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Jack Larson, Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Superman, Dies at 87

He never thought the show would succeed

Liz Raftery

Playwright Jack Larson, who is best known for playing Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Superman, died Sunday at his home in Brentwood, Calif., the New York Times reports. He was 87 and a cause of death was not given.

Born in Los Angeles, Larson dropped out of high school and had aspirations to become a professional bowler. But he went on to junior college, where he was spotted by a Warner Bros. scout while starring in a play, and signed to a movie contract.

Larson landed the role of cub reporter Jimmy Olsen in 1951, when he was just 23. Trying to forge a career on Broadway, he reluctantly took the role only after his agent told him the show would likely never make it to air, according to the Times. Instead, it ran from 1952 to 1958, with Olsen starring alongside George Reeves' Clark Kent. Discussions about a revival were put to rest in 1959, when Reeves committed suicide.

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At one point, he was romantically involved with actor Montgomery Clift, who advised him to give up acting and focus on being a playwright and librettist. His plays included Chuck and The Candied House, and he also penned the libretto for Virgil Thompson's Lord Byron, which premiered in New York in 1972 under the Metropolitan Opera.

In the late 1950s, Larson partnered with Oscar-nominated director James Bridges both personally and professionally. Together, they produced films including 1970's The Baby Maker and 1988's Bright Lights, Big City, and were a couple until Bridges died in 1993.

Though Larson ruefully became typecast as an actor after playing Jimmy Olsen, he dutifully embraced the role and made guest appearances in subsequent iterations, including The Adventures of Superboy and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also had a cameo as a bartender in Superman Returns (2006).

In 2010, he guest-starred on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.