Sunday, August 21, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Super Friends”—Dick Ryal (Captain Cold)

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries "Super Friends" (including a list of interviewees).

Notes I took during our initial phone call:

  • He calls himself “Rick” on his answering machine and his last name is pronounced “rile.”
  • When I called him, he said he would be happy to help.
  • He is “no longer an electronics person.” No computer.
  • He retired twenty years ago.
  • He spent his first sixteen years in Elmira, New York.
  • He’s not in much contact with people except a few family members and friends; most have either “moved away or passed away.”
  • He was both actor and writer on Heartbeat Theater from 1971-1986 (when the show went off the air). Olan Soule (Batman) also worked on the show.
  • He also played Abin Sur, the mentor to Green Lantern.
  • He didn’t know Super Friends is on DVD.
  • A good friend of his was Stanley Ralph Ross (Grodd). He was also friends with Stan Jones (Lex Luthor).
  • I asked if he’d like to reconnect with anyone from the cast and he said yes. On Michael Rye: “I’ll look forward to seeing him.”
  • He never hustled. He always counted on his agent and manager to get him work.
  • Because of my last name and street name (which at the time was Bible Street), he asked if I am a man of the cloth.
  • I told him I lived in Los Angeles once and he told me an anecdote of a little boy who once asked him for an autograph and seemed to be wondering if that could’ve been me.

How did you get the job on Super Friends?

That’s something I have to think about. I had to audition, of course. The ABC executives liked me but the director didn’t like me. I don’t know why. I do know why. An agent had already sent somebody else but a subagent sent me at the last minute. I was surprised to win the part. I had no preparation. They auditioned 20 people for Captain Cold.

Were you familiar with Captain Cold before you got the job?

No, I was not into children’s [sic] books in that manner. I did like children’s books but had never followed that particular series. Being older, I knew the books from the 1940s and the heroes in comics of that era.

What was your idea behind the characterization for Captain Cold?

All they said was “Create a character.” I did a tough guy voice. It was kind of streetlike.

Sounds like you’d already worked with some of the other voice actors before Super Friends.

Oh, yes.

What challenges were involved in recording SF?

It all went smoothly. The one wonderful thing about a radio actor: I found later when in TV and motion pictures [that] we were probably liked because we were one-take actors. I discovered I could memorize a whole page in 10 minutes. I realized being a radio actor did not limit you.

Of the episodes you were on, do you have a favorite?

I wouldn’t say I had a favorite. There may have been an episode but it’s been so long.

It must have been a different feeling in the 1970s to see your show on TV and then feel you might never see it again because VCRs and DVDs didn’t exist yet. Do you now own any Super Friends DVDs?

[He said no and I ordered him the DVD as we spoke.]

Did you all stand around at the same time to record?

Yes. We sat on stools in a long line. We each had a microphone.

How much time, if any, did you spend with the other voice actors when you weren’t working?

I used to ride with some of them [including Mike Rye] to Hanna-Barbera. We might stop for lunch but usually not. Stanley Ralph Ross and I would occasionally meet at the Writers Guild theater and see a movie. I would meet them here and there if we were going for an audition.

Did you get any Super Friends fan letters in the 1970s or 1980s?

Oh, yes, but not through the studio. Sometimes they would send it to the network and the network usually doesn’t care about that sort of thing.

Specific Captain Cold letters?

Yes, there was a little boy who formed an unofficial fan club. Whenever he would see me, which he occasionally would coming out of a bank, he’d ask me for autographs. The artist at the studio actually drew my image and then he dressed me. I happen to look something like Captain Cold.

I don’t have any letters. I remember throwing most of that away probably 25 years ago. Voice actors didn’t think anybody cared! Voice actors and writers for that matter don’t get plaudits like film stars. We’re the forgotten ones! (laughs)

Nobody knew if the show was going to be a success. I remember getting some checks and then nothing. You said it’s on DVD—should I be getting checks for that? (laughs) I don’t know. I’m a member emeritus of the Writers Guild.

What does that mean?

A title for somebody who has been successful as a writer. I have quite a few awards hanging on the wall. I even have the Peabody Medal. I found one credit page at 6 o’clock this morning. [he shared some of his other work]

Do you still have any of your SF scripts?

No, they always asked us to turn those in, as is usual. I never kept them.

Do you have any other SF memorabilia from the era (i.e. birthday cards signed by cast members, etc.)?

No. I might discover something later. I may have had some stuff with the agent but they threw out $2,000 worth of stuff (film excerpts on professional sized tape, etc.)!

He did have something—something quite distinctive, in fact:
a page from a DC Comics calendar with signatures of many of
the Legion of Doom voice actors
(though only five of the LOD's thirteen members are in the scene).

How do you look back on your time on SF?

Lots of fun even though the director didn’t like me. I enjoyed it very much. I’ve been retired so long I’m used to being a zombie. An actor is half dead if he isn’t working.


What are you doing these days?

I do a lot of traveling about. I like to see things and go places in California. I also like to go to different restaurants. I’m not fat, I’m slender, but I like good food. My entire fortune went in the Lincoln savings and loan scandal in 1988. Keating absconded with $6 billion.

If you have children/grandchildren, how old?

I inherited a child, a son, from my wife. She died of Alzheimer’s a few years ago. We had a wonderful relationship. She was a model, a beautiful girl, one of those drop-dead pretty ones. Being of an artistic bent like myself…we had our own apartments. If we had a tiff, we’d go back to our [respective] apartments. Then we’d come back together. And that made for a successful marriage. One reason is that we lived in Hollywood. We were young and we did party a bit but I didn’t care for it as much as she did.

When did you get married?

About 1965.

Are you still in touch with her son?

No, I don’t know where he is. He’s a middle-aged man. We got along well enough but he went his own way. That was before she died. It wasn’t unpleasant.

Was he around when you were doing Captain Cold?

He was not in Hollywood at the time.

[Then he mentioned The Zero Hour, a Rod Serling radio show he worked on.]

Did you meet Rod Serling?

Oh, sure. He didn’t come all the time. He was still in New York. I have no memories of him in particular.

Has anyone else interviewed you about SF?


Have you ever participated (i.e. signed autographs) at a comic convention? If not, would you be willing to (if the convention paid your way)?

Of course. I’d love to meet you anyway. I’d love to see those of us remain.

Anything else about the experience I didn’t cover that you’d like to add?

No, other than that I’m delighted that you got in touch with me. I almost hung up on you. Not because of you but because I was working on my phone. [though he did then mention getting solicitation calls and being irritated] [But] you made my day.

And so Captain Cold brings a warm finish to the Super Friends oral history. Next: the Sea World water skiing superheroes show.


Anonymous said...

Was a terrific pleasure, reading this about the great Dick Ryal.

Unknown said...

He lives in my building...he îs 93 years old and needs a Little help to get by....plecase contact me of YOU are willing to help.