Noel Neill, the first actress to play Superman’s gal pal Lois Lane onscreen, died Sunday in Tucson, Ariz. after a long illness. Her manager and biographer Larry Ward shared a statement on Facebook, saying that she “maintained that bright, perky and engaging personality up until her death.”
Her first appearance as Lois Lane was in the 1948 movie serial “Superman,” which showed her talent for humor. She then appeared in the sequel “Atom Man vs Superman.” The 1950s television series “Adventures of Superman,” starring George Reeves, gave her a longtime role as the intrepid reporter, and she said later in interviews that she simply played herself.
She returned several times to appear in Superman films — playing Lois Lane’s mother in the 1978 Christopher Reeve “Superman,” appearing in the “Superboy” series and in the Brandon Routh-starrer 2006 “Superman Returns.”
Neill, who appeared in more than 40 films, retired after the “Adventures of Superman” TV series ended in 1958 but was a familiar face at conventions and signings and returned for small roles in later Superman films.
Born in Minneapolis, she originally thought of becoming a real journalist like her newspaper editor father before playing one onscreen. She modeled and sang while in her teens, then wrote for Women’s Wear Daily before moving into acting and singing.
Soon after moving to Los Angeles, she was hired by Bing Crosby to sing at the racetrack in Del Mar, Calif. and then signed a contract with Paramount. She appeared in films including “Mad Youth” and “Are These Our Parents” and then appeared in “Music Man” and in a series of film and TV Westerns with directors including Vincent Minnelli, Cecil B. DeMille and Hal Roach.
Neill received a Golden Boot award for her contributions to Westerns. A statue of her as Lois Lane was dedicated in Metropolis, Ill. in 2010.