Jack Larson, the actor, poet, and playwright most famous for playing Jimmy Olsen in the 1950s Superman TV series and knowing everyone who was anyone in gay Hollywood from that decade on, has died at age 87.
Larson died Sunday at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, The New York Times reports. No cause of death was released.
The actor played cub reporter Jimmy Olsen on Adventures of Superman from 1952 to 1958. Olsen was a clean-cut young man who worked with journalist Clark Kent, the alter ego of Superman, at The Daily Planet. George Reeves (pictured with Larson, above) starred as Superman and Kent.
Larson was reluctant to take the role because he feared being typecast, NPR notes in its obituary. His agent and a casting director thought the show wouldn't last, so they advised him to "take the money and run," he once recalled. But the series became a hit, and Larson was forever known as Jimmy Olsen.
He worked little as an actor after the series ended, but he did reprise the role in a 1996 episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, playing a much older Jimmy Olsen. He also had roles as different characters in a 1991 episode of the TV series Superboy and the 2006 feature film Superman Returns.
Larson didn't think being openly gay hurt his career. "We never made a fuss about being gay, but we never hid anything," he told The Advocate in 2000. "Maybe I was naive, but I never felt oppression."
He was active in Hollywood gay social circles -- he had a romance with Montgomery Clift in the 1950s, and when Larson became frustrated with typecasting, it was Clift who advised him to get away from acting, the Times notes.
Larson turned to producing and writing. He was both the producing partner and life partner of writer-director James Bridges, known for such films as The Paper Chase, The China Syndrome, and Urban Cowboy. Larson was a producer on several of Bridges's films, including Perfect and Bright Lights Big City. They met when both were appearing in an Ethel Barrymore film, Johnny Trouble, in the late 1950s, and their romantic relationship lasted 35 years, until Bridges's death in 1993.
Larson's work as a writer includes the verse play The Candied House, a retelling of the Hansel and Gretl story produced in Los Angeles in 1966, and the libretto for gay composer Virgil Thomson's opera Lord Byron, which opened in New York City in 1972.
Thomson was a longtime friend of Larson and Bridges, as was another gay composer, Ned Rorem. For the 2000 CD More Than a Day, Rorem set to music several love poems Larson had written for Bridges. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and countertenor Brian Asawa performed on the CD.
In the 2000 Advocate interview, Larson said having a long-term relationship with Bridges -- especially long-term by Hollywood standards -- posed no problems for either man "because we never thought about it." Sharing a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in Brentwood, they never tried to hide their relationship, Larson stressed in interviews.
"It was obvious to anyone that since we lived together, we were partners," Larson told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. "We always went places together. We never pretended. I always did what I felt like doing."