‘SUPERDAD’ – A Memory of Superman’s “Officer Mooney”
By his son, Walter Michael Harris
When the first Chris Reeve ‘Superman’ movie was released it was one of the most exciting moments in my life. Not only was I a life-long comic nut and fan of the Caped Crusader, but my father, George Harris, had a speaking part in the film! Most of you will remember Richard Donner’s exciting buildup to the first public acts of Reeve-as-Superman, saving Lois from the disabled helicopter and apprehending a cat burglar and turning him over to Officer Mooney, a Metropolis police officer, walking his lonely night beat. Officer Mooney was my dad.
I was super-proud seeing my father up there on-screen with the Man of Steel, not only because I realized that my dad’s face would now be forever associated with Superman around the world, but because I always thought of him as a Super Dad.
“Officer Mooney” was my late father’s most recognizable film role among many. Although most successful as a stage actor, Dad filled in between jobs with all kinds of film, TV and music work. From a young age he loved music, particularly during the big-band era, and he also loved flying in every form. Throughout his life he found humor in, and had compassion for, the silly things that befall human beings every day – much as Superman did, in Reeve’s interpretation.
How often have you heard of a father and mother who raised six kids while working in the hardscrabble world of acting? How many parents would consult their kids, aged 2-13, on the idea of leaving their comfortable home in a small Florida town to pursue the family’s dream of a career in show business? It takes super-confident and super-talented parents to take such a risk.
George Harris was a super dad in more ways than one. He served his country faithfully during World War II in the Army Air Force. After the war, after met and married my equally super mom, Ann Harris, and they started a family in the brave new world of America in the 1950’s.
Dad worked hard to provide for his family, often taking boring jobs in between acting engagements that would have killed a lesser man’s spirit. In this effort, Mom was his dedicated and creative partner. No matter how challenging the employment situation became from time to time (an occupational hazard for actors), our parents made sure there was food on the table, proper clothing for six young kids in school and presents for Christmas and birthdays each year. It seemed as if they had super powers enabling them to accomplish all this! Once the family made the “big decision” to move north, Dad went ahead as an advance scout to find work and a place for us to live. With courage and curiosity George Harris walked the streets of New York, just like Officer Mooney in Metropolis, in search of opportunities to do right by his family.
Every April 1st we kids could always count on a phone call from Dad with a silly April Fool’s joke. On birthdays, instead of a commercially-produced birthday card, I would receive a hand-drawn personalized birthday cartoon, with a crisp dollar bill enclosed. A happy and positive guy by nature, Dad took great delight in relaying details of his day with great storytelling skill and a keen appreciation of the ironies of everyday life. When he was down, which was rare, Dad wrote to me in long-introspective letters – not an easy thing for him to do – sharing his private hopes and fears, and respectfully asking my advice, father-to-son.
Dad loved animals, especially pets. Therefore it seems fitting to me that Superman saved a cat from a tree soon after the “Officer Mooney” scene.
Last December, while fighting a losing battle with pancreatic cancer, my father maintained his positive attitude and sense of humor straight through to the end. He lost the battle on December 29, 2005, and the world lost a uniquely gifted human being.
I am thankful to Richard Donner and to the movie world for immortalizing my dad in the role of “Office Mooney” – and to Jim Bowers, creator of CapedWonder.com, for generously offering to post this essay, and for helping my family on the occasion of my dad’s memorial on June 8, 2006.
Next time you watch the first Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ film, when Office Mooney steps in to the frame, you’ll know why there are two Supermen up there on the screen.
Comments on this essay and/or appreciations of Officer Mooney may be sent to email@example.com.
Thank you very much, Michael, for contacting CapedWonder™.com a few months ago about helping with preparations for your dad’s memorial. It is an honor and pleasure. You are a true gentleman. I know your wonderful dad is proud of you and the rest of his family. CapedWonder™ fans you continued success and fulfillment with your ‘Power of Hope’ organization. Blessings to the entire Harris family.
Superman fans from around the world will always remember Officer Mooney…“Sergeant, I swear! Flying! With a big red cape! And bright red boots as well! Then, quick as a wink – he was gone! Flew up in the air again, he did. Like a big blue bird!”