The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #7
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006

Non-Fiction Book Reviews
by Caroline Miniscule

Truth, Justice and the American Way:
The Life And Times Of Noel Neill, The Original Lois Lane

Larry Thomas Ward, Nicholas Lawrence Books
Oversized trade paperback, 158 pages, no index

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This is author Larry Thomas Ward's first book. His second, Cañon City, Colorado: Every Picture Tells A Story was published in 2005. Ward's spent many years as a mental health conference promoter.

Noel Neill was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 5, 1920. Her father, David Neill, was a journalist, her mother, LaVere Binger, had been a singer and dancer before this, her second marriage. (Her first husband had been killed during WWI.) LaVere's ambitions for the stage were transferred to her daughter, and she was enrolled in The Seton Guild of Dance and Dramatic Arts at the age of 4 years old.

Noel sang and danced on stage, and sang on radio. Her one ambition was to be a dancer, however, and after she graduated from high school, Noel and her mother went to California. She acquired work as a singer and dancer almost immediately, and Bing Crosby was one of the first men she met.

In 1941, Noel found work in her first film, Henry Aldrich For President. She progressed from bit parts to leading roles, usually in Westerns. She was "well on her way to becoming one of the busiest actresses in pictures."

She starred as Lois Lane in the two Superman serials with Kirk Alyn, Superman (1948) and Superman vs. Atom Man. When the powers that be decided to make Superman as a television program, Kirk Alyn didn't want the role as Superman, and they didn't want Noel Neill as Lois Lane. However, after a single season Phyllis Coates, the series' first intrepid girl reporter, left the series and Noel Neill was signed on.

After The Adventures of Superman went off the air, Noel Neill found it difficult to get acting work. She was comfortable financially, however, and began to travel extensively.

Getting bored with almost a decade of travelling, she went back into the workaday world, working for the real estate firm Milton J. Wershow. She worked there for almost eight years, then went to work for the publicity department of United Artists.

Table of contents

Introduction by Jack Larson
1. The Early Years
2. Noel Neill, Songbird
3. You Ought to be in Pictures
4. Up, Up & Away! Superman ? The Serials
5. Truth, Justice & The American Way: The Adventures of Superman ? The Television Years
6. How Long Has It Been Since You've Sung ? Sober? The 1957 Fair Tour
7. Gee, Superman, Are We Ever Glad To See You! The College Shows
8. Noel Neill Today
Epilogue by Noel
Recommended Raading

1. Dance School Credits Age 4 - 17
2. Professional Performance Credits Age 10 - 17
3. Singing Performances After 1937
4. Films From 1941 to 2002
5. Radio and Television From 1943 to 2002
6. The 1957 Fair Tour With George Reeves
7. College Lectures from 1974 to 1978

At the same time, she spent four years on the college circuit, giving lectures on her role as Lois Lane in The Adventures of Superman.

In 1981, Noel "took on a new role in professional life as the coordinator of fan mail for Tom Selleck," and maintained that role for twenty years, while she continued to make personal appearances as the "keeper of the flame" for The Adventures of Superman.

Truth, Justice and The American Way must be praised with faint damns. It is an excellent and entertaining overview of Noel Neill's life...but that's all it is, an overview. There is precious little personal detail. There is one sentence that implies that Noel Neill got married, but we are given no information about her husband or their married life or whether or not they are still married.

Noel has a half-brother, but we learn nothing of him. Her father disappears from the narrative once she and her mother arrive in California...her mother disappears from the narrative shortly after that.

Noel's ouvre as Lois Lane is discussed, with brief insights into Kirk Alyn and George Reeves, but nothing in depth. Still less is there anything in depth regarding Jack Larson - one of Neill's lifelong friends, Robert Shayne or John Hamilton. Noel has only positive things to say about each one.

According to some sources, Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates have been feuding ever since Neill took over the role of Lane, but that's glossed over as well.

Because it's an oversized paperback, all of the photos are reproduced in a good size, and that's a plus. This book is profusely illustrated with photos from Neill's own collection.

So, as an overview of Neill's life and as an overview of the making of The Adventures of Superman this is a must have...but for an X-ray vision insight into the men and women who created one of the most beloved television programs of all time, it does not deliver.

External sites:

1) The Adventures Continue
2) Eye on Books: Audio Interview with Noel Neill
3) Lois Lane

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