Phyllis Coates, the iconic actress who first brought the character of Lois Lane to life on both the big and small screens, has passed away at the age of 96. Coates, known for her role in the 1951 film “Superman and the Mole Men” and the subsequent TV series “Adventures of Superman” from 1952 to 1953, leaves behind a lasting legacy in the world of entertainment.
Born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell on January 15, 1927, in Wichita Falls, Texas, Coates’s journey in show business began as a chorus girl in the 1940s. She later embarked on multiple tours with the USO, showcasing her talent and captivating audiences across the nation.
However, it was her portrayal of the fearless journalist Lois Lane that truly catapulted Coates into the limelight. In 1951, she made her debut as Lois Lane alongside George Reeves, who played the Man of Steel, in “Superman and the Mole Men.” This marked the inception of a character who would become an enduring symbol of female strength and determination.
The following year, Coates reprised her role as Lois Lane in the groundbreaking TV series “Adventures of Superman.” Her performance was nothing short of remarkable, and she appeared in 26 episodes of the series. Coates was not just an actress; she was a trailblazer who set the stage for future renditions of Lois Lane.
Her daughter, Laura Press, confirmed the news of Coates’s passing, revealing that it was a peaceful passing due to natural causes. Coates spent her final moments at her home on the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Wasserman Campus, surrounded by the memories of a career that spanned over 50 years.
Laura Press, reflecting on her mother’s legacy, stated, “She gave a lot to the industry. Her career passed through so many genres.” Indeed, Coates’s filmography boasts a diverse range of roles, from Westerns like “Panther Girl of the Kongo” (1955) to intriguing titles like “I Was a Teenage Frankenstein” (1957) and “Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn” (1989).
Despite her impressive film career, it was her work in “Adventures of Superman” that left an indelible mark on the hearts of viewers. Coates’s dedication to her craft was evident, as she willingly engaged in strenuous stunt work for the series. She once remarked, “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.” Such commitment to her role endeared her to fans of all ages.It is worth noting that during her time on “Adventures of Superman,” Phyllis Coates earned just $350 per episode, a stark contrast to today’s industry standards. When offered a substantial raise for the show’s second season, she declined, explaining, “I really wanted to get out of ‘Superman.’” Her legacy, however, remained eternally tied to the character of Lois Lane.
In a delightful twist of fate, Coates later took on the role of Lois’s mother in ABC’s “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” where Lois was portrayed by “Desperate Housewives” star Teri Hatcher. It was a nod to the enduring nature of the character she had brought to life decades earlier.
Phyllis Coates’s final appearance on screen was in the 1996 project “Hollywood: The Movie,” rounding out a career that had touched the lives of countless fans and fellow actors alike.As we bid farewell to Phyllis Coates, we remember a woman whose talent, dedication, and pioneering spirit made her an unforgettable figure in the world of entertainment. Her portrayal of Lois Lane will forever remain an enduring symbol of courage, resilience, and journalistic integrity, inspiring generations to come.