Jack Larson, who played Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen in TV series, dies

Mon Sep 21, 2015 8:34pm EDT
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By Bill Trott

(Reuters) - Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen, the boyish, frequently imperiled cub reporter on the 1950s U.S. television series "Adventures of Superman" who was oblivious to the fact that his co-worker was actually the man of steel, died at the age of 87.

Larson died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles' Brentwood neighborhood, said Lieutenant Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Office. An autopsy was pending.

After abandoning acting out of frustration in the early 1960s, Larson went on to be a playwright, lyricist and movie producer. But he made his most lasting impression as television's Jimmy Olsen, the enthusiastic young reporter in the bow tie at the Daily Planet newspaper, where he worked with Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego, and Lois Lane in the fictional city of Metropolis.

Larson appeared in 101 episodes of "Adventures of Superman" during its run from 1952 through 1958. His Jimmy Olsen was eager and full of good intentions and gee-whillickers naivete but also a bit of a stumblebum who provided the show's comic relief.

Larson described Olsen as "a bit dim" since he never figured out that Kent, his socially awkward colleague in the heavy-framed eyeglasses, was also the crime-fighting caped superhero soaring over Metropolis and often rescuing Jimmy and Lois from danger.

Larson, who was born on Feb. 8, 1928, and grew up in the Los Angeles area, had only a few minor acting credits when he was offered the Jimmy Olsen role. He took it in order to get enough money to move to New York to pursue deeper ambitions - writing plays and acting on Broadway.

Larson thought "Superman" would be short-lived and little noticed. He was stunned to realize it was an instant hit and he was a celebrity - a typecast celebrity. Jimmy Olsen became such a popular figure that his bow tie would one day be part of a Smithsonian display.


Actor Jack Larson, who portrayed "Jimmy Olson" on the Superman TV series, arrives at the opening night gala of the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival featuring a screening of a restoration of "An American In Paris" in Hollywood, California April 28, 2011.  REUTERS/Fred Prouser