Superman’s first onscreen Lois Lane, Noel Darleen Neill, passed away at her home in Tuscon, Arizona, on Sunday at age 95 following an extended illness, her official biographer Larry Ward has confirmed on Facebook.
The actress was the first to play Lois Lane as a live action character, in the 1948 Republic serials Superman , the 1950 Atom Man vs. Superman, and TV series The Adventures of Superman opposite George Reeve’s Superman. She also had cameo roles in 1978’s Superman and Lex Luthor’s wife Gertrude Vanderworth in 2006’s Superman Returns, among other Superman-related credits.
“She was kind, selfless, hardworking, funny with a quick wit, and assertive — all the same qualities that embodied the character of Lois Lane,” Ward writes of Neill. “Noel truly was Lois Lane, and for many of us, she was the first working woman seen on television. Few of her fans actually knew her real name, almost always simply calling her ‘Lois’ to which she would unfailing answer with a bright smile and a kind word. It was more than a role to her. ‘Lois’ was someone she believed in and a character she happily and warmly embraced.”
Neill, who appeared in more than 100 films (mostly Westerns), 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, 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.
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