July 5, 2016

What did Noel Neill — the Lois Lane of the 1950s — mean to you?

The actress has died at the age of 95, and I hadn't noticed, but I got a text from RLC saying: "I assume you're going to blog about Noel Neill!!" I didn't even remember the name, and I looked it up and saw the obituary, and I wondered why my ex-husband had that assumption about me. Or was it just that he liked her?

Then I was looking at old pictures of Neill and I saw one that took me back to a childhood memory that perhaps, long ago, I conveyed to RLC. Here's the picture:



"Adventures of Superman" was on TV from 1952 — when I was 1 — to 1958 — when I was 7. That show made some kind of impression on my undefended, very young mind. When I thought about becoming an adult — turning into a woman — I pictured Noel Neill. Dressed like that, hair like that, demeanor like that.  I had my own particular look and ways about me as a girl, but I believed a finished condition, adulthood, stood at the end of childhood. My formative period — girlhood — would end, and I would, of necessity, at the age of 21, become an adult woman, and that woman I saw in my head for years and years, was — as I got closer to actual adulthood I recognized her — NOEL NEILL!!

34 comments:

Terry said...

Is she wearing some kind of punishment hat?

sean said...

When we were young, my sister and I thought that when you were 2 you were a girl, when you were 4 you were a boy, and when you grew up, you got to choose. I guess we didn't give much thought to the years between 4 and adulthood, and we certainly didn't give much thought to what our choices would be.

J Melcher said...

Lois Lane set the example up to which Clark Kent aspired. Parse the introductory sentence describing the hero and you learn that the "strange visitor" who enjoyed "powers and abilities far beyond" the rest of us, "fought a never-ending battle" [WHILE] "disguised as a mild-mannered reporter".

It is the reporter, the journalist, who endlessly fights for truth, justice, and the American Way. The visitor occasionally catches a speeding bullet or re-rails a wayward locomotive or once in a while changes the course of a mighty river. But Clark, following Lois's good example, discovers and publishes the truth, calls for justice, and reminds us all to seek a better, constantly improving, ever-more-perfect, way.


Billie and Rossie in the Lou Grant show, ditto. Lois&Clark in the "new adventures, ditto again.

Dan Rather, and Katie Couric, not so much

Ignorance is Bliss said...

sean said...

...and when you grew up, you got to choose.

I guess you were ahead of your time...

Squints said...

I always preferred Noel Neill to Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. Like Betty Garrett, she had a down-to-earth presence that seemed always up for it, whatever "it" was. "Let's do this."

Ann Althouse said...

"Is she wearing some kind of punishment hat?"

In those days, women dressing professionally wore hats. If you would wear a suit, you would wear a hat. It was just assumed. You'd have a hairstyle that would be designed to go with a hat.

CatherineM said...

Noel/Lois looked like my mom. My mom had those hats. The last one she wore was in 1970 when she went to a wake and she was the only one in a hat.

My images of womanhood were formed by Linda Carter as Wonder Woman (as soon as I could write, I wrote to her...assumed she would show up for tea and Entenmann's...and an extra magic lasso for me.) and Mary Tyler Moore. MTM specifically for the cool Apartment. I thought when I grow up, I will have a job with a type writer, an apartment with a big C on the wall and a sunken living room and a wine bottle with candle melted into the top. There would also be strung beads hanging in doorways instead of a door, although perhaps that is more Rhoda. I wanted to be a Mary.

Meade said...

TV warped our young minds. When I was 5, in 1959, I was afraid of growing up and becoming Larry.

Wilbur said...

Professor Periwinkle sends his regrets.

gerry said...

She had a bit role in the first Superman movie (starred Christopher Reeve). Superboy was racing a train to a grade crossing and Neill was a passenger on the train, looking out the window. She played a great Lois Lane in the TV series.

William said...

Lois Lane was the original underwritten female role, but it's easy for a woman to look like an underachiever when she appears next to Superman. Still, it must be noted that as an investigative journalist, Lois Lane was not the most keenly aware reporter alive. Lois Lerner would have seen right through that disguise......Anyway her name, Noel Neill was just as alliterative as that of Lois Lane and sounds jollier.

whitney said...

Your ex-husband had an impressive amount of insight into your psyche

Sydney said...

When I thought about becoming an adult — turning into a woman — I pictured Noel Neill. Dressed like that, hair like that, demeanor like that.

I pictured Barbie. An ideal I never met.

David said...

"I would, of necessity, at the age of 21, become an adult woman, and that woman I saw in my head for years and years, was — as I got closer to actual adulthood I recognized her — NOEL NEILL!!"

There are far worse fates, looks wise. The persona was a comic book character and does not count.

Bob Ellison said...

Ann Althouse said, "In those days, women dressing professionally wore hats."

Maybe in Manhattan. Not in Phoenix.

Carol said...

There were a lot of women who looked like that. Very prim and proper with short brown hair. I didn't like it. I thought it was mousy looking. Like Patricia Neal in Day the Earth Stood Still. Always trying to run in heels and falling down, so helpless. God I hated that. Are we supposed to be helpless and fall down when we're grown up?

I was glad when all the hippie natural-long hair trend came about.

mikeyes said...

Short hair (in the 20s) was a rebellion against the long hair that was normally worn by women. What goes around ...

Roughcoat said...

In the 1950s in the Midwest my mom and all adult women, old and young, wore hats to church and in church--or they wore scarves. It was a sign of respect: women covered their heads in God's house. They didn't wear hats in everyday life. All men wore hats--fedoras. My dad had a collection of fedoras. He wore fedoras until about the early-mid 60s and then all of sudden stopped wearing then. One day it was the fashion just as it had been for several decades and then all of sudden, poof, no more fedoras.

My wife, who is in a branch of the entertainment industry, said that it was well-known that Noel Neill was gay.

Sydney said...

My dad had a collection of fedoras. He wore fedoras until about the early-mid 60s and then all of sudden stopped wearing then. One day it was the fashion just as it had been for several decades and then all of sudden, poof, no more fedoras.

I have heard it said the fashion stopped when JFK went hatless to his inauguration.

EDH said...

1.) Outside of "barely legal" porn, has anyone been bound and gagged on camera more than Noel Neil?

2.) As a kid I distinctly remember thinking how shiny and reddish Neil's bare arms looked when we finally got a color TV (there were color episodes).

3.) I think one whole thematic subtext of Superman was the underlying sexual tension with Clark Kent, and the bitchiness brought about by the fact that he was "beta" and "not the Superman" of her dreams.

My favorite Superman ending:

Lois: What's the matter, Clark? You look as though you've lost your best friend.

Clark: Maybe I have, Lois. Maybe I have.

John Henry said...

No disrespect to the deceased but that picture is strange. When I first saw it, I thought she was wearing bunny ears. Second time I looked I saw the same thing. Took me a few moments to realize that it was a hat.

Remember what Superman used to fight for (in the opening announcement)?

"Truth, Justice and the American Way"

What quaint concepts today.

Although we did get the truth about Hilary "Guilty, guilty, guilty on all counts" from Comey.

We did not get justice. For justice, perhaps we need to go Don Corleone. It's the American way!

This clip seems especially appropos today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya_0ZgLaFZY

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

When it comes to male role models on TV, that guy who played Dr. Smith in "Lost in Space" was way ahead of his time.

Darrell said...

In Chicago, Superman could be found on TV somewhere until 1967, at least. I saw some first run, but I'm sure my best memories were from re-runs.

Wilbur said...

"I was glad when all the hippie natural-long hair trend came about."

So was Wilbur, and most every other guy under 30, I gar-on-tee.

I suspect Jay Silverheels as Tonto was bound, if not always gagged, more than Lois. Jay's birth name: Jim Smith.

40 years ago, some comedian (in the David Stenberg, Robert Klein ilk) had a funny bit about how in every Lone Ranger episode, LR would send Tonto into town "to get information" on that episode's villains. He would always get found out, tied to a chair and get beaten up.

Smilin' Jack said...

"What did Noel Neill — the Lois Lane of the 1950s — mean to you?"

Seeing Erica Durance in Smallville pretty much erased all previous Loises from my memory.

Roughcoat said...

40 years ago, some comedian (in the David Stenberg, Robert Klein ilk) had a funny bit about how in every Lone Ranger episode, LR would send Tonto into town "to get information" on that episode's villains. He would always get found out, tied to a chair and get beaten up.

It was Bill Cosby: "Tonto, don't go to town. Tonto ... DON'T. GO. TO. TOWN!"

uffda said...

I'm four years older than Althouse and was mesmerized by Superman. Lois was probably the first single professional character on TV who sneered at the menfolk. Clark/Supie teased her in response. Cub Jimmy took it like a good masochist. Even at single digits I mocked how Supe grunted just as hard bending jail cell bars as when lifting an Egyptian pyramid.


Fedoras were still big mid sixties. I worked the 1965 World Series in MN as a vendor and the stands were a sea of wide brims. Far fewer women and kids than a regular game.

Saint Croix said...

I think one whole thematic subtext of Superman was the underlying sexual tension with Clark Kent, and the bitchiness brought about by the fact that he was "beta" and "not the Superman" of her dreams.

I hated that show as a kid. The bad guys suck, Superman was way too powerful, and as a result there was no drama.

And the relationship dynamics were the worst! The man of her dreams is right next to her, and she's mean to him all the time. And Clark is a pussy.

I got a big kick out of Lois and Clark, the 90's show. Way better Lois and Clark. In fact that was the focus of the show, their relationship dynamics.

Interesting that the special effects in the modern show were a thousand times better. And yet what really improved the show was the sexual chemistry between Clark and Lois.

Christy said...

I don't remember Noel Neill at all.

I wanted to grow up to be Emma Peel.

EDH said...

Okay, all you sickos can add these Noel Neil BDM images to your Lois Lane "highlight reel".

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Saint Croix said...

I wanted to grow up to be Emma Peel.

Yeah, she's awesome. If more little girls tried to be Emma Peel there would be way more hotness and judo in the world.

Not to mention brains and English accents.

The writing on that show was amazing. Here's one example, from Death at Bargain Prices

[Mrs. Peel is working undercover in a department store]

John Steed: I asked the chief predator where to find you and he said, "Our Mrs. Peel is in ladies' underwear." I rattled up the stairs three at a time.

Emma Peel: Merry quips department on the fifth floor, sir.

Saint Croix said...

Hotter picture of Noel Neill at IMDB.

Interesting that she never noticed Clark was Superman, and I never noticed Lois Lane was Super Hottie.

And she was the #2 pin-up girl among the GIs fighting in World War II!

Terry said...

When I was a little kid, I thought you could look like whatever you wanted when you grew up. I was going for Race Bannon.
I had a hard time telling adults apart when I was a kid. I recognized them on sight, of course, if I knew them, but I remember thinking that my dad looked just like Gene Autry AND just like Lee Harvey Oswald.

Robert Cook said...

"Ann Althouse said, 'In those days, women dressing professionally wore hats.'

"Maybe in Manhattan. Not in Phoenix."


My family is from southern Indiana, (Evansville). My father, born in 1928, used to tell us that his mother would dress up anytime she went out, even just to do the food shopping...hat, dress, heels, white gloves. This was not unique to her, but was common among women in her peer group, (not rich, but middle-class).*

*(My paternal grandfather had been a tool-and-die maker and had worked his way up to factory foreman, until, after WWII ended, he was told he'd be transferred by management to Detroit. He said "To Hell with that, I'm not going to Detroit!" and quit. He built a pit in his backyard and starting cooking chickens to sell to retail stores in the area or to people driving by. Eventually he built a small restaurant, Cook's Barbecue,which was successful enough that he built a somewhat bigger and more modern building in 1960.)

(Interested parties can click on my icon and go to my blog, where the two most "recent" (ha!) posts are about my grandfather's restaurant.)