Jack Larson, Jimmy Olsen on First Superman Show, Dies at 87

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actor From Early ‘Superman’ TV Series Dead at 87.

Jack Larson, the playwright and librettist who, as he often predicted with good-natured resignation, will be remembered best as the actor who played the cub reporter Jimmy Olsen in the television series Adventures of Superman, died Sunday at his home in Brentwood, Calif. The man who made a mark in America as a cub reporter has died: Actor Jack Larson, who played a sidekick to Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent at the fictional newspaper, was 87.As we rapidly approach a new Jimmy Olsen coming to the small screen with Mehcad Brooks, we are sadden to learn that the original television Olsen passed away. He was 87. “Larson played George Reeves’ (Clark Kent/Superman) wide-eyed coworker at The Daily Planet — a role he tried, in vain, to escape throughout his career,” the story notes. At the time, he wanted to go to New York to tackle Broadway and didn’t think the series — then one of the few to be filmed, not done live — would amount to anything. “The casting man and my agent talked to me very seriously about doing this,” he recalled in a 2003 interview with the Archive of American Television. “They said, ‘Look, you’re a very mixed-up kid, do this.

Variety adds: “Larson was also a playwright; his works include 1966’s ‘The Candied House,’ based on ‘Hansel and Gretel’; ‘Cherry, Larry, Sandy, Doris, Jean, Paul,’ a comedy about being gay; 1968’s ‘Chuck’; and 1998’s ‘The Astronaut’s Tale.’ Larson wrote librettos for operas, such as Virgil Thomson’s ‘Lord Byron.’” The runaway success of that show, starring George Reeves, made it hard for Larson to find new work; he eventually found success in writing plays and librettos. “Although Mr. Larson went on to work more behind the scenes after the series ended as a producer and playwright with some of his plays including: The Candied House(1966) Chuck (1968) and later in life, The Astronaut’s Tale (1998). Larson gave up acting and made a new career.” That new career saw Larson write librettos and plays, including The Candied House (1966) and Chuck (1968), as well as helping produce films such as Perfect (1985) and Bright Lights, Big City (1988).

Once, Larson said, the police had to rescue him from a restaurant after kids recognized him from the show. “My life had turned upside down,” he recalled, “and this was not a good experience.” “I wouldn’t do a magazine interview, I wouldn’t do anything, because I thought everything I do as Jimmy Olsen publicity is just a further nail in my coffin as an actor,” he said. In turning to writing, Larson was also returning to the thing that had first brought him to the world of theater, when his instructors at Pasadena Junior College encouraged him to write. His contract kept him from doing much of anything else, and Larson would appear on Superman for six seasons (a seventh was shelved because of the sudden death of Reeves in June 1959; Larson believed it was suicide).

Born in Los Angeles in 1928, Larson grew up in Montebello, Calif.; his mother worked as a Western Union clerk and his father drove a milk truck and bowled — something he passed along to his son. “While he did not enjoy school, Larson did like to bowl. By the age of 14, he had become the California state champion for his age group and was good enough to think that he would eventually turn professional. He appeared in an MGM short film as a “kid kegler” with champion bowlers Ned Day and Hank Marino in a Santa Monica bowling alley owned by Harold Lloyd. For a young stage actor like myself, movies really meant something, so you can imagine the excitement I felt.” The audition led a contract and a role as Lieutenant “Shorty” Kirk in Raoul Walsh’s Fighter Squadron (1948), a film that also marked the big-screen debut of Rock Hudson.

Walter Kerr of The New York Times referred to his play Chuck (1968), about a magazine salesman trying to save the printed word from television, as “what may be the evening’s most provocative sketch” in a collection of plays at Café au Go Go. Larson, who also was close with actor Montgomery Clift until his death in 1966, shared a historical Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home on a Brentwood hillside with Bridges for years. “It was obvious to anyone that since we lived together we were partners,” Larson told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. “We always went places together. Although Jack began writing and acting in his own plays in junior high school, he became a high school dropout, convinced that his bowling talent would lead to a professional sports career.

Although he swore off fan events after a 1988 incident in Cincinnati in which Sharpie-wielding autograph seekers permanently stained a white linen suit he had had made in Italy, he came to terms with and embraced the Jimmy Olsen legacy in other ways.

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