Noel Neill in February 2008
|Born||Noel Darleen Carr
November 25, 1920
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Noel Darleen Neill (born November 25, 1920) is an American actress in motion pictures and television. She is best known for her portrayal of Lois Lane in the film serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950), as well as the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman. Her last role was in 2006 although she is set to appear in Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel, which is still in production.
Early life and career
Noel Darleen Neill was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota; her father was a journalist, and her mother a dancer on the stage. In her teens, she was a popular photographic model. Betty Grable's pin-up was #1 among GIs during World War II, and Neill was ranked #2.
Signing a contract with Paramount Pictures led to appearances in many of the studio's feature films and short subjects. In the mid-1940s Noel had a leading role in one of Monogram Pictures' wayward-youth melodramas, and she became a familiar face in Monogram features for the next several years, especially in the recurring role of Betty Rogers. She appeared in the last of the original Charlie Chan movies, Sky Dragon (1949), and also played damsels in distress in Monogram westerns and Republic Pictures serials.
In 1945 producer Sam Katzman gave Noel Neill the recurring role of Betty Rogers, aggressive reporter for a high-school newspaper, in his series of "Teen Agers" musical comedies, beginning with Junior Prom in 1946. When Katzman was casting his Superman serial for Columbia Pictures, he remembered Noel Neill's newshawk portrayals and signed her to play Lois Lane. She played the role in the film serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950), with Kirk Alyn portraying Superman/Clark Kent.
When Adventures of Superman came to television in 1951, veteran movie actors George Reeves and Phyllis Coates took the leading roles for the first season. By the time the series found a sponsor and a network time slot, Coates had committed herself to another production, so the producers called on Noel Neill, who had played Lois Lane in the movies. She continued in the role for five seasons until the series went off the air in 1958. She was scheduled to appear in the seventh season with co-star Jack Larson in 1960, but after the tragic and sudden death of Superman actor George Reeves, the seventh season was cancelled, officially ending the show. While Phyllis Coates generally distanced herself from the role, Neill embraced her association with Lois Lane, giving frequent talks on college campuses during the 1970s, when interest in the series was revived, endearing herself to audiences with her warmth and humor.
Neill has continued to appear in Superman related productions. She originated the role of Lois Lane's mother, Ellen (alternatively, Ella) Lane, in a cameo for the 1978 film Superman, with Kirk Alyn as Lois' father, Sam Lane -- as was the case with Lois in 1951, Phyllis Coates would later succeed Neill in this role in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; Lois & Clark star Teri Hatcher continued the tradition when she made a guest appearance on Smallville as Ella Lane. In an episode of the TV series Superboy Neill appeared alongside her former cast-mate Jack Larson, who had played Jimmy Olsen on TV. Her personal appearance at the Metropolis, Illinois, Superman Festival was featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. As "Aunt Lois" she has a guest appearance in the independent superhero film Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes, and she played Gertrude Vanderworth (the dying elderly wife of Lex Luthor) in Superman Returns (2006).
In 2003, an authorized biography of Neill was published. It was entitled Truth, Justice, & The American Way: The Life And Times Of Noel Neill, The Original Lois Lane by Larry Thomas Ward (Nicholas Lawrence Books, softcover; ISBN 0-9729466-0-8). A limited-edition, expanded version of the book was released in 2006. Ward later wrote another book, Beyond Lois Lane (Nicholas Lawrence Books, hardcover, ISBN 978-09729466-1-2) in 2007 which focused on Neill's other acting work and modeling work presented in an array of rare publicity stills, studio press releases, film reviews, newspaper commentaries, and candid photographs.
Noel Neill and Jack Larson donated their time to record commentaries for the DVD releases of the Superman TV episodes. Noel remarked on the documentary Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman that a frequent question she would get from children at the time was, "Why don't you know that Clark Kent was Superman, just wearing a pair of those darn eyeglasses?" And Neill replied to the children (and later to college audiences), "I don't want to lose my job!"
On June 15, 2010, the southern Illinois city of Metropolis (the city that calls itself the "official home of Superman"), unveiled a statue of Lois Lane. The Lois Lane statue is modelled on Noel Neill. Neill stated that she was honored to be memorialized with the statue.
- Rainbow Island (1944) (*uncredited)
- Here Come the Waves (1944)
- Bring on the Girls (1945)
- Duffy's Tavern (1945) (*uncredited)
- The Stork Club, (1945) (*uncredited)
- The Big Clock (1948) (*uncredited)
- Gun Runner (1949)
- Son of a Badman (1949)
- The Sky Dragon (1949)
- Forgotten Women (1949)
- Abilene Trail (1951)
- An American in Paris (1951) (*uncredited)
- Whistling Hills (1951)
- Submarine Command (1951) (*uncredited)
- Attack U.S.A. (1952) (*with Phyliss Coates)
- In the 1956 episode "Tomb of Zaharan", Lois Lane was stated to be 26 years old, exactly 10 years younger than Neill was at the time.
- It's a staple of Hollywood history that Betty Grable's pin-up was #1 among G.I.s during World War II, but rumor had it that the #2 poster girl was Noel Neill.
- In a 1951 episode of "The Lone Ranger", Noel appeared in the episode "Letter of the Law".
- Larry Thomas, Ward (2003). Truth, Justice, and the American Way: The Life and Times of Noel Neill. Nicholas Lawrence Books. ISBN 978-0-9729466-0-5.
- Dan Levine (writer); Alan J. Levi (director) (1994-05-08). "The House of Luthor". Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Season 1. Episode 21. ABC.
- "Metropolis unveils statue of Superman's Lois Lane", abclocal.go.com, June 15, 2010.
- Actress Noel Neill recuperating after broken hip, kold.com; accessed March 15, 2015.
- Noel Neill at the Internet Movie Database
- "NOEL NEILL: FAR MORE THAN LOIS LANE", interview with David Priol, dpriol.com; accessed March 15, 2015.