“Oh, hi Clark!” Lois says absently, mostly paying attention to the newspaper she’s reading. “How’d you like your first day on the job?”
“Well, um,” Clark begins, which does not bode well for his efforts to keep her attention. “Frankly, you know, the hours were a bit longer than I expected.”
This is hard to swallow, considering all the time he spent standing around in the Fortress of Solitude, listening to his dad give lectures about immortality and the human heart. Dude’s had nothing but long hours for the last twelve years; he should be used to them by now.
Now, I know that I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last couple weeks on side quests — the behind-the-scenes story, what’s happening in the comics, digging into the Golden Age backstories — and we haven’t made a lot of progress watching the actual movie. “Danny is stalling,” the whisper flies round the clubs, and odds on me reaching the end credits are adjusted downward. So let’s go ahead and talk about the film, and if we really pull together on this, I think we can get somewhere.
The last time we were in 1978, if I cast my mind back, we were looking at the first Daily Planet sequence, which introduced hard-driving newshound Lois Lane, cub photographer Jimmy Olsen, grouchy editor-in-chief Perry White, and the secretly-identified Clark Kent. This is Clark’s first chance to try on his new bumbling-reporter disguise, breaking into the news business dressed up like a regular earthbound human being.
He’s trying not to attract too much attention, so people won’t recognize that he’s actually an invader from outer space, and the sequence we’re looking at now is a demonstration of how well that strategy is working. Things are a lot more fast-paced now that we’re in Metropolis, and the film is going to establish pretty much everything we need to know about how the Clark Kent costume works in a little over a minute.
The scene opens with Clark and Lois getting off the elevator at the end of the day, and Lois is talking with one of the all-time New York chatterboxes in full flow.
“Yeah, so it was fantastic,” says the elevator lady. “I met this really great guy, you know? Yeah, we had a fabulous weekend, I met him at this dude ranch, you know, we were riding and everything, oh yeah, I’ve been since I was seven years old, oh, I’ve got to mail these letters, I’ll see you, okay!”
And then she’s gone from our lives, this spirit of the city, and as she goes she bumps into Clark, who’s been standing behind them, casting adoring glances at the woman he can’t stop looking at.
It usually takes practice to not notice a guy who’s six foot four and built like an armoire, especially when he’s been standing right behind you in a packed elevator, but Lois and the elevator lady have both managed it on their very first try. It’s only now that Lois clocks that Clark is back there, taking up an outsize portion of New York real estate.
Her “How’d you like your first day” is half-hearted at best, so it’s just as well that Clark’s answer is audio wallpaper. He does the “long hours” bit, and then he recites the list of main characters and gushes about how great it’s been, meeting them all.
As Clark and Lois pass by, the camera lingers on an enormous model of the globe, set into the floor. And that’s pretty much the film’s priorities, for the rest of the movie: there’s Lois and Clark, and then there’s the rest of the world.
This sequence was filmed on location in the Daily News Building on East 42nd Street in New York — that’s where the New York Daily News was published, and it doubles as the Daily Planet’s headquarters in the film. They used the exterior of the building as well, when Lois and Clark go out through the revolving door.
Having the globe in the lobby was serendipitous on a couple levels: for one, it actually makes more sense for the lobby of a newspaper called the Daily Planet than it does for the actual Daily News.
It also serves as foreshadowing for Clark’s trip around the planet at the end of the film, to save the woman who he is currently having a hard time making small talk with.
The poor guy is clearly desperate to turn that fizzy-soda accident they had upstairs into a meet-cute, but Lois only pays attention to him once in this scene, and it’s to disparage him for saying the word “swell”.
Then he demonstrates how clumsy he is by getting stuck in the revolving door, which takes Lois’ active participation to resolve. Throughout the movie, Clark and Lois are frequently separated by glass — getting stuck in the door, looking out the train window as a child, staring through the car windshield at the end of the film — and the most persistent barrier between them is that pair of dorky glasses that he wears, which prevents her from noticing the superman inside. She could see through those transparent bits of glass and recognize the fabulous guy that he really is, but she’s just not paying attention.
As a final humiliation at the end of the scene, Lois greets real-life arts critic Rex Reed, and when she tries to introduce Clark, she can’t quite remember his name. And then she walks away, heading for a dude ranch, and leaving him behind.
1.42: Another Sunny Day in Comedy New York.
— Danny Horn