Phyllis Coates, the Original Lois Lane, Dead at 96

Phyllis Coates, the Original Lois Lane, Dead at 96

Phyllis Coates, the first actress to play the beloved DC Comics character, Lois Lane, on television, has died at age 96. According to multiple reports, the actress died from natural causes on Wednesday while residing at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California. 

“She gave a lot to the industry and her career passed through so many genres,” her daughter, Laura Press, said in a statement to People

The death was “very peaceful,” she added.

The Wichita Falls, Texas, native first portrayed the headstrong Lois opposite George Reeves in 1951’s Superman and the Mole Men. The film was the first full-length theatrical feature starring Superman and the first feature film based on any DC Comics character, ever. A syndicated show for television quickly followed the film’s success. 

Coates, born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell, reprised her role alongside Reeves as Clark Kent for the series, Adventures of Superman, and starred as Lois in all 26 episodes of the first season.  

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Coates once explained that she was paid about $350 for each episode and that they’d sometimes film “four or five” at a time, which meant she would just wear the same suit and hat in each one. 

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“We were nearly blown up, beaten up, exploded, exploited — I guess it was because we were young and dumb, but we put up with a lot of stuff,” Coates recounted in an interview with Tom Weaver for the book Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes. “Not too long ago I saw an episode [“Night of Terror”] where I got knocked out!”

Although Coates was asked to return for season 2 after the show became an unexpected hit, she had already signed to do a pilot for a series starring Jack Carson and Allen Jenkins. She declined the offer of five times her season 1 salary to return. “I really wanted to get out of Superman,” she confessed in the book. 

After season 1, the role of Lois Lane went to Noel Neill. She stayed with the series through its final five seasons. 

Coates was married and divorced four times: to TV director Richard L. Bare, whom she met on the McDoakes films, musician Robert Nelms, Leave It to Beaver director Norman Tokar and Howard Press, a doctor. 

She is survived by her daughters, Laura and Zoe, and granddaughter, Olivia.


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