Virtually everyone with a casual
knowledge of things Superman knows about his relationship with Lois Lane.
I would imagine that the general public's perception of Lana Lang is relatively
limited. Understandable, since it was always "understood" that Clark
would eventually end up with Lois. So, naturally, Lana got short
shrift in depictions outside the four-color pages.
Or did she?
After the death of George Reeves, several ideas were floated around to keep the Super-television franchise going. The best idea of the lot was a live-action Superboy series. Several scripts were commissioned, but only one pilot was actually produced.
Cast opposite John Rockwell's Clark/Superboy
was Bunny Henning, shown above from her screen test. Call it Monday-morning
quarterbacking four decades after the event, but I'm not at all certain
why Ms. Henning was given the nod here. Unless blandness was the
winning criterion. At no time during the pilot, nor the screen test
did she show any sort of energy; at least not on the level of Phyllis Coates
Noel Neill, arguably her "predecessors" in the female Super-companion role.
My choice would've been Trudy Ellison, who appeared briefly in the pilot as Clark and Lana's classmate. Her screen test showed a bubbly vitality that wouldn't really show up again in the role until Stacy Haiduk, nearly thirty years later. I really think the pilot might've had a better chance had Ellison been cast.
Regardless, Henning was the first, albeit in a rarely seen vehicle, Lana to grace the screen.
The next would be more widely seen, in Filmation's Superboy cartoon of the 1960's. Though these cartoons were part of various Saturday morning packages, the original presentation involved a Superboy cartoon sandwiched between two Superman cartoons during the half-hour show.
These cartoons were generally faithful to the comic format. Lana (who I believe was voiced by Janet Waldo, but I can't absolutely confirm that), basically - and innocently - made trouble for Clark/Superboy. Whether by inadvertently making costume jewelry out of stray chunks of Kryptonite or being too inquisitive as to Clark's whereabouts during a Super-rescue, the redhead kept our hero hopping.
The next major appearance of Lana was in Superman - The Movie, with a brief appearance by Diane Sherry in the role. Not much detail was given here as to the relationship between Clark and Lana, beyond Clark's obvious infatuation with her. It seems apparent that this Lana liked Clark, but she traveled in a "higher" social circle than did young Mr. Kent.
But, as sometimes happens, time
mitigates such social "stigmas". In Superman
III, Annette O'Toole took up the part
as a divorced, discontented single mom who now can appreciate the qualities
of a Clark Kent. Even moreso than the qualities of a Superman, it
(Digression: In the credits for Superman - The Movie, Lana was given no last name, yet the divorced Lana of Superman III had the last name of Lang. Her son Ricky shared her surname - at least in the novelization - which leads to the presumption that the Salkinds' cinematic Lana was the only version of the character thus far whose maiden name wasn't Lang.)
Superman III also gave us the first cinematic meeting of the two main women in Clark's life, albeit briefly. Margot Kidder's strained relationship with the producers reduced her role to that of a glorified cameo. Pity these two never got together for a chat onscreen. Though a version of such a chat transpired in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, how much better would it have been were Lana a participant instead of Mariel Hemingway's forgettable/plot device Lacey.
Next up, as part of the 1988 Ruby-Spears cartoon was a segment called "Superman's Family Album". These four-minute vignettes chronicled significant events in young Clark's life, from the rocket landing in Smallville to leaving home and his first appearance as "Superman". Naturally, with no "Superboy" in this telling of the tale, Lana wasn't the snoopy neighbor, trying to discover Clark's secret identity. Yet, she obviously played an important part in Superman's early life.
As did the current animated Lana (voiced by Kelly Schmidt in Last Son of Krypton). Though not the model student her predecessors were, this girl is still smart, sassy and supportive of her Clark.
Not to mention independent, talented and loyal. The grown-up Lana (now voiced by Joely Fisher) is a highly successful fashion designer - but not too snooty to appreciate the fashion taste of a certain Martha Kent.
Yes, this was the first Lana Lang
to ever definitively deduce Superman's secret identity and support him
in his role as Metropolis' guardian.
Note, I said deduce "and" support him.
One Lana knew full what what Clark was capable of. And she didn't like it a bit. During the third season of Lois & Clark, Emily Procter essayed the role of an alternate-universe Lana Lang engaged to a Clark Kent who had never taken up the mantle of a Superman. This Lana wanted her Clark at her beck and call - and no one else's. "Shrew" would not be too strong a term here; when the Lois from "our" universe helped alternate-Clark create "Superman", Lana broke off her engagement abruptly and permanently.
(C'mon, like you couldn't tell from
the logo who I considered
the best Lana of the bunch...)
As I said on my Superboy page, Stacy Haiduk without question carried that series. No way could it have lasted past the first thirteen weeks, let alone four years, had she not been the touchstone to whom viewers could relate. (Of course, one can never discount her visual importance to the male demographic...)
Unfortunately, Haiduk was often saddled with inconsistent characterizations. Rarely was her Lana shown as possessed of an abundanced of common sense, a throwback to the "old" days of comics in which she was a handy victim in need of Super-assistance. During the final season, she showed signs of becoming an able partner to Superboy, but near the end (in fact, during the final storyline) she was regressed to the quintessential "snoop" Lana, obsessed with ferreting out the secret identity of the Teen of Steel.
When all is said and done though, Haiduk's Lana is definitely a fond memory of my Super-viewing. Understandably, there is little chance of her returning to the mythos; however, I - and I'm sure many other fans - look forward to the reappearance of this talented actress in a high-profile role. (Though personally, I'd hope it wouldn't be in a SeaQuest reunion...Yes, I'm evil...get over it...)
As of October 2001, there's a new Lana on the tube, and she's an absolute doll. Kristen Kreuk has the honor of playing the non-redheaded, non-girlfriend of Clark Kent on the series "Smallville".
Ok, so I like Kreuk. Her "Lana", I could live without. One of the weakest aspects of "Smallville" is that Lana is portrayed as so whiny, self-absorbed, and not just a little bit needy in a not-cute way, that one wonders why Clark Kent even bothers with her. Time will tell if they give Kreuk's character a backbone. But "Smallville", in its second year as of this writing, has developed into an interesting (if imperfect) view of a modern Superman-to-be.
Updated March 25, 2003
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