RIP Noel Neill
By Michele Longworth
July 4, 2016
Actress Noell Neill may be gone, but she will certainly not be forgotten, especially not in Metropolis, where she was known as the First Lady of Metropolis.
Neill died on July 3, at her home in Tucson, Arizona, after a long illness, according to her long-time friend and manager, Larry Thomas Ward, who said she maintained that bright, perky and engaging personality up until her death.
A funeral service will be private, with a public memorial held later this year.
Neill was born in Minneapolis Minnesota, in 1920, and ironically had plans to become a journalist, like her father, who was editor of a Minneapolis newspaper.
But, Neill was hired by Bing Crosby to sing at the Turf Club at a racetrack in Del Mar, Calif. and afterward signed a contract with Paramount Pictures in 1941, obviously taking a different career path.
When asked if she was glad that her career went in a different direction, she responded with “Oh sure, it’s been fun.”
While Neill is best known for playing the hard-nosed reporter Lois Lane, her acting career began in the 1940s playing a teenager in the movie Mad Youth.
But her first professional performance before a paying audience was in the 1930 vaudeville production of Kid Nite Follies, which was billed as a miniature musical comedy.
According to information from International Movie Data Base, Neill has been in 75 movies and television shows, including such movies as The Lone Ranger – Letter of the Law, The Cisco Kid, An American Girl in Paris, Racket Squad and The Greatest Show on Earth.
Before Superman, Neill was most known for her work in westerns, but also worked in The Teenagers series at Monogram, several Paramount shorts and the last Charlie Chan feature.
Neill first assumed the role of Metropolis Daily Planet Reporter Lois Lane in the 1948 movie Superman, which starred Kirk Alyn in the title role.
Later in 1953, Neill replaced actress Phyliss Coates in the series The Adventures of Superman, when Coates left the show.
From 1953 to 1958 Neill appeared in 78 episodes of the show, which starred actor George Reeves as the Man of Steel.
Neill was in her late 20s when playing Lois Lane and has described Reeves as a “southern gentleman.”
In question and answer session, Neill has said that her favorite episode was Superman’s Wife, from 1958, which involved a dream sequence in which Lois dreamt about being Superman’s wife.
According to Neill, that was her favorite because she had the most screen time in that particular episode.
Neill made her first appearance at the celebration with actor Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen in the old Superman television show. She continued to be a popular celebrity with the crowds who converge in Metropolis for the annual event.
In 2003 a special Lunch with Lois was held which allowed celebration goers to dine with Neill, while she signed copies of her biography Truth, Justice & The American Way, by long-time friend, Larry Thomas Ward.
That same year, Neill was given a key to the city and was officially dubbed the First Lady of Metropolis.
Neill paid a visit to Metropolis in November 2006, when Papa Johns launched its Superman pan pizza, with Neill taking the inaugural first bite of pizza at the promotional event held at the Superman Statue.
Neill’s affiliation with Superman continued on, as she had a small cameo role in the 2006 blockbuster Superman Returns.
Neill said that during the filming of the movie in Australia, it took two weeks to complete her short scene.
Her scene was with Lex Luthor, played by actor Kevin Spacey, but Neill pointed out that during the whole scene she talked to herself and never met Spacey during the filming.
Neill said in the scene, following her character’s death, one of the two dogs lying on the bed with her began licking her hand.
According to Neill the director was calling to keep rolling while she lay there trying not to laugh from the licking.
Although Neill did not get to meet Spacey, she did get to meet Brandon Routh, who portrayed Superman and Clark Kent in the movie.
“He’s a very nice boy,” she said, pointing out that he was a very hard worker and noting, “He did a very good job.”
Neill was disappointed when she first found out about the intent for Lois Lane to have a child out of wedlock in Superman Returns and thought, “You can’t do that to Lois Lane.”
In 2005 the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce announced the group would like to erect a statue of Neill in character as Lois Lane.
In one of her last official visits to Metropolis, Neill was in town in 2010, for the unveiling of the Noel Neill/Lois Lane statue.
NEILL, Noel (Noel Darleen Neill)
Born: 11/25/1920, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.
Died: 7/3/2016, Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.
Noel Neill’s westerns – actress:
Prairie Chickens – 1943 (girl on bus)
Son of a Badman – 1945 (Vicki Burley_
Over the Santa Fe Trail – 1947 (Taffy Neill)
Adventures of Frank and Jesse James – 1948 (Judy Powell)
The James Brothers of Missourti – 1949 (Peg Royer)
The Cactus Cut-Up – 1949 (Errol’s daughter)
Gun Runner – 1949 (Jessica Harris)
The Cisco Kid (TV) – 1950 (Rita Shannon)
Abilene Trail – 1951 (Mary Dawson)
Whistling Hills – 1951 (Beth Fairchild)
The Lone Ranger (TV) – 1951 (Molly Niles)
Montana Incident – 1952 (Frances Martin)
The Lawless Rider – 1954 (Nancy James)