Although Mr. Larson was pleased that Jimmy Olsen developed into a comic role, his fears of being typecast were realized. After a particularly upsetting encounter with the producer Mervyn LeRoy, he was advised by the actor Montgomery Clift, with whom Mr. Larson was having a romantic relationship, to stop putting himself in those casting situations. So Mr. Larson gave up acting and made a new career.
He wrote the libretto for Virgil Thomson’s third and last opera, “Lord Byron,” commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It had its premiere in 1972 at the Juilliard Theater, and some critics compared Mr. Larson’s work unfavorably with that of Mr. Thomson’s previous collaborator, Gertrude Stein.
Other critics often admired his writing. Reviewing a collection of plays at the Café au Go Go, Walter Kerr of The New York Times referred to Mr. Larson’s “Chuck” (1968) — about a magazine salesman trying to save the printed word from television — as “what may be the evening’s most provocative sketch.”
None of those significant achievements matter to millions who grew up watching Superman and continue to watch the series today.