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Noel Neill: The Original Lois Lane

Source: ComicCon News

Noel Neill: The Original Lois Lane
BY STEVE CHUNG

Noel Neill originated the role of Lois Lane on the big screen in the two Superman serials from Columbia Pictures, and went on to star in The Adventures Of Superman during that series’ second season.

In Friday’s panel at Wondercon, Larry Thomas Ward, the author of “Truth, Justice, & The American Way: The Life and Times Of Noel Neill, The Original Lois Lane,” attendees go to hear the actress talk about her career, and about bringing a comic book character to life.

Author Larry Thomas Ward jokingly introduced himself as being Noel’s pack mule.

Although known mostly for her role as Lois Lane, Noel was also a singer-dancer, and first performed on radio in 1928.

She has done western musicals, such as 1947’s “Ode To The Santa Fe Trail” with Ken Curtis, who would later become Festus on “Gunsmoke”.

In 1948, Noel appeared in the first of the two Superman serials with Kirk Alyn.

Kirk Alyn was a ballet dancer from New York, and he made a good Superman.

When asked which Superman was in best shape, Noel states that it was George Reeves.

Reeves was very helpful to her when she started on The Adventures of Superman.

It did take some time for Neill to get used to seeing George go from normal clothes to the Man of Steel’s distinctive costume.

When she flubbed her lines, it was Reeves who asked the director to go easy on the kid, and pointed out that it was her first day with a new family.

The actor had appeared in “Gone With The Wind” as one of the Tarleton Twins. He also acted with the likes of Paulette Goddard and Olivia DeHavilland.

When asked what it was like to remember lines for “The Adventures Of Superman,” Neill recalls that the lines were pretty much the same, and only the names of the heavies were different.

When asked if she had seen “Hollywoodland” with Ben Affleck, the actress said that she didn’t think that it wasn’t at all like George.

Affleck reportedly gained twenty pounds to play Reeves, but Noel Neill insists that the late actor was not beefy.

In the film, Eddie and Toni Maddix were made out to be bad people, but in real life, they were nice folks.

Fast-forwarding a few years, Noel first met Christopher Reeve in England, and had a cameo as Lois Lane’s mother in “Superman” (1978).

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder were not in Canada, where Neill and Kirk Alyn shot their scenes.

It was at Pinewood Studios, where she saw Reeve and Kidder on wires, and shooting the scene where the Man of Steel picks up Lois from the balcony.

Unfortunately, there was some trouble with the wires, and the actors kept missing their spot.

During the filming of “The Adventures Of Superman,” George Reeves once fell six feet when his own wires broke. From that point on, the actor insisted that “Peter Pan flies… George Reeves doesn’t!”

Thanks to Thol “Si” Simonson, the flying pan was created, and the metal mold enabled Reeves to fly safely without having any wires to let him down.

Noel Neill then recalled how she and Jack Larson appeared on “Superboy” with Gerard Christopher.

“Superboy” was shot at Disneyworld. Neill regarded Christopher as a good actor.

When asked about “Superman Returns,” Noel Neill asks the assembled attendees in the audience, “Did I die well?”

Her answer comes in the form of applause from the room filled with fans young and old.

She was first approached by Bryan Singer to appear in the movie, and it was Neill who convinced co-star Jack Larson to appear in the movie.

Larson agreed to do it because it was about “Superman”.

Jack went first to Australia for filming with the young actor who would be playing Jimmy Olsen.

Noel Neill waited two weeks for Kevin Spacey to arrive from England, and shoot the scenes of a rich dying widow bailing out Lex Luthor.

It’s been said that you should never work with children and animals, and “Superman Returns” was no exception.

When her character dies onscreen, and Luthor grabs her hand to sign, the two Pomeranean dogs ended up kissing her hand.

The director liked this so much that he kept the cameras rolling, while the actors tried not to laugh from this unexpected development.

Neill met Brandon Routh at Wondercon last year, when he and Bryan Singer were attending a panel on “Superman Returns”.

“It was such a big studion in Australia, and Brandon was shooting second unit stuff.”

The actress’s impression of the young actor was that he was very good in the role of Superman.

It was the director, an afficionado of Superman, who told Routh to act like Chris Reeve.

Neill thinks that an older Superman would have been great, and they seem to be getting younger each time.

When she was learning more about the movie, the actress discovered that “Lois Lane had a child by who?”

In her eyes, Lois wouldn’t do a thing like that.

When asked about Kate Bosworth, Noel describes her as being a nice person.

When asked if she’ll be in the sequel, Neill replies that there’s been talk of having a scene with her character visiting Luthor in prison, and the scene hasn’t been filmed yet.

Noel Neill first played Lois Lane at age 28. She then appeared on the television series at age 33.

She is then asked by the moderator that in light of the fact that next year will be her 60th anniversary as Lois Lane, how long will she be doing this?

Neill smiles and tells the audience that if invited, she will come.

Larry Thomas Ward then opened up the panel for some questions from the audience:

QUESTION: Why wasn’t Lyle Talbot featured as Luthor on the television series?

ANSWER: The production was inexpensive and couldn’t afford him. (Talbot went on to play the next door neighbor on “The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet”).

QUESTION: What’s up with the statue of Lois Lane in Metropolis, Ill?

ANSWER: There will be a seven foot statue in front of the Daily Planet in Metropolis, Ill. by 2007.

QUESTION: Was she a comic book reader?

ANSWER: No. When she got the role of Lois Lane in the first Columbia serial, the actress went out to buy a comic book, and research the character.

QUESTION: Will she be appearing on “Smallville”?

ANSWER: There haven’t been any calls yet.

QUESTION: Will Jack Larson be releasing an autobiography?

ANSWER: Seven years ago, Larson was writing one, and claimed that he hadn’t reached the Superman part yet.

The actor claimed that it was hard to find a good typist, especially since he doesn’t use a computer.

Larry Thomas Ward mentioned that Jack Larson is a fascinating, spontaneous character.

Larson was friends with Greta Garbo, went to Europe to film, and his agent insisted that he accept a thirteen week job in New York.

“No one will ever see it… take the money and run.”

Jack did do the thirteen week job, and shortly after, he couldn’t ride the subway or walk around New York when “The Adventures Of Superman” went on the air.

I got to ask Noel about her memories of John Hamilton (Perry White) and Robert Shayne (Inspector Henderson).

Hamilton was an actor who was never young. He was always cast as a judge, lawyer, or policeman.

Noel first worked with John Hamilton when he played her father in “The Adventures Of Jesse James”.

Robert Shayne was almost blind by 1990 and passed away at the age of ninety-two.

Shayne was one of the early Hollywood liberals and tries to organize the Actors Union.

As Lois Lane, Noel inspired many women to enter the field of Television and Journalism.

In real life, her father was a journalist from Minneapolis, and Noel was a high school journalist for the Woman’s Wear Daily.

QUESTION: Did she always wear the same clothes as Lois Lane?

ANSWER: Noel says that she had one suit and three copies. She would consult with the script girl to see what she could change to. The actress would often supply her own shoes and stockings. When she started doing the college shows, Noel looked for a suit similar to the ones she wore as Lois Lane. Eventually, the actress wound up with a one-of-a-kind suit from a
designer named Vera Wang.

QUESTION: How was it that only four people were needed to run the Daily Planet?

ANSWER: Neill had heard from real-life newspaper people how impressed they were
by the output of the Planet staff.

During the filming of “The Adventures Of Superman,” she had no dressing room, production was inexpensive, the salaries were low, but a lot of fun was had by all on the set.

Recently, one of the films where Noel Neill may be seen singing and dancing is out on DVD. It’s “Here Comes The Waves” with Bing Crosby.

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3 Responses

  1. Was that Ms Neill on the final ER show who played Ernest Borgnine wife. Please say Yes

  2. That was not Ms Neill- but she will be at the upcoming Superman festival in Metropolis Indiana this summer.

  3. It’s really a cool and helpful piece of information. I am satisfied that you shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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