The waxwork of Christopher Reeve’s Superman was given pride of place in the exit stairwell of London’s Madame Tussauds for many years after its introduction in 1979.  The figure was originally adorned in a production made costume and suspended in a dramatic flying pose with a magically flowing cape.  The complete display of Superman bursting through the floor, with shattered chunks of concrete and strobe lighting effects from sparking ‘live’ wires stopped crowds on their way down in their tracks, immediately captivating children of all ages crying out Look! Its Superman! Christopher Reeve! as their parents excitedly pulled out their cameras one last time.

I know this as I was in the midst of it all, taking the above pictures in shock and awe as prior to this family excursion in the late 80’s I’d had no idea it was there.  I was elated enough having just found a 10×8 photo of Christopher Reeve in the gift shop, so a discovery of this magnitude was – indeed, as if I’d seen the man himself live for the first time.  I therefore spent as long as I could staring agog trying to absorb the details (my parents, seeing how taken I was, respectfully left me to it) while enjoying the reaction of kids as they ran up to the guard rail starry-eyed.  I may have been in my early teens at the time, but the impression it made on me was total and everlasting.

While the likeness was probably not as well-realised as his wax equivalent across the pond (at the Movieland Wax Museum) and the hairstyle similarly sub par, the costume was no-expense-spared and had clearly been tailored as per the originals with the addition of a cape in lighter fabric for movement.  By the early 2000’s however, time and wear had taken its toll and like many Superman Movie costumes, the colour had faded dramatically and so a replacement costume was produced for the figure’s relocation to the ‘Movie Room’ at Tussauds (bottom pic) where it would reside until the figure was retired sometime after 2010.

Having researched this piece for many years, as a footnote I recently managed to make contact with one of the former staff of Bermans & Nathans who not only confirmed they were responsible for supplying the costume but let me in on some very interesting details regarding the changes they made for the figure –

“I altered one of Christopher Reeve’s Superman costumes for the Tussauds display.  I can’t remember which film it was used for originally but we had to put a vent in the back of it for an air pump, to make the cape billow.  An interesting fact, he had several suits, that fit in different ways. For example, this one was for flying, so the sleeve for the outstretched arm is made longer, so it didn’t ride up the arm, and its fitted into the armhole at a different angle, to avoid too much shoulder wrinkling.  I remember the colours of the costume being duller than on the big screen, something to do with lighting and blue screen I think.  I’ve never been to Tussauds, so never saw it in action. I don’t even know if he’s still on display but it was an interesting project to work on…”

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