Phyllis Coates

Active - 1941 - 1991  |   Born - Jan 15, 1927 in Wichita Falls, Texas, United States  |   Genres - Western, Action, Drama, Comedy, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born on her family's cattle ranch in Texas, American actress Phyllis Coates left home to attend UCLA. Shortly afterward she secured a dancing job with Ken Murray's Blackouts, a long-running LA-based stage review. She later danced for producer Earl Carroll and in a USO tour of Anything Goes. Through the auspices of her first husband, director Richard Bare, Phyllis entered films in 1948 as leading lady of Warner Bros.' Behind the Eight-Ball short subjects series, playing Mrs. Joe McDoakes (George O'Hanlon). Coates stayed with the Eight-Ball series even after her marriage to Bare ended, and also appeared in supporting parts in such Warners features as Look for the Silver Lining (1949). In 1951, Coates was cast as reporter Lois Lane in Lippert Productions' "B"-feature Superman and the Mole Men, wherein George Reeves played the dual role of Superman and Clark Kent for the first time. This week-long assignment led to both Reeves and Phyllis being cast in the subsequent Superman TV series. While Phyllis thrived on the rigors of the hectic production schedule and was a good friend of Reeves', she was compelled to leave Superman after its first season when a possible starring role in another TV weekly came her way. That project died, but Phyllis remained in films until the early 1960s, mostly in westerns (Marshall of Cedar Creek [1953] and Blood Arrow [1958]) and also as the lead in one of the last Republic serials, Panther Girl of the Kongo (1953). She appeared in quite a few sci-fi and horror films as well; in Invasion USA (1952) one of her fellow cast members was Noel Neill, the actress who'd replaced her as Lois Lane on Superman. Phyllis remained active in television throughout her career, co-starring on the short-lived 1958 sitcom This is Alice and playing good guest roles in a multitude of series like Perry Mason, The Untouchables and The Patty Duke Show. Long in retirement, Phyllis Coates returned to films and TV in the early 1990s; one of her best latter-day roles was on the newest Superman TV incarnation, Lois and Clark where she plays Lois Lane's mother!

Movie Highlights

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  • Was discovered by vaudeville comedian Ken Murray shortly after moving to Los Angeles, and became a part of his vaudeville show.
  • Performed with veteran showman Earl Carroll and toured with a USO production of Anything Goes prior to her film and television career.
  • Co-starred with George O'Hanlon from 1948 to 1956 in Warner Brothers' popular Joe McDoakes short-subject comedies which could be considered the first sitcom.
  • Played Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane in the first twenty-six episodes of Adventures of Superman, and was given equal billing with George Reeves, who played the titular Man of Steel.
  • Played Lois Lane's mother, Ellen Lane, in the episode “The House of Luthor” of the series Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in 1994.