Noel Neill, the first actress who played Lois Lane, Superman’s colleague-turned-girlfriend, died on 3 July in Tucson, Arizona of a prolonged illness. She was 95. Her manager and biographer, Larry Thomas Ward, confirmed her death over Facebook, and described her as “that bright, perky and engaging personality up until her death”.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1920, to Minneapolis Star Tribune news editor David Neill and New York vaudeville performer LaVere Neill, Noel Neill began acting at the age of five. Neill went on to perform several dramatic readings on local radio shows. At the age of 18, she was hired to sing with Jazz singer Bing Crosby’s band. Soon after, she was offered roles in Hollywood, and in 1941, signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures.
After acting in nearly 100 films, mostly Westerns, Neill finally got her big break in 1948 with the role of Lois Lane in Columbia’s movie serial Superman. Following this, in the 1950s, she worked with George Reeves in the television serial The Adventures of Superman as Lois Lane, best defined as the “intrepid reporter”. The show hit the air just as television was becoming a social force in the United States, and became a favourite of generations of children, and had a long run thanks to reruns.
In 1958, the serial came to an end. Following the death of George Reeves, who died of a gunshot which was later ruled as suicide, Neill stopped acting. She briefly returned to the show in a cameo appearance after its revival in 1978. Her other performances include her role in the Superboy series with Gerard Christopher in the 1980s, her role with comedian Jerry Seinfeld in the webisode Hindsight is 20/20 (2004), and a brief appearance in Superman Returns (2006), with Brandon Routh playing the superhero.
In 2011, the town of Metropolis in Illinois modeled a Lois Lane statue on Neill, with her trademark pose with pen and notepad in hand. The statue has drawn several visitors over the years.
Neill had no immediate surviving family members.
Photo credit: Comicbook.com and Variety.com