Jack Larson (1928-2015)

Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen.

Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen.

Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen in the 1950s TV series Adventures of Superman, died September 20 in Los Angeles.

Larson was raised in Pasadena and attended Pasadena Junior College, just like future Superman actor George Reeves.

He was also for a while a part of the social circle in the 1950s that included James Dean and Montgomery Clift.

Little remembered is that Larson once acted alongside Leonard Nimoy, who had the title role in Kid Monk Baroni.

Movie still of Kid Monk Baroni. Jack Larson, left, Leonard Nimoy, right.

Movie still of Kid Monk Baroni. Jack Larson, left, Leonard Nimoy, right.

Having become typecast as Jimmy Olsen, when the Superman TV series ended Larson unfortunately had trouble getting roles. He had a bit part on Gomer Pyle USMC in 1965 and another in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit in 2010.

Many of his later credits came from appearing in subsequent versions of the franchise, playing an older Jimmy Olsen in an episode of Lois and Clark , an FBI agent (partnered with Noell Neill!) in the “Paranoia” episode of the Superboy TV series, and a bartender in the movie Superman Returns.

(In the “Paranoia” episode, when Superboy saves a woman who has jumped from a window, Larson’s character exclaims “Jeepers!” like Jimmy Olsen would.)

During the intervening years, Larson became an admired playwright, and librettist, as noted in his New York Times obituary, “A Playwright Better Known as Jimmy Olsen”.

He donned the sweater once again to host a Superman festival on New York’s WOR Channel 9, on Thanksgiving in 1987.

There’s also a blurry, 30-second promo for his hosting gig that includes many brief clips of him in character on the show.

He was life partnered with writer/director James Bridges for a reported thirty-five years, until his passing in 1993, and collaborated as a producer on some of the filmmaker’s productions.

[Thanks to James H. Burns for the story.]

8 thoughts on “Jack Larson (1928-2015)

  1. I think it may have been long time fantasy and science fiction film historian and journalist Steve Swires, who discovered that Mr. Larson also had some good sense…

    At some time after George Reeve’s passing, a producer had the idea apparently to do a new show, THE ADVENTURES OF JIMMY OLSEN (or some such). The idea was that in each episode, Jimmy would get into some kind of trouble, and at the end of the program, by using a double and stock footage, Superman would save him…

    Larson turned the series down.

    (It’s also interesting to note that as a very young man in the 1950s, but concurrent with SUPERMAN, Larson was in social circles with the likes of James Dean… (Maila Nurmi (Vampira) was also a contemporary on that particular Los Angeles scene.)

  2. I’ve seen all the Special Features from the DVDs of The Adventures of Superman, and Larson makes … made, an interesting interview subject. I vividly recall him laughing about how often he seemed to end up soaking wet in the first season. Every script seemed to find some excuse to douse in water — buckets would be thrown at him, he’d be imprisoned in flooding cells, or he’d fall into the ocean. He was also a treasure trove of stories about George Reeves… for instance, how one time the flying harness broke and dropped him horizontaly to the alley floor, several feet, busting a rib or two. After that, they used the “flying tray” and springboards. It’s too bad that latter generations grew up on a Superman who was about 20 years younger, and had a movie star face. Now the public expects Superman to sell jaocky shorts and shampoo on magazine covers, eh? The Superman I knew was a wry, older man you looked up to, much like an ideal father. Gawd knows … I could have used one.

  3. Taral is on to something rather wonderful, here.

    Around 1987, I finally saw a serial George Reeves had starred in, just prior to SUPERMAN, THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GALAHAD.

    Now, Reeves was perfectly fine in the part, serviceable.

    But that special glint and glimmer that came when he played the last son of Krypton was nowhere to be seen.

    It made me realize the rather remarkable fact, that no doubt also not known to him, portraying Clark Kent and Superman had brought out something very special in Reeves, something that had always been there, of course, but which the portrayal elicited.

    A few people have noted how sad it is that Reeve didn’t get to see, in what would have been his later years, how much his work had meant to people:

    That in 1974, let’s say, some young men and women weren’t able to shake his hand and thank him.

    But if you Google around, and Google Image, you’ll see an extraordinary number of photos of Reeves surrounded by happy children at store and fair and charity appearances and the like.

    Surely, somewhere behind Clark’s frames, and Superman’s tunic, Reeves had a wonderful notion.

  4. Here’s the original version, of the small item I wrote in today’s NEW YORK DAILY NEWS…

    As a boy, like many New Yorkers, I grew up with the daily rebroadcasts of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, on WPIX Channel 11. George Reeves, in his absolutely legendary performance as the Man of Steel, Phyllis Coates and Noel Neil as Lois Lane, John Hamilton as Perry White, and Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen were part of the fabric of a couple of generations of American life for kids all across our nation. The passing of Larson gives pause to reflect on a wonderful secret of the show: that the cast was so good natured and winning in most of its performances, that they largely became part of our childhoods’ extended families through the magic of television, when there were only a handful of channels to choose from. It’s fun to note that Larson became a respected playwright, and producer, some of whose work was celebrated in our town. But his talent as an actor created a personna that will echo as long as people look to the filmed portrayals of super heroes, in this universe, or any other!

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