The comic strip character Flash Gordon was created by Alex Raymond in 1934. "As a youngster, I was always a great hero worshiper, and I guess Gordon was developed to be the hero of the young people all over the country," Alex told listeners at the Rotary Club's get together held at the Berkshire Hotel in 1939. 

On 'Flash Gordon', 3 people - pilot Flash Gordon, scientist Dr Hans Zarkov and reporter Dale Arden - blasted off into outer space on a mission of mercy to save Mother Earth from being invaded and conquered by the tyrant space lord, Emperor Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo, a police state. 

Alex continued, "I learned early in my career that I had made one mistake in making Gordon a little too active, or maybe 'bloodthirsty' would be the word. You see the problem of a man on this job is to create something that is active enough to be interesting, and still simple enough to be enjoyed by those of all ages. It wasn't until I had a few children of my own and had received letters suggesting that I tone down the strip that I began to get the theme that now (in 1939) has a place in the story. Gordon is now the fair-haired boy who always battles evil and comes out on top. It is the old story of good over evil and it still holds, especially when the evil is pictured as the personification of all that is bad." 

'Flash Gordon' was about the "battle between the forces of evil and crusaders for truth, justice and the American way." Dan Jurgens believed, "It's regarded as classic material, and it's part of American lore and legend." In 1936, 1938 and 1940, Olympics swimming medallist Buster Crabbe played 'Flash Gordon'. "Some say it cost $350,000 to make, others put the budget at over a million dollars," it was reported. Buster won bronze in 1928 and gold in 1932 at the Olympics. 

In 1977, Buster Crabbe told Bob Greene of 'The Milwaukee Sentinel', "I want to make another 'Flash Gordon' movie. We used to bring those pictures (including 'Buck Rogers') in 6 weeks. We'd shoot 85 scenes a day, sunup to sundown. I remember we were supposed to be on the planet Mongo, and I was supposed to be up against Ming the Merciless, or something like that. Sometimes they'd tie piano wire to me and have me fly around. But mostly we just walked around and fought all the time. 

"At least being Flash Gordon was better than being Tarzan. I was the 7th Tarzan. God, it was terrible. When Johnny Weissmuller was playing Tarzan, they gave him a decent budget. He had a whole zoo full of animals. By the time I was Tarzan, they gave me 2 animals. An elephant so old it was retired from the circus, and a toothless lion. 

"You know for a while there, I thought the 'Flash Gordon' idea was dead. When I was watching TV and I saw Neil Armstrong step onto the moon, I thought to myself, he's doing Flash Gordon a dastardly deed. With the real thing going on, I figured, who wants to see it in the movies? But now (in 1977) with this 'Star Wars' thing, I guess I was wrong. I've already got a plot for my new movie figured out. 

"It's a sure thing, don't you think? Japan, Australia, you name it – everybody knows who the hell Flash Gordon is. I'm not saying that we'll do as well as 'Star Wars'. But I'm not greedy. If we do even half as well as 'Star Wars', I'll be happy. I was never interested in acting. I was set to be an attorney … There was a good spot waiting for me in corporation law in Honolulu but I got waylaid. That one-tenth of a second changed my life. They immediately discovered latent histrionic talents in me."

Dino De Laurentiis had hailed the 1980 motion picture 'Flash Gordon' as "the space movie to end all space movies!" At the time of its release, 'Flash Gordon' was the 2nd entry in the comic strip–to-film sweepstakes, with 'Superman' being the first and 'Popeye' following 'Flash Gordon'. The movie costed $35 million to make but "pulled in only $14.3 million at up to 1,050 theaters in 24 days." 

'Flash Gordon' was shot in England at Shepparton on 6 sound stages; Elstree Studios occupying the entire space previously used to make 'Star Wars', Brooklands in Surrey and the large hangar at Weybridge that Concorde Universal Pictures once stationed. Ned Tanen of Universal Pictures insisted, "This is the first real comic strip on film. 'Flash Gordon' is not the 37th version of 'Star Wars'; it's not a laser-beam heaven. What Dino strove for was a 1938 version of the King Features comic strip, and he has achieved the look of the period – in attitudes, in space ships, in costumes. All other space films, except '2001', are interchangeable." 

Dino confessed, "I was after the rights of 'Flash Gordon' long before 'Star Wars' and 'Superman'. I'd been thinking about Flash since I put Jane Fonda into the science-fiction 'Barbarella' 15 years ago (back in 1966). After all, 'Flash Gordon' is rather special – the first hero to go into space to save the earth." Sam J. Jones was picked to play the part of Flash Gordon after Dino and his mother-in-law saw Sam on the TV show, 'The Dating Game' they watched at his Beverly Hills home. "I just did it to make some money," Sam said, adding, "It's funny how serious actors spend a lot of years trying to make it in this business and I come along, go on a game show and get cast in a major motion picture. When I was asked to screen test for 'Flash Gordon', I took it with a grain of salt. I remembered how I used to sit by the phone for calls that never came."

Sam J. Jones left Florida for Hollywood in 1978 to pursue his acting career. He had $100 in his pocket, was driving a used car and surviving on saltines and water. "I had only planned to stay 6 months and if Flash hadn't come along, I would probably have been long gone," Sam stated. "I never had trouble getting a job until I got into the film business. I used to be able to walk in anywhere and get hired. In the film business, I had to push a little harder. I am scarcely God's gift to acting."

In between auditioning for roles ("They'd tell me to go East and get some experience"), Sam waited on tables, worked as a health club attendant, saloon bouncer, shoe salesman, house painter, truck driver, sold body building equipment, was a semi-pro footballer, and earned $1000 posing nude for the 'Playgirl' magazine. He had also spent 2 years in the Marine Corps. Of his screen name, "One syllable names are more memorable. Look at John Wayne. But when I went to join S.A.F. (the Screen Actors Guild) there already was a Sam Jones, so I had to become Sam J. Jones."

Of 'Flash Gordon', "I spent 6 months in England doing that film and another month just getting into physical shape. I learned more in those 6 months than anywhere before in my life. It was a tough part for my first starring role. The only easy thing was the stunts and the physical demands. I'd played football, basketball and track in school. I wanted to make the stunts look real so we didn't use a double. Sure, I lacked experience. But you go in there and you do or you die. I did what I had to do and learned as I went along.

"Flash is nothing like Superman. He's a mortal man with no special powers. And I play him my own way – not like Crabbe or maybe the way John Wayne would have played him. It's all done kind of high camp. Flash isn't like James Bond either. He isn't supposed to be a male sex symbol and he's not a spy or anything like that. He's just a good athlete – they made him a quarterback for the Jets in this picture.

"His private plane cracks up in the greenhouse of the mad Dr. Zarkov who has built a rocket ship. He's lured aboard the space ship and finds himself on the planet of Mongo. That's when the fun starts. There's plenty of action with new weapons he's never seen before. But it's a love story, too. Most women would like to have Flash as a brother."

Denise Fox of 'The Michigan Daily' made the comment in June 1977, "'Star Wars' is a movie about good and evil, and it doesn’t leave you in doubt about who the good guys are. They naturally wear white and the evil ones wear black. The plot is simple enough. The heroes must rescue the Princess and save the universe from Lord Darth Vader and his evil cohorts. The hero is a cross between Flash Gordon and Prince Valiant. The movie is a fantasy, and creatures of every shape, color, size and origin imaginable appear, some speaking with accents, some just grunting or bleeping. Throughout the movie, the audience clapped, cheered and hissed and when the heroes got into a tight situation, the audience was pulling for them, at the edge of their seats in anticipation."

Canadian actress Melody Anderson played Dale Arden. She came to Hollywood in 1977 to pursue her acting career. Melody recounted, "There were 2 things I knew I did not want to do as a career: commercials and television. But it is hard to refuse the amount of money the industry offers you." Melody turned down the spin-off of 'BJ and the Bear' "and was planning to go to New York for a play, when I received a phone call from Dino De Laurentiis, urging me to see him 'immediately!'

"I had auditioned for the role of Dale Arden in February 1979 and by that summer night in August, I had completely forgotten about the part. It was on a Friday and the shooting started the next Monday. After a speedy decision, I boarded a plane and arrived in London without even a toothbrush. I had a whole weekend to get into character. I was still suffering from jet lag and not feeling too comfortable, when the hairdresser, scissors in one hand and color spray in the other, transformed me into a spacy, futuristic apparition. Everything went so fast that I was in shock. I rushed to the hotel and cried. It was quite coincidental, but in the film, Dale Arden is kidnapped and shipped to the planet of Mongo … where the terrible Ming lives. I had been taken away, shaven, put in strange clothes, and I felt very close to her. It was my first film."

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