There is a man: he stalks criminals from under the cover of darkness, striking fear into the hearts of his enemies. Trained by a shadowy cult of mystics, he uses illusion to disorient his foes. He works alone, but he has created a network of allies, of people whose lives he has saved. By day, he masquerades as a millionaire man-about-town and dates beautiful women. He knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. You’re thinking, of course, of The Shadow.
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Since 1937 (and before), listeners, viewers and readers have been engrossed by the exploits of The Shadow, Walter B. Gibson’s narrator-turned-antihero, and their effects have been felt since the dawn of modern American comics. From The Shadow and his secret identity, wealthy young man-about-town Lamont Cranston, you can draw a direct line to Batman; from his telepathic sometimes-sidekick-sometimes-lover Margo Lane, straight to Lois Lane; from the Tulku cult to the League of Assassins. The pulp of The Shadow’s past lives on in the various Dynamite Comics series, where he also has occasion to team up with other pulp heroes, like Green Hornet and Zorro. 1994’s The Shadow remains a cult classic, a slightly-overlooked piece of pure pulp. Let’s see where the cast and crew are now!
15. ALEC BALDWIN
Let’s get this one out of the way early — if you haven’t seen Alec Baldwin in the last three months, we’re not sure where you’ve been living. He’s been on Saturday Night Live as Donald Trump since before the election, he just came out with his memoirs, Nevertheless, he’s been hosting Here’s the Thing — a longform interview show on WNYC since 2011 and he starred as the eponymous The Boss Baby.
The Shadow came out relatively early in Baldwin’s film career, which has since gone on to include acclaimed roles in The Departed, The Cooler (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), and the most recent Mission: Impossible — however, he was also in Mike Myers’ The Cat in the Hat, so it hasn’t all been peaches and cream. He also starred as Jack Donaghy, Tina Fey’s Republican, business-focused foil on 30 Rock.
14. PENELOPE ANN MILLER
Margo Lane, the telepathic leading lady of the film. Lane is a socialite who decoded the Shadow’s secret identity, and whose father was kidnapped by Shiwan Khan. The character was created for The Shadow radio show before being adapted into his pulp adventures. Miller was originally a theater actress, who had already gone on to a successful film career, with Tony and Golden Globe nominations to her credit before starring in The Shadow.
Miller’s career since has included a number of hits, including Along Came a Spider and 2016’s controversial The Birth of a Nation. She also co-starred in Best Picture-winner The Artist as the disgruntled wife of the titular Artist. Miller has also had memorable television supporting roles, including stretches on The Closer and Men of a Certain Age. She most recently played Eve Carlin in 10 episodes of American Crime.
13. JOHN LONE
Shiwan Khan, the descendant of Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan, is a rogue student of the Tulku cult. By the time of The Shadow, Lone had already taken his two biggest starring turns. He starred as the adult Emperor Puyi in Bernardo Bertolucci’s biopic of The Last Emperor, and as actor Song Liling in David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly.
In the time since, Lone has appeared in fewer and fewer films every year. Among his last major roles were an appearance as a corrupt cop in Rush Hour 2 and as the Chinese Triad boss who hires Jet Li’s character in 2007’s War. Lone appears to have quietly retired — he has no listed credits in the decade since his appearance in War.
12. PETER BOYLE
The first sad entry in the list, Peter Boyle passed in 2006. Boyle was known for much of his early career as a tough guy, but made a beloved turn as “The Monster” in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. By the time he played cabbie Moe Shrevnitz, one of the Shadow’s network of informers, Boyle was trying to transition from his earlier gangster roles in films like Joe and The Brink’s Job , and had a supporting role in The Santa Clause the same year.
He dipped his toe into the comic book world again with a guest appearance on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, but the remainder of his work was mostly focused on honing the grouchy-but-loveable old man type he was cultivating on Everybody Loves Raymond.
11. ANDRE GREGORY
The mysterious Burbank, communications “officer” in the Shadow’s network of informers. Gregory is most well-known as a theatre director, and especially as a working partner of Wallace Shawn. Gregory’s first major role was in the metafictional My Dinner With Andre, starring himself and Shawn and directed by Louis Malle.
Since his enigmatic turn as Burbank, Gregory has continued to sporadically act, most recently in an episode of The Young Pope. He also had a supporting role in Jonathan Demme’s A Master Builder, starring (who else but) Wallace Shawn. The film was based on a an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s original play conceived by Shawn and Gregory. Gregory’s wife Cindy Kleine is a documentary filmmaker, and her biographical film about Gregory, Before and After Dinner, was released in 2013.
10. IAN MCKELLEN
Dr. Reinhardt Lane, the atomic scientist from the Department of War, kidnapped by the nefarious Shiwan Khan. Perhaps you’ve seen Sir Ian McKellen in a few little pictures like The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit films as Gandalf the Grey/White, or the X-Men films as Magneto. Sir McKellen has been a lauded Shakespearean actor since the ’60s, and later in life has become a fixture at Comic Cons and Fan Expos.
He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1998 for his role as James Whale in Gods & Monsters. He has also been an active supporter and campaigner for LGBT rights in the UK as well as the US. Since 2013, he has starred on BBC’s Vicious with Derek Jacobi, and he most recently appeared as Cogsworth in 2016’s Beauty and the Beast.
9. JAMES HONG
Hong plays the relatively small role of Li Peng in The Shadow. Peng is one of the servants of the Tulku sent to abduct Lamont Cranston when he was living as an opium kingpin in Tibet in order to give him the chance to redeem himself.
Hong has been a character actor in film and television for almost 70 years, with recognizable turns as Hannibal Chew, the frosted scientist who crafts Replicant eyeballs in Blade Runner, and David Lo Pan, the nefarious warlord in search of a green-eyed virgin to break his curse in Big Trouble in Little China. He also lent his voice to Chi-Fu, the pompous scribe in Mulan and is currently voicing Mr. Ping, the adoptive father of the titular Panda in all iterations of the Kung-Fu Panda franchise.
8. FRANK WELKER
Frank Welker played the voice of the mystical Phurba Dagger that convinces Cranston to follow the Tulku and discover a new path of justice. If Welker’s voice sounds familiar, it may be because he originated the voice of Fred Jones in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! He has since taken over the voice of Scoob himself. Welker has also continued voicing Megatron, a role he originated in the original Transformers cartoons and Nibbler, the adorable, dark matter-pooping mascot of Planet Express.
Welker has an astonishing amount of credits for performing animal vocal effects, such as Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II on The Simpsons, Abu in Aladdin and its resultant sequels and TV shows, and Totoro in the English dub of My Neighbor Totoro.
7. JONATHAN WINTERS
Jonathan Winters played Wainwright Barth, the police commissioner, or Jim Gordon to Lamont Cranston’s Bruce Wayne. Winters was a television and album comedy fixture for six decades, whose voice and impersonations raised a generation of comedians. Winters’ most memorable roles included Lennie Pike in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Mork and Mindy’s reverse-aging son Mearth on Mork & Mindy, and as the voice of Papa Smurf in The Smurfs TV show, as well as the two most recent movies.
Winters was something of a polymath. He was also known for writing several books of comedy and short stories, and he had several gallery installations of his artwork, both paintings and silkscreens. He passed weeks after finishing recording his dialogue for The Smurfs 2.
6. TIM CURRY
Farley Claymore, the traitorous sidekick to McKellen’s Dr. Lane. Curry was already a pop culture fixture in 1994, on the strength of his role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pennywise the clown in IT and of course, the concierge in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Curry has always been a man of many talents and since The Shadow, originated the character of Nigel Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys and the role of King Arthur in Spamalot!
Curry suffered a major stroke in 2012, and has remained active in voice work, lending his distinctive touch to Darth Sidious in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He also made a triumphant return to Rocky Horror in 2016’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.
5. SAB SHIMONO
Shimono plays Dr. Roy Tam, one of the Shadow’s network of informants who helps him decode Khan’s villainous plan to force Dr. Lane to build an atomic bomb. Shimono would have already been familiar to younger viewers as the feudal Lord Norinaga in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and Koga in 3 Ninjas Kick Back. Shimono also appeared in Mame on Broadway as Auntie Mame’s manservant.
Since his appearance as the Shadow’s sidekick, Shimono has gone on to appear in films like Waterworld, Southland Tales, and has had small roles in Mad Men and Legends of Tomorrow. He has lent his voice to a number of animated series, with roles like Master Yu in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Jack’s father in Samurai Jack and Uncle in The Jackie Chan Adventures. He may be best known as the voice of Mr. Sparkle in the Simpsons episode, “In Marge We Trust.”
4. RUSSELL MULCAHY
The director of The Shadow. Russell Mulcahy is an Australian filmmaker and music video director. Mulcahy is probably familiar to most moviegoers as the director of Highlander (and, to a certain extent, Highlander II: The Quickening). In the ’70s and ’80s, Mulcahy was a pioneer in music video visual effects, from introducing a more frenetic editing rhythm to matte finishes and spot colors. A fun fact: Mulcahy directed the music video for The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first music video MTV aired.
Since The Shadow, Mulcahy’s only relatively big-budget title has been 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction, but he has become an active television director. He directed the pilots for Queer as Folk and Teen Wolf. His most recent project was a two-episode stint directing Christina Ricci in Lifetime’s The Lizzie Borden Chronicles in 2015.
3. DAVID KOEPP
The screenwriter for The Shadow, David Koepp’s star has risen consistently since the film. He was already fresh off having co-written Jurassic Park with Michael Crichton, and his next two projects were scripting Mission: Impossible and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, while also acting as a second unit director.
Koepp has gone on to a successful directing career, while continuing to write. He directed his own screenplays for Stir of Echoes, Ghost Town, Premium Rush and Secret Window. He also wrote Panic Room, Zathura, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and 2002’s Spider-Man. He wrote 2017’s The Mummy alongside Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, and was announced as the writer for 2019’s The Bride of Frankenstein and 2020’s as-yet-untitled Indiana Jones movie.
2. JERRY GOLDSMITH
The composer for The Shadow. Goldsmith’s style was very traditionally American, incorporating both the bold simplicity of Aaron Copland and the discordant Modernism of Béla Bartók. This gave his score for The Shadow the space to have a heroic, swelling theme and much more avant-garde touches, such as making a discordant horn effect on a synthesizer leitmotif for Khan, rather than a short theme.
Before his death in 2004, Goldsmith was one of the most accomplished film scorers in history, with 18 Academy Award nominations (but only one win for The Omen), and two scores included in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years of Film Scores” (Chinatown and Planet of the Apes). In 50 years of activity, Goldsmith’s work post-The Shadow retained his standards of high quality, including scores to the films Mulan, L.A. Confidential, and Star Trek: First Contact, a collaboration with his son, Joel.
1. WALTER B. GIBSON
While the Shadow existed as an entity and a narrator before Walter B. Gibson, The Shadow didn’t really exist as a character until after Gibson was given the task of creating the first issue of The Shadow quarterly magazine. Gibson, writing under company pen name Maxwell Grant, took a vague idea and solidified it into Lamont Cranston and his vigilante alter ego, The Shadow.
Gibson is one of those mythical authors whose contribution to his creation (especially one like The Shadow, with subsequent series in so many different media) can be measured by sheer volume alongside innovation. Gibson’s obituary in The New York Times lists his output at roughly the equivalent of 24 novels per year; by Gibson’s estimation, his peak output was 1,680,000 words per year, with an end result of at least 283 The Shadow novels to his credit. He died in 1985.
Does The Shadow hold up today? Let us know in the comments!
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