R.I.P. Noel Neill
The Original Lois Lane
Noel Neill, who portrayed the plucky and resourceful reporter Lois Lane in the original Adventures of Superman television series from 1953-58, passed away on Sunday after a long illness at the age of 95. She had portrayed the character previously in the Superman film serials of 1948 and her career would continue to be linked to the Superman franchise throughout her life.
Born November 25, 1920 in Minneapolis, Neill was the daughter of a newspaper editor father and had aspirations of performing even at a young age and played banjo in a musical group throughout the county fair circuit while in her teens. While singing at the Del Mar Racetrack in Southern California, she was spotted by Bing Crosby who helped launch her career by securing her a contract at Paramount Studios and placing her with bit parts in movies. Though often uncredited, Neill's filmography includes some impressive titles from the 1940s and '50s such as The Blue Dahlia, Music Man (with Jimmy Dorsey), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and An American in Paris.
When The Adventures of Superman TV series first aired in 1952 the role of Lois Lane was played by Phyllis Coates but when she wasn't able to continue on for the next season due to scheduling conflicts Neill was brought in to ably fill her smartly tailored business suits, being already familiar with the character. The show became a phenomenal hit and came to define Neill's career. Neill, who in the series is infatuated with Superman, once said that her favorite episode was season four's "The Wedding of Superman Man."
When the series was cancelled in 1958 Lois Lane and her sidekick cub reporter Jimmy Olsen had gotten themselves into more scrapes than they could count but were always rescued just in the nick of time by the Man of Steel.
Neill would go on to portray Lois, or relatives of Lois, in several incarnations of the Superman series throughout her life. She appeared in the 1978 Superman: The Movie as Ella Lane, in the television series Superboy and as Gertrude Vanderworth in 2006's Superman Returns.
When asked why Lois never blew Superman's cover though she had surely figured out his identity as Clark Kent years earlier in her career as an investigative reporter, Neill cheekily responded, "I didn't want to lose my job."