Book Reviews - Reference Books
Beyond Lois LaneWriter: Larry Thomas Ward
Published by: Nicholas Lawrence Books (2007)
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
I travel the U.S. quite a bit as part of my touring of cons for the Superman Homepage, and if there's one constant that always brings a smile to my face, it's Noel Neill and Larry Thomas Ward. Being a lifelong Superman fan, Noel is of course as familiar as the S itself, the iconic Lois that defined the character for her generation and the new, succeeding generation. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without Noel Neill, Lois would not have half again her importance today. She's a living legend.
I have met almost everyone in this industry that I revere. I still shake every time I meet Noel Neill. I stutter, I act like a five-year-old boy. She inspires this with her mere presence.
Beyond Lois Lane, a book by Larry Thomas Ward, a fine gentleman I run into every time I meet Noel, brings Noel's past, present, and future into definition through pictures and clippings. It tells the story of Noel's early days as a singer, her time with song and dance numbers carefully documented in rare and restored photographs that you literally stop to stare at for minutes at a time. I'm a guy's guy, meaning I don't tend to stop and look at the scenery too much. A gruff, surly, and impatient individual with media, it doesn't take much to make me flip a page, even if it's well crafted. I stared at every page in this book. It's a historical record of the recent past, and a damned fine one, and it gives you just some insight as to what it must have been like to have been lucky enough to experience Noel as she rose to stardom, from small press clippings to official photographs from Superman films.
This book also seeks to alleviate the pigeonhole that Miss Neill is thrust into at times, something I admit I lovingly perpetuate, seeing as she simply IS Lois, to a tee. It points out in broad strokes, through posters, cast pictures, and candids, her voluminous career, prompting her to be characterized as "the Minneapolis actress who probably has had more working days in Hollywood than any other Minneapolis girl" before she played her part in the Superman serial. Point of fact, you look at the list of credits in the back of this book, and you wonder how any three people could have lived up to this resume. It makes me want to scramble in my life's work to be getting to it.
There are some great pictures from the Adventures of Superman series, and the publicity that surrounded it, from meeting with scouts to stills. Some of my favorite are with George, I've gotta have that personal bias there, but there are plenty of others that grab you and hold you. "Man or Mouse" is one of my favorites, showing Noel, as petite as she is, smashing a comically large boxing glove into the unwitting Sterling Halloway, who's trying to bite her arm, or what's listed as Noel's own favorite costume from the Superman episode The Tomb of Zaharan. I can certainly understand why, because I had to be resuscitated after seeing it, this in an age when television outfits were strictly monitored and controlled. Incredible.
From her time as a World War 2 pinup to the filming of Superman Returns, the book runs the absolute gamut. It's accessible, it's in-depth, and it's one of the only photo books that's ever been able to hold my attention. It's also the only one that's held me rapt.
If you're any kind of Superman fan, or more specifically a Lois fan, you'd be a fool not to check this one out. If you're a movie buff this'll also do the trick. Win-win. Check this one out, folks. I don't review books typically unless they blow me away, and you know how harsh I can be as a critic.
Noel autographed mine (you can purchase one from her on the con circuit, too), and it's going to sit in a place of pride on my shelf.
To purchase a copy of "Beyond Lois Lane" autographed by both Noel Neill and author Larry Thomas Ward, visit: SupermanSuperstore.com
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