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Jack Larson, Who Played Jimmy Olsen In 'Superman' TV Series, Dies
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Jack Larson, Who Played Jimmy Olsen In 'Superman' TV Series, Dies

Remembrances

Jack Larson, Who Played Jimmy Olsen In 'Superman' TV Series, Dies

Jack Larson, Who Played Jimmy Olsen In 'Superman' TV Series, Dies
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Actor Jack Larson has died at the age of 87. He was best known for playing cub reporter Jimmy Olsen in the TV series, The Adventures of Superman. Larson went on to become a playwright and librettist.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

America's favorite fictional cub reporter has died.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

JACK LARSON: (As Jimmy Olsen) Look, my name is Olsen, Jim Olsen. I'm a reporter for The Planet. There's my identification.

MCEVERS: Jack Larson played Jimmy Olsen in the 1950s Superman TV series. Larson died yesterday at his home in Brentwood, Calif. He was 87. NPR's Neda Ulaby has this remembrance.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Superman's alter ego was Clark Kent, a dashing reporter at The Daily Planet. His young protege had a snub nose, wore bowties and sounded like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

LARSON: (As Jimmy Olsen) Golly gee whiz. Jeepers.

ULABY: He also had a talent for getting kidnapped.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

LARSON: (As Jimmy Olsen) Where you taking me?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Just a little ride, sonny boy.

ULABY: Superman was forever rescuing his little buddy from bad guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

LARSON: That never bothered me (laughter).

ULABY: Jack Larson told WHYY's Fresh Air in 1993 that producers loved putting him in peril.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

LARSON: They liked to have Jimmy nearly drown. They used to get me wet, like, put me in a cave when the tide is coming in the cave, and the cave has bars.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

LARSON: (As Jimmy Olsen) We got to get out of here. We just got to.

ULABY: Jack Larson started his career playing stock Hollywood characters, but he left for the New York theater because he felt type cast. He wanted to be a serious actor. Jimmy Olsen was not his goal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

LARSON: I always played Jimmy just dumb enough.

ULABY: Too dumb to figure out that Superman was Clark Kent.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

LARSON: Golly.

ULABY: "The Adventures Of Superman" ended in 1958. Jack Larson moved into writing plays and producing movies like "The China Syndrome." And he worked with some of the era's leading composers as a librettist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing in foreign language).

ULABY: That's a song cycle he wrote with composer Ned Rorem. For a while, Larson tried to keep his back story as Jimmy Olsen secret. He was worried the musicians he worked with would lose respect for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

LARSON: I thought, oh, golly, the sky is going to fall in on me.

ULABY: In fact, his collaborators were impressed when they found out. Jack Larson took a character who could have been forgettable. But golly, he made you cheer for Jimmy Olsen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

LARSON: But you know what's really amazing? We actually got through this whole thing without any help from Superman.

ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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