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Lois Lane actress disputes 'Superman' movie claims
UP AND AWAY -- Actress Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane opposite actor George Reeves' Man of Steel for the first season of "The Adventures of Superman" in 1952, wasn't pleased with the portrayal of her in the recent film "Hollywoodland," which explores the possibility that Reeves was murdered rather than having committed suicide. (Times Archive Photo)

Worse than kryptonite

While in Los Angeles this month, I spent time with actress Phyllis Coates, who despite turning 80 last month, always will be remembered as the original "girl reporter" Lois Lane on the 1950s classic television series "The Adventures of Superman," starring the late George Reeves as the Man of Steel.

One of the topics I was eager to chat with Coates about was the portrayal of her in the recent Focus Features film "Hollywoodland" directed by Allen Coulter. The movie finally made its way to DVD this month.

The film, which earned Ben Affleck a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Reeves, is about the mysterious death of this popular actor who played TV's Superman for nearly a decade.

Just before the movie hit theaters, I had already chatted with Noel Neill, 86, the second actress who played Lois Lane on the show, replacing Coates after just one season in 1953. (Both women made $225 a week playing Lane.)

However, since Neill wasn't portrayed in "Hollywoodland," she had little to say.

Coates, however, has plenty to say.

"I thought 'Hollywoodland' did a terrible job sharing the real story of what happened to George," Coates said.

"And even worse, the way they depicted me and how I left the show is entirely inaccurate."

The scenes involving Coates, portrayed by actress Lorry Ayers, are brief in "Hollywoodland," but the message is intentional to audiences.

In one scene, onscreen chemistry between Coates and Reeves lead to the hint of flirtation and Reeves' off-screen (married) lover Toni Mannix, played by Diane Lane, does more than just take notice. Since Mannix was married to the powerful studio executive Eddie Mannix, the film draws the conclusion that Reeves' lover used her influence to have the Lois Lane role re-cast.

"I was very good friends with both George and Toni, and we hung around with each other all the time and certainly did our share of partying, actually, a little too much partying," Coates said.

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"I know Toni would never have had me replaced. And in all honesty, it was I who planned to leave after the first season to sign on to do a pilot episode for another show, which never made it to the air."

Like Neill, Coates also doesn't believe Reeves died from suicide and also suspects foul play.

However, Coates doesn't think it was a murder conspiracy planned by Eddie Mannix, as depicted in "Hollywoodland."

"Eddie liked George, and he actually helped him get some parts and film connections he wanted for work," Coates said.

"There's more to this story, and I've often been asked to write a book. But I think this is one story that will just remain a mystery."

Oscar highlights

There's no denying that comedienne Ellen DeGeneres brought her own fresh, down-to-earth style and comedy to Sunday night's 79th Annual Academy Awards. Too casual of an approach for such a "classy" broadcast, as some critics have claimed? I don't think so.

As for a couple of my favorite moments from this year: Joan Rivers on the red carpet referring to Jennifer Lopez as "J-Lo" and Lopez' publicist audibly correcting Rivers on camera repeatedly instructing her to call her "Jennifer" and, of course, Rivers ignoring the request. Also, a funny bit with actresses Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt from "The Devil Wears Prada" launching into their movie characters for a brief bit of schtick before presenting awards in their category, about Meryl Streep being as frigid and demanding as her character alter-ego in the film. (The cameras panned to a very funny shot of a purse-lipped, stone-faced humorless Streep in the audience, playing along for the scene.)

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at ppotempa@nwitimes.com or 219.852.4327.

celebBirthdays

Actress Joanne Woodward is 77. Actress Elizabeth Taylor is 75. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader is 73. Actress Barbara Babcock is 70. Actor Howard Hesseman is 67. Guitarist Neal Schon of Journey is 53. Guitarist Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden is 50. Keyboardist Paul Humphreys of OMD and singer Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd are 47. Actors Grant Show ("Melrose Place") and Adam Baldwin are 45. Guitarist Mike Cross of Sponge is 42. Actor Donal Logue ("Knights of Prosperity," "Grounded For Life") is 41. Singer Chilli of TLC is 36. Keyboardist Jeremy Dean of Nine Days is 35. R&B singer Roderick Clark (Hi-Five) is 34. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton is 27. Singer Josh Groban is 26.

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