World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

L Entries
Elsa Lanchester
Martin Landau
Robert Lansing
Glen A. Larson
Jack Larson
Christopher Lee
Mark Lenard
John Lennon
John Lithgow
June Lockhart
Robert Longo
Peter Lorre
Eugene Lourie
George Lucas
Bela Lugosi
William Lundigan
 
LARSON, JACK
(1928– ). American actor and writer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: The Adventures of Superman (tv series) (1952-1958); Stamp Day for Superman (short) (Thomas Carr 1954); "Paranoia" (1991), episode of Superboy; "Brutal Youth" (1996), episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; Superman Returns (Bryan SINGER 2006).

Appeared in documentaries: Superman's 50th Anniversary (Robert Boyd 1988); "Who Killed Superman?" (1995), episode of Unsolved Mysteries; "George Reeves: The Perils of a Superhero" (2000), episode of Biography; The China Syndrome: A Fusion of Talent (Laurent Bouzereau 2004); The China Syndrome: Creating a Controversy (Bouzereau 2004); "Writing, Rehearsing, and Recording" (2005), episode of TV Land Confidential; In a Single Bound (Ross Marroso 2006).

 
If you are ever in a bar without anything to talk about, one suggestion would be a friendly discussion about how to employ a time machine to assemble the ideal cast for a Superman adventure. Discerning participants might intelligently argue over who would be the best Superman (my choice today: Dean CAIN) or who would be the best Lois Lane (my choice today: Phyllis COATES), but on one topic there could be no possible disagreement: the best Jimmy Olsen would be Jack Larson, for no actor before or after him has ever approached the quality of his work.

Since his is the sort of acting that rarely earns awards or critical analyses, it may be difficult to articulate the skills that made Larson's work so memorable. Certainly, there is the quality identified by no less than Sir Laurence OLIVIER in a personal conversation with Larson, the undeniable "energy" of his performance. One also notes a determination to treat his material with the utmost respect and a constant attentiveness to what the actors around him are doing. Finally, while the other Jimmy Olsens may be tempted to occasionally endow their characters with a bit of maturity and gravitas, Larson wholeheartedly embraced his role as a stupid bumbler and all-around nice guy and made himself the emotional centerpiece of the series; viewers could respect George REEVES's Superman or Noel NEILL's Lois Lane, but the character they really loved was Jimmy Olsen. No other performer has ever had a greater impact on the entire Superman saga, for Larson single-handedly transformed what was originally a minor character (first created only to give the radio Superman somebody to talk to) into a central figure of the mythology who became the star of his own long-running comic book and an essential presence in all subsequent Superman adventures.

Despite the brilliance of his portrayal of Jimmy Olsen, however, Larson's most impressive performance may have come away from the camera, after the series was ended by Reeves's suicide and he found that, indelibly identified as Olsen, he could no longer find other roles. Other actors in similar situations have drifted into alcoholism, or have turned into global vagabonds, searching out ever less and less prestigious venues willing to give them one more chance to relive old glories. Larson would have none of that. Calmly accepting his situation, he gave up his acting career, came out as a gay man, settled into a long-term relationship with writer-director James Bridges (best known for The China Syndrome), and devoted himself to writing for the stage. If he missed standing in front of the camera, he gave no sign of it, although if any documentary filmmakers ever came along with questions to ask about his experiences with Superman, Larson was always willing to provide them with thoughtful, intelligent answers. Furthermore, if the makers of later Superman adventures (like the series Superboy and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and the film Superman Returns) invited him to make a cameo appearance, he accepted graciously and gave them a good performance; if the makers of other Superman adventures (like the Christopher Reeve films) issued no such invitations, he made no public complaints. It was so good to see him again in Superman Returns as Bo the Bartender, serving beers to the latest Clark Kent (Brandon Routh) and the latest Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) and, in between takes, no doubt giving Huntington some excellent advice about how to play Jimmy Olsen and, perhaps more importantly, about how to give up the part when the proper time comes.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2014 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art