Supporting Cast

by Richard Potter


Of course, George Reeves’ portrayal of Superman/Clark Kent is primarily responsible for the amazing success of the Adventures of Superman.  His interpretation of both characters is why baby-boomers still hold a fond place in their hearts for the TV show as well as for this very under-rated actor.  While the Christopher Reeve version of Superman (1978) may have made you believe a man can fly, the George Reeves version gave you someone you could believe in.

Nevertheless, no television show, no matter how talented its star may be, will ever be successful unless it also includes an outstanding supporting cast.  The Adventures of Superman  is an early example of this phenomenon.  Had it not been for the important contributions of Noel Neill, Jack Larson, John Hamilton, Robert Shayne, and Phyllis Coates, the Adventures of Superman might well have been relegated to a mere curiosity, never becoming one of the most beloved, longest running TV shows of all time.  But thanks to their efforts, the character of Superman and his amazing adventures came to life.  Most important of all, George and his supporting cast created a family to which the viewer could relate.  The actors made you believe that these characters really cared about each other.  Thus, even when the special effects fell flat (no pun intended), or the plot was downright silly, you still enjoyed the show because of the loving family that the cast displayed.  That was no small feat; many have tried, and many have failed.  But these actors achieved something truly special, very unique, and thereby created one of the memorable elements that accounts for the enduring popularity of the program.

Without further ado, we present the following mini-bios of the outstanding supporting cast of Adventures of Superman:

Noel Neill

Noel Neill played Lois Lane, reporter for the Daily Planet, in the Superman serials (starring Kirk Alyn) as well as in seasons 2-6 of the Adventures of Superman.

Noel Neill was born on November 25, 1920 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Her ambition was to be a journalist like her father, the editor of a Minneapolis newspaper.  However, she got started in show business when she was hired by Bing Crosby to sing at the Turf Club at the race track in Del Mar, California.  In her teens, Noel was a popular photographic model.  Her pin-up was ranked second only to Betty Grable's among GIs during World War II.  In 1941, Noel was signed to a contract by Paramount.  She got early experience in television by hosting and performing on several experimental programs broadcast locally in Los Angeles in the late '40s, and it was around that time that she began appearing in serials, first at Columbia and then for Republic.

In 2006, she played the role of dying widow Gertrude Vanderworth in Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh.

You can read her screen credits here.  There is also an entry about Noel Neill at Wikipedia.

Montage from The Wedding of Superman, Noel’s favorite episode.

Jack Larson

Jack Larson and Leonard Nimoy (1952)

Jack Larson played Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter for the Daily Planet on the Adventures of Superman.

Jack Larson was born on February 8, 1928 in Los Angeles, California.  In his teen years, Jack became interested in acting and remembers that even before he finished classes at Pasadena Junior College, he and Debbie Reynolds signed with Warner Brothers the same week in May 1948. Jack left Warners two years later and appeared in a play called "The Great Man" with Albert Dekker. In September 1950, Jack appeared with Edgar Buchanan in a live television show called Country Editor.  Note: Jack gives 1933 as the year of his birth, but public records indicate he was actually born in 1928.

In 2006, he played the role of Bo the bartender in Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh.

You can read his screen credits here.  There is also an entry about Jack Larson at Wikipedia.

John Hamilton

John Hamilton in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

John Hamilton played Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet on the Adventures of Superman.

John R. Hamilton was born on January 16,1887 in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  He was the fourth of four children, and raised in nearby Southampton Township, Franklin County.  His father, John M. Hamilton, was a store clerk.  His mother, Cornelia Jane Hollar Hamilton, passed away on January 24, eight days after giving birth to John.  He became best known as Perry White on the Adventures of Superman in 1951 at the age of 64.  He passed away on October 15, 1958 in Glendale, California.

You can read his screen credits here.  There is also an entry about John Hamilton at Wikipedia.

Robert Shayne

Robert Shayne with Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington (1944)

Robert Shayne played Inspector Bill Henderson on the Adventures of Superman.

Robert Shayne was born on October 4, 1900 in Yonkers, New York as Robert Shaen Dawe.  Bob was raised in Washington, DC.  He later attended Boston University and Chicago University, still later working as a newspaper reporter in Florida.  Bob made his stage debut in 1927 in "Is Zat So?" with the Jefferson Stock Company of Birmingham, Alabama.  In 1931 he made his Broadway debut in "The Rap".  After 97 motion picture credits and countless television appearances, Bob's final role was the part of Reggie, a blind news vender in The Flash on CBS in 1991.  He passed away on November 29, 1992 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California.  Bob is survived by a daughter, Stephanie.

You can read his screen credits here.  There is also an entry about Bob at Wikipedia.

Phyllis Coates

Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane, reporter for the Daily Planet, in the theatrical release Superman and the Mole Men (starring George Reeves) as well as in the first season of the Adventures of Superman.

Phyllis Coates was born on January 15,1927 in Wichita Falls, Texas.  Born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell, she moved to California in 1941.  Shortly afterward, Gail Getterman, a producer at MGM changed her name to Phyllis Coates.  Mr. Getterman thought the name "Phyllis" sounded rather classy, and the name "Coates" came from the sign on a passing truck.  Among Phyllis' first works are Ken Murray's "Blackouts" (a stage variety show) in 1943 and 1944.

You can read her screen credits here.  There is also an entry about Phyllis at Wikipedia.