The summer that Superman came home to ... Alberta?

Was the logical place to recreate Superman's quintessential American hometown really High River, Alta.?

Parts of Superman III were filmed in Calgary and also in High River, Alta., in 1982

The filming of a Superman sequel in Alberta

40 years ago
Duration 2:14
In August 1982, The National reports on the filming of the forthcoming Superman III.

The logical place to recreate Superman's quintessential American hometown was ... High River, Alta.?

Apparently, as that's what brought a British film crew to the prairie province to film the third Superman movie nearly 40 years ago.

"A summer dawn has broken over the grain field near a small town in America, a town whose name is known to almost every child," The National's Eve Savory told viewers on Aug. 18, 1982.

"High River, Alberta, home of Joe Clark, has been transformed."

A slice of 'mythic middle America'

The filmmakers believed Alberta was a good stand-in for the part of Kansas where Superman is supposed to come from, according to his backstory in the comics. (The National/CBC Archives)

She was referring to the conversion of High River into Smallville, the fictional Kansas hometown where Clark Kent — the guy otherwise known as Superman when wearing a cape — grew up before he moved to Metropolis.

Savory's report showed various signs and set dressings that had been erected in High River, so that it could stand in for Smallville on screen.

"They felt that in Alberta, they could find mythic middle America," said Quinn Donoghue, a publicity consultant, who explained why the province had been appealing to the Superman III filmmakers.

"The waving wheat fields of Idaho and Iowa were not available .. and coming to Canada they found what the original cartoon artists found."

Caroline Abbott, a visiting American tourist, seemed to concur with what the filmmakers had spotted in Alberta.

"It reminds me exactly of the wheat fields of Kansas where Superman grew up," she told The National.

'Exciting' glimpse at Hollywood

Actor Richard Pryor is seen on the set of Superman III in Alberta in August of 1982. (The National/CBC Archives)

Calgary also was part of the film shoot, but it was used to represent Metropolis, the fictional city where Superman lives.

Curious Calgarians got a chance to see what the transition looked like, before they could check it out on the big screen.

They also got glimpses of stars Christopher Reeve and Richard Pryor working on the set.

"I just think it's very exciting to have it happen right around the corner from where I live and to be able to see them," said Dariel Bateman, a local teacher.

"I think it will make it so much more fun when we go to watch the movie."

Dariel Bateman, a Calgary teacher, said getting a glimpse of the Superman III film shoot was going to make the film even more enjoyable to see when it hit theatres. (The National/CBC Archives)


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Calgary as being the capital city of Alberta. The text has been updated and corrected.
    Aug 19, 2020 1:28 PM ET

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