On Adventures of Superman, Jack Larson played Jimmy Olsen, the young guy at the Daily Planet who the Man of Steel had to save nearly as often as Lois Lane. It was famously the only recurring TV role the actor accepted, and in many ways, eventually, it became a burden on the actor to escape the stereotype of that particular role. So once the show ended in 1958, the actor took only a few TV roles more before abruptly quitting acting, quietly shifting gears to become a producer instead.
The last role fans saw Larson take on was a minor character on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. As Tommy in the episode "Gomer Pyle PFC," we saw Larson serve as Sgt. Vince Carter's assistant, trying to help him follow through with his plans for a big trip. Naturally, Gomer gets in the way of this vacation, resulting in many funny scenes where Larson scrambles to keep Gomer from irritating the sergeant.
If you paid close attention to this episode, you might've noticed something a little odd about the end credits. It lists Jack Larson right below Ronnie Schell, as if he was one of the cast members, and not one of the guest stars whose names were formatted slightly differently just below. According to Larson in an interview, there's a logical explanation for that. He was actually supposed to join the cast of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. at the start of season two.
"I got offered to do Gomer Pyle," Larson said. "This is after I quit acting. ...That comes up in interviews, why I got such great billing, like I was a running character on Gomer Pyle. And the reason was, they thought I was going to be a running character in Gomer Pyle, but by that time, I was writing."
As Larson tried to move past his iconic Superman role, he was hesitant to continue appearing on television, saying, "I had done one television series, Superman, and I thought, 'I’m gonna rest on my laurels, and I’m not going to do this running character in Gomer Pyle.'" Instead, Larson worked as a producer on a few films in the 1970s and '80s, his acting career abruptly ending after this single episode on Jim Nabors' hit sitcom. He'd return to the screen 25 years later to appear in the Superboy series, then most of his acting work from that point forward would be connected to the Superman universe.
Perhaps doing Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. would've actually helped him break free from the superhero franchise? We'll never know, but we salute Larson for all his TV work, either way!
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