As a Superman fan, whenever you hear the phrase “Great Caeser’s Ghost”, you automatically think of Perry White. But when did Perry White first holler those famous words, and where did the phrase originate?
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.
“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.
According 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 tenth episode of “The Headless Indian” saga on the Superman Radio Series which was broadcast on November 9, 1942, 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 4 minutes and 13 seconds into the show.
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.
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!”
Thanks to Bob Cherry for assistance with this article.