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Noel Neill, Superman's first on-screen Lois Lane, dies at 95

Many actresses have played Lois Lane on TV and in films, but it was the first woman to portray Superman's leading lady who set the standard.
/ Source: TODAY

More than a dozen actresses have taken on the role of Lois Lane over the years, but the first one to ever bring the intrepid journalist with a soft spot for Superman to life was Noel Neill.

On Sunday, the 95-year-old died at her home in Tucson, Arizona.

Kirk Alyn as Superman holds Noel Neill as Lois Lane.Everett Collection

Friend and biographer Larry Ward shared the news (via a post to editor Jim Nolt's Facebook page) and revealed that Neill had battled "a long illness" prior to her death.

Neill's film career actually began in 1940, but it wasn't until her first turn as Lois — in the 1948 movie serial "Superman," in which Kirk Alyn brought the Man of Steel to the screen for the first time — that her career really went up, up and away. She returned to the role two years later for a second movie serial, "Atom Man vs. Superman," also starring Alyn.

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But for many fans, it was her television work in the role — in "The Adventures of Superman," starting in 1953 alongside leading man George Reeves — that made her not just the first live-action Lois, but the most iconic one as well.

Neil was featured in 78 episodes of the series (following the departure of the show's original Lois, Phyllis Coates), and set the standard for the character for years to come.

Actress Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in the 1952 Superman television series, poses for photographs during the \"Superman Returns\" DVD and video game launch party in Hollywood November 16, 2006.Reuters

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"She was kind, selfless, hardworking, funny with a quick wit, and assertive — all the same qualities that embodied the character of Lois Lane," Ward wrote of the actress. "Noel truly was Lois Lane, and for many of us, she was the first working woman seen on television. Few of her fans actually knew her real name, almost always simply calling her 'Lois,' to which she would unfailingly answer with a bright smile and a kind word. It was more than a role to her. Lois was someone she believed in and a character she happily and warmly embraced."

Ward added that a public memorial will be held in Neill's honor later this year.

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