Noel Neill, TV’s early – and to many Boomers, only – Lois Lane, died at her home in Tucson, Arizona yesterday. The Adventures of Superman costar (opposite George Reeves’ Superman and Jack Larson’s Jimmy Olsen) was 95. The former actress had been in ill health since suffering a broken hip in 2010.
Her death was announced by her friend and biographer Larry Thomas Ward. “Noel Neill maintained that bright, perky and engaging personality up until her death,” Ward said. Funeral services will be private with a public memorial held later this year.
Neill’s pre-Superman career dated back to the 1940s, with uncredited roles in such films as The Blue Dahlia and The Big Clock. Her performance in the ’48 Superman serial marked the first on-screen portrayal of Lois, a Front Page-like reporter who clearly longed for Superman while she worked, unknowingly, side-by-side with his mild-mannered alter ego Clark Kent.
Jim Beaver, an actor known for roles on Supernatural, Deadwood and Justified, tweeted his condolences.
Though she mostly gave up acting after Adventures of Superman, Neill relished her place in TV and Superman history, making fan-pleasing appearances in later versions of the comic book hero, including feature films Superman (1978) and Superman Returns (2006), and TV series Superboy and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
With her lasting fame from that single role, Neill maintained a fondness for – and sense of humor about – her legacy. In a 2003 interview she was asked who she’d least like to sit next to on an airplane flight. She responded, “The people responsible for making sure that none of us who made the TV show in the 1950s get any residuals now. We stopped getting residuals in 1965.”