Joan Alexander dies at 94; ‘40s radio actress played Lois Lane in ‘Superman’

Joan Alexander, a leading radio actress in the 1940s best known for playing Lois Lane, the ace reporter who was constantly being rescued from peril by Superman, died of an intestinal ailment May 21 at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She was 94.

After an early modeling and stage career, Alexander became a versatile performer on dozens of radio serials, notably as the loyal secretary Della Street in “Perry Mason.” She played recurring characters on radio soap operas and dramas including “Lone Journey,” “Light of the World” and “This Is Nora Drake.”

But Alexander achieved her greatest prominence -- and enduring fame among devoted Superman fans -- as one of the few women to portray Lane, an intrepid reporter for the fictitious Daily Planet. According to many sources, she was the third actress cast as Lane in the serial “The Adventures of Superman,” which first aired in February 1940 on New York station WOR and reached a broad audience through syndication on the Mutual network.

For the next decade, Alexander was heard playing opposite actor Bud Collyer as Superman, the Man of Steel from planet Krypton who saves Lane from enemy agents during wartime and from various other foes bent on destroying the American way of life. By day, Superman disguises himself as Lane’s nerdy, fumbling newsroom colleague, Clark Kent.

In addition to their radio work -- the show later aired on the ABC network -- Alexander and Collyer provided voice-overs in 17 animated Superman shorts, made by Fleischer and Paramount studios, that played in movie theaters during World War II.

Alexander and Collyer reunited in the late 1960s to do voice-overs for the Saturday morning cartoon “The New Adventures of Superman” on CBS.

Alexander was a regular panelist on the TV game show “The Name’s the Same” in the early 1950s and had a supporting role on Broadway in the Jean Kerr comedy “Poor Richard” (1964), starring Alan Bates and Joanna Pettet.

She subsequently became a homemaker and hostess, having been married for her third and final time to Arthur Stanton, a prominent auto distributor who helped introduce the Volkswagen Beetle to America.

Alexander was born Louise Abras on April 16, 1915, in St. Paul, Minn. As a young woman, she turned to modeling and then to acting, taking a new first name that she borrowed from actress Joan Crawford.

In 1944, she married John Sylvester White, an actor best known for playing Assistant Principal Michael Woodman in the TV show “Welcome Back, Kotter.” The marriage ended in divorce, as did a later marriage to Robert T. Crowley. She was married to Stanton from 1955 until his death in 1987.

Survivors include a daughter from her second marriage, the novelist Jane Stanton Hitchcock, whom Stanton adopted and who lives in New York City and Washington, D.C.; a son from her third marriage, Timothy Stanton of New York; a half sister; and a grandson. Another son from her third marriage, Adam Stanton, died in 1993.

After his death, Arthur Stanton reportedly left Alexander $70 million. Last year, she filed a lawsuit accusing her financial advisors of fraud, professional malpractice and other crimes for losing or stealing much of that fortune. The case is pending.

Bernstein writes for the Washington Post.

Get our Today's Headlines newsletter