Happy Birthday to the Great Noel Neill: The Screen’s First Lois Lane
By Gerry Gladston
Noel Neill clocked more screen time as Lois Lane than any other actress ever. With her endearing portrayal, she won the hearts of millions of Superman fans for decades to come.
Co-starring with George Reeves, Noel Neill was Miss Lane in TV’s The Adventures of Superman from 1952-1958 for a total of 78 episodes!
The romance between Superman and Lois was always teased, but never took flight. This was presumably due to potential backlash from sponsors in the 1950s. There was an exception, however in one very special episode.
Often cited by Neill as one of her favorite episodes, The Wedding of Superman found the Man of Steel unabashedly showing his love for Lois, and asking for her hand in marriage.
Beloved as Lois Lane, Noel Neill found a second career on the college lecture circuit in the 1970’s. There, legions of now grown up fans welcomed her and the charming stories of her years as “Miss Lane.”
Though we lost her in 2016 at age 95, her memory lives on. In fact, a life size statue of Lois Lane–in Noel Neill’s likeness–stands in Metropolis, Illinois.
For many, Noel Neill has always been, and always will be…Lois Lane!
- Though she was the second actress to portray Lois Lane in the show The Adventures of Superman, and best known for the role, Noel Neill was actually the first actress to ever play the character on screen! How can that be? Easy. Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane in the first season, but Neil took over afterward, reprising the role she originated in the 1940’s Superman serials that starred Kirk Alyn.
Why this Lois Lane is still so relevant:
In the pre-feminist 1950’s, Noel Neill’s Lois Lane was a ground-breaking, independent, career-minded investigative journalist, at a time when many female leads were housewives or secretaries. She showed young girls a different kind of woman on screen: a strong-minded one.
Top 3 Favorite Lois Lane-centric episodes:
- The Wedding of Superman – Lois is elated to receive flowers from Superman, along with his apology for being so busy with a recent crime wave. Thus begins Superman’s courtship of Lois Lane in a truly super-romantic style, culminating in their wedding—but will a lead-concealed time bomb hidden in the wedding cake put a damper on the ceremony?
- Five Minutes to Doom– In a feverish race against time, Clark, Lois, and Jimmy gather evidence to prove the innocence of death row inmate Joe Winters, scheduled for execution by electric chair at midnight! Superman saves the day (in bravura black and white film noir style), but could not have done so were it not for Lois Lane, who provided key evidence proving Winters’ innocence, via persistent, ace investigative reporting!
- Disappearing Lois—in this very Lois-centric and comedic episode, Miss Lane concocts an elaborate scheme to “disappear,” leaving Clark confused and flustered, so she can scoop him on the story of the year when she tries to interview infamous bank robber Lank Garrett, just released from a seven year stint in the Big House. Plot twists and hilarity ensue as Lois gets more than she bargained for, and turns the tables on Lank’s henchman with yet another brilliant scheme!