Noel Neill, known to generations as the Lois Lane to two different actors playing Superman, died Sunday, July 3, at her home in Tucson, Arizona after a long illness. She was 95.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1920, Neill drew upon her father’s background as a Minneapolis Star Tribune news editor for her saucy portrayal of the investigative reporter who frequently needed the Man of Steel to extricate her from some perilous predicament. She became the first actress to portray Lois Lane in Columbia’s 1948 Superman serial opposite Kirk Alyn as Clark Kent, aka Superman. (previously, radio actress Joan Alexander voiced Lois Lane for the Fleischer/Paramount Superman animated shorts. The two reprized their roles for the 1950 serial Atom Man Vs Superman. When Superman moved over to TV with George Reeves donning the red cape, she was brought in to replace Phyllis Coates after the first season.
Prior to her playing Lois Lane, Neill was a contract player at Columbia working her way up the ranks. She appeared in a number of supporting roles in films, mostly westerns. She finally started earn herself lead roles starting with 1944’s Are These Our Parents?.
But her association with Superman remained after her work with the character in the 1950s. She had a brief cameo as a young Lois Lane’s mother in Richard Donner’s 1977 Superman: The Movie. She also appeared in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns as a dying woman whom Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor bilks an inheritance out of.
Just last week, she graced the silver screen once again when the Rifftrax/MST3K Reunion event riffed the Stamp Day For Superman short in which she appeared. Perhaps that appearance will set some new fans looking back at her work.