Jack Larson, the actor-turned-playwright who—despite his best efforts—is best remembered as cub reporter Jimmy Olsen on the Adventures Of Superman TV series, has died. The New York Times does not list a cause of death, but says that he died at home in Los Angeles. He was 87.
Larson was 23 and had appeared in a handful of supporting roles in war movies and Westerns when he was offered the role of Jimmy Olsen, Daily Planet photographer and Clark Kent’s adoring sidekick on the TV series Adventures of Superman. With aspirations of becoming a “serious” Broadway actor, Larson initially rejected the role out of fear of typecasting; after receiving reassurances from his agent that the show would probably never make it to air, he accepted. Adventures Of Superman ended up running for 101 episodes, establishing Larson as a comedic actor.
When Adventures of Superman ended, Larson tried to get different types of roles, only to find that his fears of being typecast had come true. Based on the advice of his then-lover Montgomery Clift, Larson subsequently quit acting to pursue a career as a writer; he ended up writing the libretto for Virgil Thompson’s last opera, Lord Byron, as well as a number of plays including The Candied House (1966), Chuck (1968), and The Astronaut’s Tale (1998). Beginning with 1970’s The Baby Makers, Larson also co-produced a series of films with his partner James Bridges, including Mike’s Murder (1984), Perfect (1985), and Bright Lights, Big City (1988). Larson and Bridges were together from 1958 until Bridges’ death in 1993.
Despite his career change, Larson said he was “completely at peace” with his Jimmy Olsen role—although he swore off fan conventions after a 1988 incident involving a white linen suit and a Sharpie—and would play the character again in a 1996 episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. (He also appeared, albeit not as Jimmy Olsen, on the short-lived TV series Superboy and in 2006’s Superman Returns.) One of Larson’s last roles was on an episode of Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, where he played a grandfather who delivers poetic justice to his sex-offender grandson. Larson had no immediate descendants.