Phyllis Coates, TV’s First Lois Lane, Dead at 96

Coates, who first portrayed Clark Kent's leading lady for the 1951 film 'Superman and the Mole Men', died of natural causes ...

PEOPLE – Phyllis Coates has died at age 96.

The actress died on Wednesday while residing at the Motion Picture Home, her daughter Laura Press confirmed to PEOPLE. The death was “very peaceful,” she added.

Remembering her mother’s career, Press said, “She gave a lot to the industry and her career passed through so many genres,” recounting her time as Lois Lane, in Westerns and even starring in Panther Girl of the Congo.

Coates was best known for her one-season role as Lois Lane in Adventures of Superman — which made her the first actress to play the legendary character on television.

The TV role came after Coates stepped into the shoes of Lois for film Superman and the Mole Men in 1951.

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At the time of her death, Coates was the only surviving actor from the series.

Coates’ appeared in 26 episodes, earning $350 for each despite serious stunt work.

Coates leaves behind three children. Press urged fans to donate to the Humane Society of America in honor of her mother’s love of animals …

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Phyllis Coates

Phyllis Coates (born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell; January 15, 1927 – October 11, 2023) was an American actress, with a career spanning over fifty years. She was best known for her portrayal of reporter Lois Lane in the 1951 film Superman and the Mole Men and in the first season of the television series Adventures of Superman.

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In 1952, Coates guest-starred in “How Death Valley Got Its Name”, the first episode of the anthology series Death Valley Days. She appeared in the 1954 Death Valley Days episode “The Light On The Mountain”. Coates was cast as the widowed Mary in the 1959 episode, “One in a Hundred.” In a 1964 episode, “The Left Hand Is Damned,” she portrayed the kind-hearted saloon singer Dora Hand of Dodge City, Kansas.

Coates was cast in The Lone Ranger in 1953, and in 1955 in “The Woman in the White Mask”. She was cast in 1955 as Madge in the CBS sitcom Professional Father. In 1955, Coates portrayed Medora De More in the two-part episode “King of the Dakotas” of the NBC western anthology series Frontier.

In 1956, she was cast in the episode “God in the Street” of another anthology series, Crossroads, based on the lives of American clergymen. That same year, Coates appeared in a second religious drama, This Is the Life, as Betty in the episode “I Killed Lieutenant Hartwell.”

She was also cast in 1956 as Marge in the episode “Web Feet” of the military drama Navy Log. She guest-starred in David Janssen’s crime drama Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

In 1958, Coates played the mother, Clarissa Holliday, in all thirty-nine episodes of the 1958–1959 situation comedy, This Is Alice. She made guest appearances in three episodes of Perry Mason: Norma Carter in “The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde” in 1958, “The Case of the Cowardly Lion” in 1961, and in “The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands” in 1964.

In 1961, Coates was cast as Elizabeth Gwynn in the episode “The Little Fishes” on CBS’s Rawhide. Coates guest-starred as well on three episodes of Gunsmoke between 1958 and 1964.

Lois Lane

Coates played Lois Lane in the first season of Adventures of Superman. Noel Neill, who had played Lois Lane in two Columbia Superman serials, in 1948 and 1950, replaced Coates, who was not available for the second season. With the death of Noel Neill on July 3, 2016, Coates became the last surviving regular cast member from the Adventures of Superman TV series until her own death on October 11, 2023.

Coates freelanced steadily, appearing in numerous low-budget features, many of them westerns, as well as serials and a steady stream of TV appearances, both as a regular in several series and as a guest cast member in others. All this was in addition to the “McDoakes” shorts, in which she continued to appear until Warner Brothers discontinued the series in 1956.

Arguably, her best-remembered films of the 1950s—perhaps owing to their being those in which she has a substantial role, and being among the few that have been preserved so that they are available today on home video—are Blues Busters with The Bowery Boys (in which she has a musical number); Panther Girl of the Kongo, a jungle serial in which she starred; and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein.


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