flies them to safety just before the coach lands in the river.
Several hours later, Kelly shows Martin the newspaper article about the mysterious Superman saving Nancy and Lois. The article also says that doctors had discovered that traces of acid were placed under the horses' harness. Kelly becomes scared. He fears that Martin's plans will be discovered. Martin then orders Kelly to sabotage Happyland's roller coaster The Sky Chaser. Martin wants an empty roller coaster car from the ride to jump the tracks after some of his men warn people that The Sky Chaser isn't safe. Kelly refuses at first, but Martin threatens to tell the police about the acid Kelly used on the harnesses if the Happyland superintendent refuses to cooperate.
Meanwhile, at the Happyland Amusement Park, Lois Lane and Clark Kent are talking to Nancy Bardett. Clark tells Nancy of Kelly's meeting with Midway Martin. However, before Kelly can defend himself against the accusations, notices are dropped from an airplane flying over Happyland. The notices warn that The Sky Chaser is not safe to ride. Nancy addresses the panicked crowd at the amusement park and says that the roller coaster is safe. She plans to prove this by taking the first ride on it herself. Lois tries unsuccessfully to convince Nancy not to ride The Sky Chaser.
Clark Kent then notices that Kelly has disappeared in the confusion of the crowd. He finds Kelly and overhears him on the telephone with Martin. Kelly tells Martin that Nancy is on the roller coaster before Clark introduces the Happyland superintendent to Superman. The Man of Steel beats a confession out of Kelly. Kelly tells Superman that he removed a piece of track from the roller coaster. The Man of Steel then knocks out Kelly.
After asking Lois to call an ambulance as Clark Kent, Superman goes on a search for The Sky Chaser's missing track piece. He finds the piece, but the bolts are missing. Superman holds the piece of track with his hand while Nancy speeds toward him. After Nancy returns safely, Clark speaks with Lois in private. He tells her that The Sky Chaser's track was sabotaged. He then says nobody should ride the roller coaster tonight. Clark plans to get the proof necessary to put Midway Martin in jail for sabotaging the Happyland Amusement Park, but finding it might take a lot of time. He tells Lois that she and Perry White should not worry if they don't hear from him in a couple of days.
Later, Clark removes his glasses, but he doesn't change into Superman. He then waits for Kelly to regain consciousness. He tells Kelly that his name is Bill Jones when he helps the crooked superintendent to his car and drives him to Carnival Town. Kent tells him that he went to Happyland to ask for a job as a strongman with no success and hoped Kelly could help him get a job at Carnival Town. Clark also tells Kelly that The Sky Chaser went smoothly across the roller coaster tracks.
After they arrive at Carnival Town, Kelly talks to Midway Martin. He tells the Carnival Town owner about The Sky Chaser. He also says that he knows Bill Jones from someplace. When the car hits a bump on the way to Carnival Town, Kelly grabs Clark's wallet to learn Bill Jones' true identity. Martin and Kelly look in the wallet and learn that Bill Jones is Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet. Midway Martin has every intention of hiring Bill Jones, but he seems to have a trap planned for Clark Kent.
Meanwhile, Lois Lane is concerned for Clark's safety. Despite his telling her not to follow him, she wants to assist him in some way. She secretly tells Nancy Bardett of Clark's plan to bring down Midway Martin. Nancy wants to help Lois even though the reporter insists that going to Carnival Town to help Clark could be dangerous.
At the same time, Martin pulls a gun on Clark after asking him about his strongman act. Martin then reveals that he knows Bill Jones is Clark Kent. Clark's hand has been forced, and he reveals that he knows Midway Martin is behind the accidents at Happyland Amusement Park. Martin and Kelly knock out and tie up Clark, who pretends to be unconscious until Kelly and Martin leave. Once the criminals make their exit, Clark Kent makes way for Superman.
Superman overhears Martin and Kelly planning to switch materials in fireworks shot off at Happyland. They have every intention of burning down the amusement park. Superman flies at tremendous speeds to Happyland while Martin and Kelly are at Carnival Town removing the harmless powder from the fireworks intended for Happyland and replacing it with dangerous explosives. Suddenly, Kelly sees Lois and Nancy coming. He fears they'll see him working with Midway Martin, but Martin gets an idea that will give the nefarious theme park owner control and possession of Happyland Amusement Park.
Lois and Nancy ask where Clark Kent is, and Martin says that if they want to see Clark alive, Nancy must sell Happyland to Martin for $15,000. Just before Nancy signs Happyland over to Martin, Kelly phones Midway to tell him that Clark Kent has escaped. Martin orders Kelly to prepare his car before tricking Nancy into believing that she'll see Clark if she signs the bill of sale for Happyland Despite Lois' warnings, Nancy signs the paper. Martin tells Nancy that Clark Kent isn't even in Carnival Town. Nancy is distraught over being tricked by Martin, but Lois tells her not to worry. She later tells Nancy to find Clark, who Nancy finds at Happyland, and tell him that Lois is following Martin. Clark is not to move from Happyland until he gets a phone call from Lois. Lois then goes to follow Martin to get the bill of sale that Nancy had signed.
Over one hour later, Clark gets a call from Lois. She is about to tell him where she is when the call gets cut off. The operator then tells Clark that the call came from the Colonial Hotel in Parkville. Clark asks Nancy to stay in Happyland while he goes to find Lois. He later changes to Superman and flies to Parkville.
Meanwhile, Martin and Kelly must change their plans. They originally were going to spend the night in the hotel until Lois had called Clark from there. Now, they must make their escape, and they plan to take Lois with them. When Martin grabs Lois, she kicks him. He falls and hits his head. The blow to his head knocks Martin out. Lois takes the bill of sale from Martin's pocket and runs for her car.
When Midway Martin regains consciousness, he and Kelly take their car to follow Lois. Superman sees their car following Lois. They ram Lois' car until it goes over the cliff. Superman catches Lois before she falls. He then confronts Kelly and Martin and makes them believe that they killed Lois. Afterwards, Superman knocks out the two criminals before giving them to the police.
Later at the Happyland Amusement Park, Nancy Bardett thanks Clark Kent for finding the bill of sale before Martin and Kelly could get it. Lois is still confused about how she survived being pushed off the cliff. Clark and Nancy tell her not to worry too much. The important thing is that she's alive. She and Clark wish Nancy luck with Happyland before returning to the Daily Planet to give Perry White their story on the amusement park. What they don't know is that another assignment awaits them in the next serial in The Adventures of Superman.
I love roller coasters. I have ever since my wife and I rode the Aerosmith coaster during our honeymoon at Disneyland Paris four years ago. It was the first time I ever rode a roller coaster, and I felt this incredible sensation like I was flying like Superman. It was amazing. My love for roller coasters and amusement parks might color my opinion of "Happyland Amusement Park," but I really enjoyed this story a bunch.
It seems like roller coasters and amusement parks have always been a part of old time radio shows geared toward younger audiences. Thirty minute episodes of Superman and The Green Hornet also deal with this subject matter. Perhaps that's because the amusement park was a common form of entertainment for the youth of sixty plus years ago. I'm not saying that amusement parks aren't common today, but they do have more competition with other forms of entertainment in this day and age. Theme parks now, much like comic books, have to compete with things like the internet and video games to capture the attention of the youth of the 21st century. I personally find nothing wrong with video games and the internet, and I enjoy both immensely. I'm only saying that many theme parks have their work cut out for them these days.
Anyway, I really didn't find anything wrong with "Happyland Amusement Park." The story didn't have any plot holes, the villains' motivations were clear and not forced into the plot at the last minute, there was a lot of action and thrills, and the characters were believable. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is one of the best stories, if not the best story, of the Superman radio serials from 1940. It's slightly better than "Donelli's Protection Racket," and I loved that story.
I loved seeing the "Who or what is Superman, and does he really exist?" subplot return. It really hadn't been touched upon since Jimmy Olsen believed he saw the Man of Steel in "Donelli's Protection Racket." It kind of feels like the writers of that serial returned for "Happyland Amusement Park." In any case, it's great to see that "Superman: Myth or Reality?" subplot back after it seemed to be avoided for so long. I hope we see more of it very soon. I'm curious about how it will turn out.
I liked Midway Martin and Kelly. They reminded me of the typical villains in the George Reeves TV show. Their intentions were clear, and the listener isn't left with a billion questions like they were with Collins, Professor Hagin and Hans Holbin. There was really no need for back-story in this case. Martin simply saw Happyland as too much competition for Carnival Town, which most likely dominated the amusement park scene in Metropolis before Happyland was built. Martin was willing to do anything to eliminate Nancy Bardett and Happyland if he couldn't have the new amusement park.
The action and story as a whole feel like they could very well be an episode of the aforementioned George Reeves series, even though the scene with Superman and the roller coaster track reminds me of the famous train scene from the movie serials with Kirk Alyn. That scene, like the rest of "Happyland Amusement Park," would also translate well into the George Reeves show. Maybe the TV writers were inspired by stories like this when they were bringing Superman to the small screen for the first time. This is the kind of early Superman story I really enjoy.
On a side note, we have not seen the last of the Happyland Amusement Park. It will later show up in 1945's "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang." Lois, Jimmy Olsen and Dick Grayson A.K.A. Robin The Boy Wonder will go there in that story. However, we won't get to that story for quite some time. Next week, we'll have "Lighthouse Point Smugglers." Let's hope it's as fun and entertaining as "Happyland Amusement Park" was. See you next week. Until then, remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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