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The Many Faces of Jimmy Olsen

As Shown by Jack Larson

By Thom Hamilton and Colete Morlock

Once upon a time, an old man made a wish to have a wooden puppet named Pinocchio become a real boy. In a similar manner, Jack Larson took a comic book character named "James Bartholomew Olsen" and made an icon out of Jimmy. Jack Larson, as that youthful cub reporter, showed us many sides of his talent in so many episodes of the Adventures Of Superman. We decided to highlight some of the qualities that made Jimmy so memorable.

One of his most animated performances was as Semi-Private Eye. Through Jimmy, we see "Mike Hammer Visits Comedy Central". One cannot help but chuckle with Jack's facial expressions and vocal intonations as he runs through the dialogue of "Thanks, Baby, I know I'm a genius but sometimes I get tired of slapping around these punk hoodlums all day. Oh well, somebody has to do it. End of memo. " Indeed, even Clark has to crack a smile when replaying the tape machine on which Jimmy has been recorded. Jack shows us Jimmy's resourcefulness. In Fingers' apartment, Jimmy's notes paid off as he deciphers the phone number to Cappy's hideout. Master Olsen is a quick learner as he performs a jujitsu move along with Homer Garrity on the crooks. Hanging up the P.I. hat, Jack reverts back to the kid brother image to Lois with a typical line: "How does she get mixed up in anything?" Whether Jack was following the script, or added something to the end of this episode, his sheepish delivery makes this comedic sequence of handcuffing himself to the chair so memorable: "Do you have a duplicate set of keys? Because I did it again!"

Semi-Private Eye

In one of the best of Season Two, Jack Larson demonstrates the emotion and action kaleidoscope for Jimmy regarding his hero in The Defeat of Superman. He runs the gamut first with disbelief that anything can harm Superman. Curiosity prompts Olsen to have the Man of Steel touch it. Feeling responsibility for disposing of the kryptonite, he vainly attempts to toss it back up the vent, and toss it out the window with wire through it. A bit of acrobatics with Lois' help allows him to retrieve it. A weakened Superman points to the lead pipe from the sink, but Jimmy puts it all together, realizing that kryptonite needs to be kept inside lead.

The Defeat of Superman

Perhaps Olsen thought about alternative career moves if Perry finally made good on his many threats of firing him. Jack gives Jimmy great leverage to step outside the Planet cub reporter role and become one of the most amusing telephone repairmen I've ever seen (Superman Week). If he preferred more direct contact with people, he could always become a vacuum salesman as in Five Minutes To Doom. And yes, Jack, I do believe you could have convinced him to buy that one! If being outside was more his desire, Jimmy could have been a window washer (The Big Forget). Next time though, don't acknowledge people sneezing when you are supposed to be hard of hearing. When all is said and done, Jimmy probably started off as a Planet photographer. Capturing that historic moment with Nancy, Uncle Oscar and Clark, he also caught two uninvited observers at that basement window (The Whistling Bird). Perhaps one of his best shots was of the contest winner, Ann Carson with her mom, and Superman (Around The World With Superman). His ingenuous way of stalling the Test Of A Warrior by using all his flashbulbs to prove his worthiness as a member of the tribe was possible because of his trusty camera. While he captured the lovely Mara Van Cleave with her arm entwined with Superman's, little did he realize he'd be an accomplice for transporting counterfeit engraved plates for The Girl Who Hired Superman. Speaking of Superman, he employed Jimmy's photography skills to capture the likenesses of Captains Mudd, Blood, Scud, and Thud to prove to the U.S. Navy that the Jolly Roger did indeed fly on that island.

The Big Forget

Did Jack ever work with mime? To say that Jack did panic-stricken well would be an understatement. In The Haunted Lighthouse, hearing, "Help! I'm drowning!" It's the look that sets the mood. The Evil Three, when Jimmy sees the "ghost" at the Bayou Hotel evokes the same sentiment. Then there's Lady In Black, when he looks out the back door to find said lady, only to have a dagger landing inches away from his face in the back door.

The Haunted Lighthouse

Many times we see a more heroic side of Jimmy through Jack. In The Man Who Could Read Minds, young Olsen attempts to stop the Phantom at the scene of the robbery. It is Jimmy who decides to chase the crooks by car and tells Lois to duck down when they are being fired upon. Later in the hotel room it is Olsen who gets the drop on the Phantom and who attempts to fight off Monk. In Shot In The Dark, Jack showed us that Jimmy saved the photograph and, at the same time, kept in shape as a runner, escaping John Eldredge.

If Jack has another moment in the spotlight, it is with his version of The Face and the Voice. In the case of Jimmy Olsen, Jack brings out the dichotomy of Jekyll and Hyde in Jimmy the Kid. There are striking differences between Jimmy Olsen and Kid Collins. While still looking alike, there are obvious physical differences between them. Jimmy is still sporting his high school attire - tweed sport coat, sweater vest, bow tie and crew cut. Collins, on the other hand wears expensive suits, dress shirts and ties, and his hair is supposed to be longer. Jack must have enjoyed the range of emotions for this episode. He was the usual meek, mild and humble Olsen and a few scenes later took on the arrogant, ill-mannered, ruthless nature of Kid Collins. Jimmy has learned how to express himself verbally when writing a story. Collins, on the other hand, almost sends Perry White over the edge with the poor manner in which the story was written. Olsen is respectful, even if he does refer to Perry as "Chief". It is interesting to see Jack as Collins telling Perry to "Watch it, Dad!" In some ways, seeing Jack in this one is like watching him portray a Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart as Olsen, and Cagney, John Garfield, or Edward G. Robinson as Collins.

Jimmy the Kid

Jack also showed us that being a reporter could be hard on the clothes. Take for example, in The Haunted Lighthouse, not only did Jim get his socks, shoes and trouser cuffs wet, he had to fight off his cousin and ended up being knocked unconscious and now he was wet all over. Good thing Superman arrived in time, or else "you would have been food for the fish". At least he learned something by this because, in Perry White's Scoop, he took off his shoes, socks, and rolled up the pant legs before he entered the water tower! Now, one could say that Jimmy really used his head in The Whistling Bird, because setting that sprinkler in the ceiling off got him wet from the head on down. It's too bad though that he didn't think of bringing an umbrella when, in Test Of A Warrior, his good buddy Superman ends a drought for the Indians with a torrential downpour that also ruins Lois' hairdo.

The Whistling Bird

Speaking of wardrobe, Jack showed us that Jimmy looked just as great in fur as the rest of them in Through The Time Barrier. Master Olsen looks great in one of Frankie's suit coats in The Boy Who Hated Superman. And to truly demonstrate how well Jimmy can clean up, he was good enough to be King For A Day. Jimmy could have used Lois' help though with his western attire in Bully of Dry Gulch

The Bully Of Dry Gulch

Jimmy also demonstrated that he was paying attention at school when he enlightened the treasure hunters of the albino palm on Dagger Island. The surprise on Jack's face when said palm tree is found is worth a chuckle. While Jack might not have portrayed a mad scientist, he did show us that some scientific discoveries are a result of an accident. Jimmy must have missed that day in Chemistry class when you were supposed to record every step of your experiment (What Goes Up). He also remembered his Morse code from his Boy Scout days, as it came in handy with all that lovely money burning in Olsen's Millions. What a compliment Superman paid Jimmy when he said, "Thanks for the smoke signals. Hiawatha himself couldn't have done any better." But how come Jimmy didn't know that a dog whistle has a super-high pitch, heard only by the canines and Superman (Prince Albert Coat)?

Olsen's Millions

Throughout the series, Jack seemed to grow up and grow into his role as Jimmy Olsen. In the first season, Lois had him tagging along, like a kid brother. In the successive seasons of the Adventures of Superman, he seemed to float from being Lois' accomplice, to her protector, and finally becoming more respected as part of the Planet reporter team. While Clark said that he never would know how wonderful it was to be Superman, we won't ever know how it was to be James Bartholomew Olsen. Thanks, Jack, for putting so much of yourself into Jimmy!

Thom Hamilton and Colete Morlock 

Perry White's Scoop

Last year Colete Morlock and Thom Hamilton contacted me with a proposal for a feature article on Jack Larson. Thom wanted for some time to express his appreciation to Mr. Larson for his many wonderful Jimmy Olsen contributions and felt it was long overdue. Of course I thought it was a wonderful idea. And so, both Colete and Thom combined their efforts, doing so living miles apart. It was their intent to have this completed by Jack's February 8th birthday. Unfortunately, we missed that mark. I was eager to read their work, but knew all good things come to those who are patient. When the article finally arrived, I wasn't disappointed. But before launching the feature, first sending this to Jack for his approval was in order. Colete and Thom offered some vidcaps ideas while I waited for Jack's response. Faster than a speeding bullet, I received a call from Mr. Larson, who was extremely delighted and grateful to the many wonderful memories Colete and Thom expressed towards him and the work he did on the Adventures of Superman. He very much enjoyed the feature and was happy to know many enjoy his work still after all these years. Before ending our ten minute or so conversation, Jack wanted me to also let everyone know how appreciative he is to be remembered by you all for his work as Jimmy Olsen.

This is Thom's first contribution at TAC and we are greatly appreciated to both he and Colete for this fine contribution.

Thanks for Watching.

Lou (March 14, 2008)   

The Adventures Continue (TAC) is a website devoted to George Reeves and the Adventures of Superman. All contents copyright© by Jim Nolt unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Nothing from this website may be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part (excpet for brief passaged used solely for review purposes) without the written permission of either Jim Nolt (owner) and/or Lou Koza (editor).

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