How 'Adventures of Superman' star Jack Larson saved a piece of Charlie Chaplin history and met Seinfeld
Jack Larson was a man who wore many hats in his lifetime, more than just the energy-filled actor behind Jimmy Olsen. Larson was a impish powerhouse in everything else he set to work on, too.
The Los Angeles native had a knack for seeing an object's value in the future, and that all started durring the production of Adventures Of Superman.
In 1955, the TV series, which aired from 1952–58, was filmed at Charlie Chaplin Studios (now the Jim Henson Company Lot in Hollywood). At the time, the government had falsely accused Chaplin of being a Communist and revoked his entry into the United States, so the silent film star had exiled himself in Switzerland. Chaplin had sent for his films and memorabilia to be shipped to Europe.
But Chaplin only kept certain costumes and props. Other props lying around Chaplin Studios were being tossed in the trash. One prop that was about to end up in the garbag can was a rubber wrench that Chaplin used to great effect in the classic film Modern Times.
While working on Superman, Larson saw this cinematic crime about to happen and couldn't sit still. He begged them to let him have it. They thought he was nuts for asking for this piece of rubber.
But they let the young actor have it, and that iconic tool became Larson's pride and joy, as he brought it out for visitors when screening Chaplin movies.
Larson was an aesthete with a deep connection to artists. His array of friendships included people as diverse as James Dean to Jim Morrison. The former Jimmy Olsen appreciated the Doors frontman as a poet rather than just a rock star. Larson also lived in a Brentwood home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and he spent many months of dedicated restoration to bring the Wright-designed furniture and house back to its original condition.
And as for his time on Adventures of Superman, he delighted in the many fans of the show. He once related to me his surprise in finding that Jerry Seinfeld was one of those obsessed Super-fans.
The comedian invited Larson to film an American Express commercial with him. After the shoot, Seinfeld invited Larson to his trailer, where the two watched episodes of Adventures of Superman.
Larson sat in silence watching Seinfeld. It warmed his heart to see the inner child emerge from the sitcom star.
Likewise, it's good to know celebrities play an important part in keeping Hollywood history alive from generation to generation.