Monday, January 11, 2010

"Jimmy Olsen" Knocks One Out of the Ball Park!

Actor Jack Larson [pictured] played Jimmy Olsen on the old Superman TV series many years ago. Before that Larson had appeared in a few movies, and after The Adventures of Superman ended its run he made sporadic appearances in films and on TV, often in cameos related to Jimmy Olsen. He has also been a writer, producer and opera librettist, a man of many talents.

[For non-comics fans Jimmy Olsen was a cub reporter at the Daily Planet, which also employed Clark Kent/Superman. In the comics he was an ambitious, brash, often fool-hardy if lovable redhead with freckles. The Olsen of the TV show was much more subdued, a little hang-dog, and if Larson was a redhead it was hard to tell in black and white.]

But for our purposes I'm much more interested in a recent appearance by Larson on one of my favorite programs, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit which aired last Wednesday, Jan. 6th, 2010. [Let me make it clear that I've had issues with some episodes of the show. And its sister series Law and Order has on occasion given me pause, as they say.]

Let me interject here that Larson is openly gay. He had been a companion to Montgomery Clift, and then was the life partner of Hollywood director James Bridges for 35 years until Bridges' death.

Larson is now 82 years old [or 77 -- hell he has the right to shave off a few years if he wants to, who doesn't?]. I think it's great that in his senior years he was handed one of the most memorable roles of his career on a top-rated television show in the episode entitled "Quickie."

On the show Larson plays Dewey Butler, the grandfather of a young man he has raised. This young man -- who is straight, by the way --- has HIV and knowingly infects as many women as he can. Butler loves his grandson, but is appalled, heartbroken, by his actions, and does what he can to make restitution to the young man's victims. Larson is excellent, and has several very affecting moments, including his death scene. [Brian Geraghty, who plays the grandson, Peter, is also excellent; in fact the episode is full of skillful acting.]

An interesting aspect of the episode is that it underlines a fact that too often people ignore -- that HIV/AIDS is not a gay disease. Straight people get it and spread it. Men can get HIV from women just as women can get it from men. The script by Ken Storer also made the point that there are cases of drug-resistant HIV, so while it may not be the death sentence that it used to be, AIDS is still pretty serious stuff. [Safe sex, everyone!]

On the Internet Movie Data Base [] site there are four listings for "Jack Larson." The first is the man we're talking about here. The fourth is -- get this -- an "actress" who played "Dewey Butler" on "Quickie" on Law and Order: SVU.

Now I'm not saying there's some sort of homophobic conspiracy on the Internet Movie Data Base. But even if somebody thought "Dewey" sounded like a woman's name, surely they might have wondered about the "Jack?"

In any case, congrats to a gay brother on a job well done!

While it's highly unlikely that LOGO or any other gay network would want to air a program dealing with the lives of older gay men, if someone gets inspired maybe they'll think of Larson for a major role.

No comments: