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The Mysterious Circumstances Surrounding George Reeves’ Death by Matthew Rizzuto

George Keefer Brewer Bessolo Reeves (January 5, 1914 – June 16, 1959) Gone, But Never Forgotten.

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Who killed Superman actor George Reeves? Was it suicide?! Was it a hit?! Was murder involved in the death of the actor that played The Man of Steel on television?!?  Nobody knows for sure, but the death of George Reeves, television’s original Superman, has all the elements of a classic Hollywood mystery.  Before any of the baby-boom martyrs – Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis – there was George Reeves, TV’s first Superman, supposedly dead by his own hand on June, 16th 1959.

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Funeral For A Friend: On June 26th, 1959, it was reported The Sacramento Bee that two more bullet holes were discovered by police investigators who pried up a carpet covering the floor where Reeves was found. One bullet had gone through the floor and lodged in the paneling of the living room downstairs; the other one was recovered from a ceiling beam. Examination disclosed the same Luger automatic that killed Reeves had fired them. The bullet that killed Reeves was recovered from the bedroom ceiling. Only one empty cartridge case was found in the bedroom, however and no fingerprints were found on the gun, but on, June 27th, 1959, TV Guide published a notice of George Reeves’ death. Farewell to Superman: Children the world over were dealt a severe blow last week. George Reeves, 45, TV’s indestructible “Man of Steel,” Superman, was dead by his own hand and the flowing cloak would flow no more. A gentle man in real life, given to moods, he was despondent because “everyone thought of him as Superman, not as an actor” and now that the show was no longer shooting, he couldn’t get a job. One of his friends wrote a poignant epitaph. “Superman was like a puppy dog”, she said. “All who knew him wanted to cuddle and care for him.” The Beverly Hills Citizen reported in a copyrighted interview that Jerry Giesler doubts George Reeves committed suicide because the case has too many “phony angles.” On June 29th, 1959, the pallbearers were named for the funeral of George Reeves. Honorary pallbearers were actors Alan Ladd, Gig Young, Bill Walsh, Hudson Shotwell, Natividad Vacio, Dwight Hauser, Damian O’Flynn, Jimmy Seay, director George Blair, “Adventures of Superman” producer Whitney Ellsworth, legendary wrestler and trainer Gene LeBell and George’s faithful agent, attorney and loyal friend Art Weissman. On June 30th, 1959, The Sacramento Bee reported that a friend of Lenore Lemmon backed up her story of a second bullet. The woman, whose identity was kept secret by the police, said that a few weeks before Reeves’ death, she was with Lemmon in the house. After Lemmon asked her, “Would you like to hear how this sounds?” She fired into a beam in the ceiling. Meanwhile, in the Beverly Hills Citizen, attorney Giesler is quoted as saying her story is “a bunch of hooey”. On July 1st, 1959, the funeral services are held for George Reeves at the Wayside Chapel of the Gates Funeral Home in Los Angeles. Among friends attending were Noel Neill, Don DeFore, Gig Young and Mrs. Dan Dailey. The Rev. R. Parker Jones of St. Albans Episcopal Church officiated. Even though, Reeves was Catholic, the Catholic Church would not officiate Reeves funeral because in those days, before Vatican II officially kicked in, suicide was frowned upon by the Catholic Church. Whether or not George committed suicide or he was murdered, the official report was that he had committed suicide and the Church went by that. Rev. Jones recalled Reeves’ “selfless interest in the service of the lives of children, especially those in hospitals.” Reeves was temporarily entombed at Woodlawn Mausoleum in Santa Monica. It was reported that Mrs. Bessolo would take the body to Cincinnati in the fall and on November 28th, 1959, another autopsy was performed by Dr. Alan R. Moritz at Cincinnati General Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Moritz later opinionated that his findings were consistent with suicide.
Yet, the swirl of rumors of murder would continue.

 

 

To a generation of children raised on his exploits, leaping tall buildings, wielding X-ray Vision and out running speeding bullets, the notion that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman should have killed himself was inconceivable and perhaps, it was. Maybe.
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Shattering that fourth wall with Superman George Reeves and his SUPER wink!!!
From the “Adventures of Superman” season 2 episode, “Lady in Black” (1954).

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The house where Reeves died still stands a short distance up Benedict Canyon Drive, in the dense hills and narrow, meandering lanes north of lovely Sunset Blvd.  The canyon’s denizens have included Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and Pia Zadora. Within a mile is Cielo Drive, where Charles Manson’s killer robots massacred beautiful Sharon Tate and friends in August 1969.
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Actor George Reeves as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent on the set of “Superman and The Mole Men” (1951).
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In the mid-1990’s, Heidi Fleiss ran her string of escorts from a well-concealed house some way to the north and up on secluded Beverly Crest Drive, Rock Hudson for decades enjoyed his exclusively gay off-screen private life, hosting all-male Sunday parties around his pool, until deadly AIDS caught hold of him and he was forced to endure his last few days on Earth beneath the thunderous churning blades of news helicopters circling overhead. Compared with these giants, the legendary George Reeves was a pretty small beer, a cardboard star in the upstart in the newfangled medium of television.
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The Gang’s All Here!!! Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson), Clark Kent’s boisterous boss Perry White (John Hamilton), Superman’s true love Lois Lane (Noel Neill) and George Reeves as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman in the season 6 episode of “Adventures of Superman”, ” Money to Burn” (1957).

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1579 Benedict Canyon Drive was similarly small-scale, a modest house, just three rooms downstairs and a bedroom and bathroom in the attic.  The residence was bought for Reeves in 1950 by his longtime lover Toni Mannix, who was married to the powerful MGM studio enforcer Eddie Mannix and here, of all places, his body was found, in the early morning of June 16, 1959, while his fiancee, Leonore Lemmon, reputedly a headline-hungry gold digger, sat downstairs with a house guest called Robert Condon and two neighbors, all of them, stupefied beyond reason, drunken with top shelf liquor, when the cops finally arrived.  In the windowless upstairs bedroom, Reeves lay naked on the bed in a pool of blood, a gun between his feet, a shell casing beneath his corpse, a bullet in his brain and a thick spray of his gore stretching up the wall to the slanted ceiling.
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“Adventures of Superman” series director Phil Ford with George Reeves (1958).

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An open-and-shut case of suicide, said the LA police and the coroner, before closing the investigation with what some considered indecent haste.  The newspapers were in a frenzy for over a week, then dropped the story completely flat, but among George’s television co-stars and close friends, there were many who called it murder and there was no shortage of suspects or motives.  The case has never been reopened, but the doubts have never been satisfactorily laid to rest.  “Hollywoodland”, the 2006 film directed by Allen Coulter and starred Academy Award-winner Ben Affleck as Reeves, attempts to unravel the many skeins of suspicion and uncertainty surrounding Reeves’ death and does a good job of sketching in the three or four principal theories.
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Actor George Reeves as Superman in the 1951 film, “Superman and The Mole Men”.

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Unlike Brian De Palma’s superficially similar “The Black Dahlia”, set a decade earlier than “Hollywoodland”, Coulter’s movie has a remarkably confident feel for Los Angeles of the 1950’s as a living era and a vivid locale. Reeves was a has-been seeking a comeback, so there is piquancy to the choice of Affleck, a movie star with a career in crisis, to play the stumbling superhero. The movie has its share of holes, but it is not a perfect movie, nor a perfect account to what happened to Reeves.
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George is having a good time playing Superman in the season 2 episode of “Adventures of Superman”, “The Dog Who Knew Superman” (1953). 

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As with the many theories that swirl around the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short – the tortured and mutilated Black Dahlia – there are too many contradictory pieces to assemble a single coherent jigsaw puzzle of Reeves’ death/murder or rather, there are perhaps, three jigsaws with not enough pieces to complete any of them.  On the night Reeves died, he and Lemmon, the woman for whom he’d dumped Mannix, had gone out to dinner and many drinks, leaving Condon in the house. They returned at about 11:00PM. Reeves went to bed alone around midnight, but came down in an irritable mood an hour later when Condon’s lover, Carol Van Ronkel, a married neighbor, showed up with one William Bliss, who lived nearby, but was hardly known to the others. Condon later said that Reeves apologized for his bad mood and returned upstairs. Then, according to the police report, Lemmon said, “He is going to shoot himself”, where upon, through the thin ceiling, they heard a bedside drawer open. “He is getting the gun out now and he’s gonna shoot himself”, Lemmon continued and sure enough, a shot rang out. Bliss ran upstairs with great speed and found Reeves dead on the bed and his blood everywhere.  At least, this is how the four unbelievably drunk witnesses said it went down in perfunctory police interviews conducted before they scattered into the night.
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Make-up artist Harry Thomas once said that he had to be very careful applying make-up to George’s nose because it was very sensitive to the boxing injuries that he sustained earlier in his life.
Here’s a SUPER picture of model/actress Joi Lansing as Sgt. Helen J. O’Hara with George Reeves in “Superman’s Wife”, season 6, episode 9 of “Adventures of Superman” (1958).
Great Moons of Krypton!!!
George Reeves is having an interesting moment behind-the-scenes in “The Superman Silver Mine”, episode 6 of season 6 of “Adventures of Superman” (1958).
Beginning in 1954, certain episodes of season 2 of “Adventures of Superman” were available to be seen in movie theaters. Of the five packaged, three episodes each, the episodes were entitled, “Superman’s Peril”, “Superman Flies Again”, “Superman and Scotland Yard”, “Superman in Exile” and “Superman and The Jungle Devil”.
The reason why this was accomplished was so that the show could be seen by many audiences that may not have been able to afford television sets.

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The Man of Tomorrow (George Reeves) is hanging out with his true love Lois Lane (Noel Neill) and his pal, Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson) in the “Adventures of Superman” season 4 episode, “The Jolly Rodger” (1956).
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In the week-long investigation that followed, the evidence seal on the property was broken, apparently by Lemmon, who absconded to New York, never to return, with over $4,000 in travellers checks. Reeves had supposedly bought the checks for a “honeymoon” that only Lemmon seemed to know about. Bizarre. The coroner’s autopsy took place only after the corpse had been thoroughly washed. It failed to test for powder traces on Reeves hand and even though, the top of Reeves skull was removed, no one checked the head wound for gunpowder traces, which would have been present, if he’d shot himself at close range.  At the same time, nothing explained the bruises on the corpse’s face and chest. Reeves showed no signs of a suicidal demeanor, left no note and died naked. All are extremely unusual for a suicide.
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In the season 6 episode of “Adventures of Superman”, “The Gentle Monster” (1958), Prof. Pepperwinkle’s (Phil Tead) robot friend Mr. McTavish (Wilkie de Martel) is worth more trouble than Superman can handle when he’s made with deadly Kryptonite!!!!
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None of his Hollywood buddies, “Superman” co-stars and close friends could believe that Reeves, a glad-handing, straight-shooting, life-loving guy, had a plausible reason to do away with himself. From Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan to Robert Shayne, many were shocked. Only his “Superman” co-star Jack Larson, who played Superman’s Pal, cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, accepted the verdict, “because he made such a mess of things” – that is, forsaking his beloved patroness at a time when his career was apparently in ruins. Or was it. Was George’s career in ruins?  Years later, another cast member, Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane in the first season of the show, told Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, authors of “Hollywood Kryptonite”, an often speculative examination of the case, that she had received a very disturbing phone call at 4:30AM on the morning of Reeves death. It came from Toni Mannix, beside herself with anxiety. “She was hyperventilating and ranting,” recalled Coates. “She said, ‘The boy is dead. He’s been murdered.”
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Movie poster for “Superman and The Mole Men” (1951) with George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey and Jerry Maren.

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Mannix was about the only break Reeves ever got in Hollywood. She was his refuge, his financial salvation, his soulmate, his keeper and the boon companion of his happiest years. Hey, even George’s first marriage wasn’t even that compatible or satisfying. Reeves grew up mainly in Pasadena with his overbearing and highly possessive mother Helen, who gave George the name of her second husband, one Mr. Bessolo. It was Warner Bros. Jack Warner himself that gave George the marquee-friendly name of Reeves that he was buried with. By 1937, George fetched up at the Pasadena Playhouse, incubator of many a movie star. Handsome in that strapping, jutjawed manner that slayed the ladies of the Depression, he was signed to Warners and then to Paramount, which leased him out to play one of the Tarleton twins in the Academy Award-winning, Selznick produced, box office hit, “Gone With The Wind”. It was a fabulous opportunity, but it came to nothing, because of the ineffectual role or the orange dye-job he was forced to sport (“It was tangerine.” Ben Affleck avers in “Hollywoodland”).
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Movie poster for “Superman and The Mole Men” (1951).

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The madness of World War II interrupted Reeves ascent, though he caught some attention in 1943’s flagwaver “So Proudly We Hail!”. The film’s director, Mark Sandrich, said he had great plans for George once the war was over, but Sandrich died before anything could come of his promise. By 1950, Reeves was reduced to walk-on parts in studio dross and even playing Sir Lancelot in a movie serial. There was a nasty recession, the studios were retrenching, ditching even their big name stars to save money. Groomed for stardom in the prosperous early 1940’s, Reeves had every reason to believe he was now in the wrong line of business…and then Toni Mannix took him under her finely plumed wing and everything changed.  Born in 1906, Toni was eight years George’s senior, a spirited, vivacious ex-Ziegfeld Girl. She had been Eddie Mannix’s mistress for years and had only recently married him when she met George, then at his lowest ebb. Not that Mannix was overly worried about George and Toni. The MGM casting couches gave him access to any woman he wanted, his fearsome reputation more than compensating for his Frog Prince cast of feature and gruff demeanor.

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Up, up and away!!!!
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It was a Harvey Weinstein wet dream.  Mannix and his own mistresses often went on double dates with George and Toni and when they travelled, it was Mannix in first class, sexual playthings in coach.  There was a whiff of Joe Gillis and Norma Desmond about George and Toni’s relationship, except that he wasn’t a cynic and she wasn’t demented. “Hollywoodland” deftly notes the “Sunset Boulevard” connection in a scene of the dead Reeves on the mortuary table (“Sunset Boulevard”‘s scrapped original opening had William Holden introducing himself postmortem from the slab) intercut with a glimpse of Billy Wilder, “Boulevard”‘s director, in a nightclub. Toni probably had “Sunset Boulevard” in mind when she, like Norma Desmond, gave George a pocketwatch inscribed with the legend “Mad About The Boy”.
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Changing Lanes: Beginning with season 2, “Superman” movie serial actress Noel Neill filled in the part of Lois Lane for actress Phyllis Coates on “Adventures of Superman”, all the way through season 6 of the SUPER program. The reason that Coates left the show was because she was offered a sitcom, “Here Comes Calvin”. When the sitcom was cancelled, due to low ratings, Coates was out of a job. Neill remained in the role of Superman’s girlfriend throughout the rest of the duration of the show.
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Breakfast, Anyone?
In September 1952, cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s agreed to sponsor the “Adventures of Superman” show, as the company had previously done with the Superman Radio Show series. Both were produced by Robert Maxwell.
To promote and advertise the show, cast members Reeves, Hamilton and Larson were able to gain extra money by appearing in Kellogg’s commercials during the second season. However, Noel Neill was never approached for these because sponsors worried that scenes of Clark Kent having breakfast with Lois Lane would be too suggestive. How times have changed!!!

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When it came to George, the rumors are true: George was a very, VERY well-kept boy. Whatever George wanted, he got and that includes a house, car, clothes, liquor, cash, furniture, sex, vacations: Toni Mannix owned George Reeves, lock, stock and barrel-chestnut, but it was a loving relationship conducted in the full expectation of marriage, once the ailing Eddie finally succumbed to one of his frequent heart attacks. Their house on Benedict Canyon Drive was always full of their friends. The alcohol flowed freely from breakfast onwards and even Eddie was known to show up and grunt his way through the occasional barbecue.  In 1951, Reeves reluctantly agreed to don Superman’s costume for a feature-length TV pilot called “Superman and The Mole Men” and afterwards, the team shot 24 half-hour Superman episodes, even though, no network was interested…yet. “Superman and The Mole Men” is generally considered to be the first feature length theatrical superhero film. There had been many superhero movie serials before this, but this was a single story clocking in at a short 58 minutes by today’s standards, but still feature-length.
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“Adventures of Superman” began filming at the RKO-Pathe Studios (later Desilu Studios) in Culver City, California, in August–September 1951. Episodes cost roughly $15,000 apiece, a low-budget program by the standards of the day. In 1953–54, the show was filmed at California Studios and, in 1955, at Chaplin Studios. In 1956–57, the show was filmed at Ziv Studios.
The establishing shot of The Daily Planet building in the first season was the E. Clem Wilson Building in Los Angeles, California, on Wilshire Boulevard, for decades famous as the headquarters of Mutual of Omaha, its brilliant white globe atop a tall pillar a familiar landmark to local residents, while the Carnation Milk Company Building a few blocks east on Wilshire served as The Daily Planet’s front door. From the second season onward, stock shots of the 32-story Los Angeles City Hall were used as the Planet building and the sidewalk entrance to the Planet was a studio-bound “exterior.”

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It has George Reeves in the title role who would go onto play him for several seasons in the TV series, which this was essentially what’s now referred to as a “backdoor pilot” and it was even re-cut into a two-part episode to run on TV. Looking back on it, it feels much like a Superman story with a very special lesson attached to it:
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“…Disguised as Clark Kent…”: Timid reporter Kent is also fearless hero Kal-El, both are played by George Reeves, in this interesting Technicolor moment of season 3 of “Adventures of Superman” (1955).

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The Power of Tolerance.  It’s absolutely worth it to look back at the beginnings of superhero movie history with this one.  It was 1951 and Superman’s owners at National Periodical Publications were hell-bent to make a splash in the new and untested land of television. There was just one problem: Whom to sign up as The Man of Steel for this most up-close medium.  Producer Robert Maxwell and director Tommy Carr screened nearly two hundred candidates. Most made their living as actors, although some were full-time musclemen.  Nearly all, Carr said, “appeared to have a serious deficiency in their chromosome count”. So thorough – and perhaps so frustrating – was their search that the executives stopped by the Mr. America contest in Los Angeles. One choice they never seriously considered, despite his later claims, was Kirk Alyn, who had done well enough for the serials, but had neither the acting skills nor the looks around which to build a Superman TV series.
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George Reeves meeting
a SUPER fan in 1956.

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The search ended the day a barrel-chested B-movie actor named George Reeves showed up on the studio lot. Bob Maxwell’s co-producer had recognized George in a Los Angeles restaurant, seeming “rather forlorn” and suggested he come in for a tryout. He did, the next morning and “from that moment on he was my first choice” said Tommy Carr. “He looked like Superman with that jaw of his. Kirk had the long neck and fine features, but although I like Kirk very much, he never looked the Superman that Reeves did.” George with his tough-guy demeanor was no put-on. Standing six-foot-two and carrying 195 pounds, Reeves had been a light-heavyweight boxing champ in college and could have gone further, if he hadn’t broken his nose six times and his mother hadn’t made him step out of the ring. It wasn’t the first or the last time she would interfere.
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Impervious To Bullets: George Reeves has a good time showing off some guns (1956).

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A headstrong and self-focused girl from Illinois, Helen Lescher had eloped with pharmacist Don Brewer in Iowa in 1914 and within five months they had a son, George Keefer Brewer. The marriage didn’t last and George didn’t learn about his real father or his real birthday until he was into his twenties. Helen altered his date of birth to make it look like she was married when he was conceived. She hid his father’s fate, telling George he had committed suicide, until Brewer turned up one day. His second name, George Lescher Bessolo and Helen’s second marriage wouldn’t last long, either.  After giving up boxing, George landed a job at the prestigious Pasadena Playhouse, which was more to his mother’s liking. It was then that he learned to act and that nearby movie executives got to see what he could do. We can’t forget that they liked him enough to give him the modest role of Stuart Tarleton, one of Scarlett O’Hara’s suitors and half of the Tarleton twins, in the 1939 blockbuster “Gone With The Wind”.
Academy Award-winning actress Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara with Fred Crane as Brent Tarleton and George Reeves as Stuart Tarleton at The Twelve Oaks barbecue in Victor Fleming’s Oscar®-winning and tremendous masterpiece, “Gone With The Wind” (1939).
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Even before the film came out, George had been signed by another studio, Warner Bros., where the famed Jack Warner pushed him to change his name to one he felt would look better on movie theater marquees: Reeves.
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The classic opening credits to season one of “Adventures of Superman” (1952).

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According to sources, George didn’t see his name in lights for anything, but lesser films he did land and minor roles alongside major actors.  In the 1949 “Samson and Delilah”, Victor Mature was Samson and George was a wounded messenger, while that same year in former Clevelander Bob Hope’s “The Great Lover”, George was a gambler killed in the first three minutes. Between acting jobs, Reeves dug cesspools at the rate of $100 a hole.  When the offer came in 1951 to play the TV’s Superman, George was torn. He had barely heard of The Man of Steel, knew that the $600 a week he was offered was a pittance and realized that the chance of getting a real acting job would be harder once the movie studios saw him playing a comic book superhero or any role in a medium that Hollywood disdained.
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The Undisputed Champion of The Oppressed (George Reeves) takes on intolerance from Jeff Corey in “Superman and The Mole Men” (1951).
Yet, he needed the money and as his agent, Art Weissman, advised George, there was a slim chance that the new show would even be broadcast and a slimmer that one anyone in Hollywood would notice.  Television, after all, was in its infancy, with the nation just witnessing the first-ever coast-to-coast broadcast in the form of a speech by President Harry Truman. “Take the money and run”, George’s agent said.  Reluctantly, George did. “I’ve played about every part you can think of. Why not Superman?” he told a friend. To his Lois Lane co-star Phyllis Coates he confided, the first time he met her, “Well, babe, this is it: The bottom of the barrel.”
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Great Scott!!!! George Reeves is enjoying capturing the ruthless bad guys in the season 2 episode of “Adventures of Superman”, “The Golden Vulture” (1954).
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The TV series opened the way every Superman project did, with a creation story. It welcomed back old fans of the comics and radio productions and introduced new ones to the narrative. The opening narration was word-for-word the same as in the radio series, which isn’t surprising since Maxwell oversaw both. On Krypton, Jor-El, Superman’s father, tried and failed to convince the ruling council that its planet was about to be sucked into the sun, then he and his wife Lara Lor-Van sent their infant son, Kal-El, rocketing to the planet Earth, as Krypton exploded. Here, a young Clark Kent watched his powers slowly surface the way they did in the Superboy comics and he heard his mother explain, when he was twelve, why he could see through huge rocks and large walls and do other things that set him apart from humans his age. His adoptive parents were the Sarah and Eben Kent dreamed up by novelist George Lowther and brought back to life on the radio. Just so everyone knows, the kindly farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent came from the comics and from the minds of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Their names were changed for radio, the movie serials and television. The storyline was familiar, but TV added a decidedly new kick to the SUPER myth.  Here was Superman in real life and he was sturdier and more steadfast than what kids had pictured from the Fleischer Studios cartoons, imagined on the radio by Bud Collyer or seen on the big-screen serials with Kirk Alyn.
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Crime Never Pays: The crooks (Ted Ryan and Lou Lubin) always learn the hard way when the mighty (George Reeves) Superman is around, in this unique moment in season one of “Adventures of Superman”, episode entitled, “The Human Bomb” (1952).

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Here, finally, was a flesh-and-blood Superman worthy of the hero Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had introduced to the entire world in Action Comics #1 on April 18th, 1938.  The pace of filming was frantic with just twelve days to complete each batch of five half-hour episodes. That meant working from seven in the morning until dusk six days a week, with no time for retakes.  George and the whole undertaking was saved by his photographic mind which let him memorize the twenty-four pages of dialogue that came his way every day. Scenes were shot in blocks: Monday might be Daily Planet sequences. Tuesday all eyes would on the gangsters in their boxy suits and rumpled fedoras. It drove the actors mad, reading lines without knowing the context of the story or even which story it was. The newspaper never had a newsroom, that would have required too many desks and extras, just cramped private offices. Other money-saving precepts: No need for more than two gangsters, limit crowd scenes to the opening one where everyone was looking skyward and make sure the actors never changed clothes so stock scenes could be spliced in anywhere. Clark stayed in his gray double-breasted suit with padded shoulders. Jimmy wore out his sweater and bowtie. Lois had one hat, one suit and one set of earrings. Always.
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Superman in Technicolor!!!
Superman’s famous red, blue and yellow Supersuit was designed by Costume Designer Izzy Berne and (Ironically, Berne would work on the George Reeves movie, “The Blue Gardenia” (1953).) was originally brown, gray and white and the material was made of wool during the first two seasons of “Adventures of Superman” and in the film, “Superman and The Mole Men” (1951), so that it would photograph in appropriate gray tones on black-and-white film. After two seasons of “Adventures of Superman”, the producers began filming the show in Technicolor, a rarity for any television program of the time, making it one of the very first color television shows ever. The first color television sets were produced by RCA and the show’s producers wanted to cash in on that newfangled concept about color television sets. Filming of the color episodes began in late 1954 and were broadcast in monochrome starting in early 1955. Because of the added cost of filming in Technicolor, the producers cut the number of episodes per season in half. Each 26-week season would feature 13 new episodes and 13 reruns of the older black-and-white shows. The monochrome prints of the color episodes also had to be treated so that there would be a somewhat similar contrast in the colors of Reeves’ new costume to that from the earlier seasons (with the contrast increasing each season), as the gray tones of the blue and red colors would otherwise have been rendered nearly indistinguishable. With the Technicolor seasons, beginning in 1955 with season 3, the show began to take on the lighthearted, whimsical tone of the Superman comic books of the 1950’s. The villains were often caricatured, Runyonesque gangsters played with tongue-in-cheek. Violence on the show was toned down immensely further. The only gunfire that occurred was aimed at Superman and of course, the bullets bounced off. Superman was less likely to engage in fisticuffs with the thugs. On occasions when Superman did use physical force, he would take crooks out in a single karate-style chop or if he happened to have two criminals in hand, by banging their heads together. More often than not, the crooks were likely to knock themselves out fleeing Superman. Now, extremely popular with viewers, Jimmy (Jack Larson) was being played as the show’s comic foil to Superman. Many of these plots had Jimmy and Lois (Noel Neill) being captured, only to get rescued at the last minute by the mighty Superman.

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With George Reeves in Technicolor, crime-fighting never looked so good!!!

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The gray knit wool suit (with Western Costume Company on label) consists of tunic with under-strap, leggings, dark brown trunks, tan leather belt with oval brass buckle, brown cape and brown leather suede boots with rear zipper closure. Stitched on both the chest of the tunic and back face of the cape is the signature stylized \S/ insignia in dark brown on a field of crème. The muscle under-suit is constructed of a durable synthetic satin-like fabric with sculpted rubber torso, suggesting muscular pectoral, abdominal and bicep muscles.  At the end of the first season, George Reeves was hanging by some wires in an effort to achieve a flying shot. One of the wires broke and George fell about fifteen feet. He told producers he would never use the wires again and that they needed to devise a better way of “flying” him. Several special effects men were asked to come up with ways to achieve the flying shots without risking harm to Reeves.  Legendary Special Effects specialist, Thol “Si” Simonson, along with others on his team, developed the system of using a molded fiberglass pan to hold Reeves when he flew. George would lay on the pan with his costume over the pan to conceal it from view. The pan was bolted onto a hydraulic system that would move him up and down and side to side while a blue-screen projection was running behind him to simulate flight.  The 35 x 16 in. fiberglass and steel “flying pan” rig – the magic behind Superman’s flight – is included with the costume and was used during Season 2 through to the final Season 6. Both the costume and the “flying pan” by Thol Simonson who kept the costumes following the production of the groundbreaking show. The costume is in unrestored condition exhibiting small areas of surface abrasion and minor tears and staining from production use.
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Lucy Loves Superman!!!
Reeves appeared as Superman on an episode of “I Love Lucy” that aired on January 14, 1957. In the episode, his character is only called “Superman”. No mention of George Reeves is ever made until the credit roll. The announcement “Our guest star tonight was George Reeves, star of the Superman series” was deleted from the episode after its first network broadcast. The film was later colorized and rebroadcast as part of an hour-long “Lucy” special on the CBS network on May 17th, 2015.

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The muscle torso under-suit exhibits numerous stains and applied patching (during production) under the arms, yet the rubber still remains supple. The sequences of Superman in flight were the highlights of the “Adventures of Superman” legacy and this Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman costume with special effects flying rig, truly represents the finest, most complete and historic costume in the history of television to be sold at auction.  On Superman’s home world of Krypton, Jor-El used Buster Crabbe’s old shirt from the Flash Gordon serial while other ruling council members recycled costumes from Captain Marvel and Captain America movie serials. So, what if they were the competition? What mattered to the Superman team as with most other TV crews back then was being on budget, which was just $18,500 per episode or barely enough for a single set in a B picture.
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Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson) can’t understand what’s wrong with Clark Kent (George Reeves). It seems that Clark has lost his mind, quite literally, getting a bad case of amnesia and after hitting a runaway meteor as Superman in the fan favorite, season 2 episode of “Adventures of Superman”, “Panic In The Sky” (1953).
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Special effects also were done on the cheap. The bullets that bounced off George were blanks and the revolvers he bent were made of black licorice. With a mere $175 budgeted for each episode’s flying, it is not surprising that George took another spill. It was the pulley that gave way this time. “That’s enough of that”, he announced after he dusted himself off. “Peter Pan can fly with wires, but not Superman!!!” In another episode George was set to burst into a room. The cast had rigged a door of balsa wood held up by two-by-fours, but they forgot to take out the extra lumber.
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Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: Jack Larson!!!!
Photo taken in 1954.                                                                                                   *
“George came running up the stairs right into the frame”, recalled Lee Sholem, who directed that episode. “The balsa wood barely gave way because George bounced off the heavy wood and fell to the floor – unconscious.” George wasn’t the only one taking his knocks. Playing Lois, Phyllis Coates, who prided herself on adlibbing rather than following a script, moved closer than called for to a thug, actor Frank Richards, she was confronting during the episode “Night of Terror” and “He decked me!!! I was knocked out cold and they sent me home!!! That left me a little black-and-blue, but I was back at work the next day.”
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“Faster Than A Speeding Bullet!!!!
More Powerful Than A Locomotive!!!!
Able To Leap Tall Buildings In A Single Bound!!!!
Look!!! Up in the sky!!!
It’s a bird!!!
It’s a plane!!!
No!!! It’s Superman!!!
Yes!!! It’s Superman!!!!
Strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men!!!! Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice and The American Way!!!!”
– Voice-over accomplished by Bill Kennedy and words written by Superman’s co-creator, Jerry Siegel.

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A knockout blow was no reason to stop filming. The director Lee Sholem reshot the scene before Lois’s face started to swell.  Just getting dressed was a challenge for Superman. George’s costume came in two gray-and-brown wool pieces that he dubbed the “monkey suit”. It had to be sewn into place on him every day, which meant standing still for an hour and suffering the indignity of having clothespins hold his suit together when the sewing didn’t.  “What is a man my age doing running around in my underwear?” he would mumble as his personal dresser worked on him. There was a silk cape, along with rubber latex padding that he wore under his shirt to lift his sloped shoulders and thrust out his chest.  Altogether, the outfit weighed twenty pounds and the materials in it gave him a rash. Imagine battling villains effortlessly with that on, under hot studio lights, with no air conditioning in the steaming heat of a Los Angeles summer.
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“Like The Only Real Magic — The Magic Of Knowledge”: George Reeves smiles for his beloved SUPER fans because that’s exactly what Superman does in this SUPER photo that was originally taken in 1957!!!!

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No wonder George never smiled as Superman.  Surprisingly, it worked. It worked because fans wanted to be fooled and because of the way George turned to the camera and made it clear, but that classic wink of an eye, he knew they knew his secret, even if Lois, Jimmy and Perry didn’t. This Superman had a dignity and self-assurance that projected even better on an intimate TV screen than it had in the movie serial.
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Criminals Beware!!! Law enforcement is on high alert against notorious supervillains and local lawbreakers when Inspector Bill Henderson (Robert Shayne) and Superman (George Reeves) are on the case!!!!
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George just had it somehow. He called himself “Honest George, The People’s Friend”, the same kind of homespun language Jerry and Joe used for their superheroic creation and George Reeves suspended his own doubts the way he wanted viewers to. He looked not just like a guy who could make gangsters cringe, but who believed in the righteousness of his hero’s cause. His smile could melt an iceberg. His cold stare and puffed-out chest could bring a mob to its knees. Sure, his acting was workmanlike, but it won him generations of fans. Today, when those now grown-up fans call to mind their carefree youth, they think of his TV “Adventures of Superman” and when they envision Superman himself, it is George Reeves they see. According to commentaries on the “Adventures of Superman” DVD sets, multiple scripts would be filmed simultaneously to take advantage of the standing sets, so that all the “Perry White’s Office” scenes for three or four episodes would be shot the same day, the various “apartment” scenes would be done consecutively, etc.
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George was always willing to help a friend or fellow actor in need and generous to a fault. His nickname was “Honest George: The People’s Friend”.

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Reeves’s career as Superman had begun with “Superman and The Mole Men”, a film intended both as a B-picture and as the pilot for the TV series. Immediately after completing it, Reeves and the crew began production of the first season’s episodes, all shot over 13 weeks in the summer of 1951. The series went on the air the following year and Reeves was amazed at becoming a national celebrity.  In 1952, the struggling ABC Network purchased the show for national broadcast, which gave him greater visibility.
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Look!!!! Up in the sky!!!! While considered simple by today’s standards, the “flying” effects on “Adventures of Superman” were advanced for the period, although during season one it was apparent that, for distance flight shots, Superman was lying on a flat surface, his torso and thighs noticeably flattened between elbows and knees. Beginning with season two, Superman’s “flying” involved three phases: Take-off, flight and landing. Cables and wires were used for Superman’s take-offs early in filming. In early episodes, stuntmen sometimes replaced Reeves for Superman’s wire-assisted take-offs. When Reeves came close to suffering a concussion in the episode “Ghost Wolf” (the supporting wires snapped and he fell to the studio floor), cables and wires were discarded and a swimming pool springboard was brought in, designed by the legendary Thol “Si” Simonson, who remained with the “Adventures of Superman” series until its end. Reeves would run into frame and hit the out-of-frame springboard, which would boost him out of frame (Sometimes, over the camera!!!) and onto padding. The springboard had enough force, along with subtle camera manipulation, to make it look as though he was actually taking off. The flying scenes were accomplished through a relatively few number of repeated shots. The typical technique had footage of Reeves stretched out on a spatula-like device formed to his torso and leg, operated on a counterweight like a boom microphone, allowing him to bank as if in flight. In a couple of later episodes, such as “The Atomic Secret”, Reeves simulated flying, opting to lie on the device without the molded form to support his legs, which are seen to hang from the waist in those episodes in marked contrast to the stock footage of Superman in flight. In the two monochrome seasons, Reeves was occasionally filmed in front of aerial footage on back-projection screen (Also known as reverse projection.) or against a neutral background which would provide a matte which would be optically combined with a swish-pan or aerial shot. That footage was matted onto various backgrounds depending on the needs of the episode: Clouds, buildings, the ocean, mountain forests, etc., which he would appear to fly by. For the Technicolor episodes, the simpler and cheaper technique of a neutral cyclorama backing was used, usually sky-blue or black for night shots. Techniques for landings involved Reeves jumping off a ladder or holding an off-camera horizontal bar and swinging down into frame.

 

Want someone to look up to? Everybody loves George Reeves as Superman, including the kids!!!

 

The “Superman” cast members had restrictive contracts which prevented them from taking other work that might interfere with the series. Except for the second season, the “Superman” schedule was brief (13 shows shot two per week, a total of seven weeks out of a year), but all had a “30-day clause”, which meant that the producers could demand their exclusive services for a new season on four weeks notice. This prevented long-term work on major films with long schedules, stage plays which might lead to a lengthy run or any other series work. However, Reeves had earnings from personal appearances beyond his meager salary and his affection for his young fans was genuine. Reeves took his role model status seriously, avoiding cigarettes where children could see him and eventually quitting smoking.
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George Reeves and Oscar®-winner Burt Lancaster share a scene together in a noteworthy moment from Fred Zinnemann’s Academy Award-winning masterpiece, “From Here To Eternity” (1953).

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In the documentary, “Look Up In The Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman”, Jack Larson told how when he first met Reeves he told him that he enjoyed his performance in “So Proudly We Hail!” According to Larson, Reeves said that if Mark Sandrich hadn’t died, he wouldn’t be there in “this monkey suit”. Larson said it was the only time he heard Reeves say anything negative about being Superman.  “Adventures of Superman” would languish in the can for practically almost two years, during which time, Reeves appeared in Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar®-winning and great masterpiece, “From Here To Eternity”, a surefire hit, just like Victor Fleming’s “Gone With The Wind”.  By the time “Eternity” was released, however, “Adventures of Superman” had aired and Reeves was suddenly a bona-fide superhero among apple-cheeked boy scouts and suburban tykes in cowboy outfits. Audiences at the “From Here To Eternity” previews shouted out, “There’s Superman!!!” and Reeves knew his career, especially as a serious actor, was in BIG trouble.  When they were first aired in 1952, “Adventures of Superman” made as great and powerful impact as Elvis and Little Richard would a couple of years later. Reeves found himself the object of a kind of proto-Beatlemania, facing riotous crowds 60,000-strong at department store openings and celebrity galas, fending off kids who jabbed him with pins, punched him in the stomach and, on one queasy occasion, even aimed a loaded .38 pistol at The Man of Steel.
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“Stamp Day For Superman”!!!
Directed by Thomas Carr, Produced by Whitney Ellsworth and Based on Superman Characters Created By Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, “Stamp Day For Superman” is a 1954 black-and-white short film starring George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman, Noel Neill as Lois Lane, Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, John Hamilton as Perry White, Tris Coffin as Principal Garwood and Billy Nelson as Blinky.
It was produced by Superman Inc./National Periodical Publications (today DC Comics) for the United States Department of the Treasury to promote the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds. Never shown theatrically, it was distributed to schools as a means of educating children about the program. Eventually, “Stamp Day For Superman” was turn into an episode “Adventures of Superman” in syndication and on cable.
Due to its nature as a government film, “Stamp Day For Superman” is in the public domain and can often be found on inexpensive video and DVD sets. Warner Bros. also released the film as part of the “Adventures of Superman” Season 2 DVD set. The “Adventures of Superman” production company donated this special 18 minute episode to the US Treasury to help promote school stamp day savings plans to children.
This is the only episode of the series that has entered the public domain. It features all of the hallmarks that made the original 1950’s “Adventures of Superman” series so memorable.
It was a featured short and riffed on by the former cast members of Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the RiffTrax Live MST3K Reunion Show on June 28, 2016.

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Superman did Reeves career all the wrong favors. Actors in the series could work on other projects for only a month at a time, which meant careers couldn’t be developed – $2,500 a week for 13 weeks was a good enough wage, but not if it had to last 52 weeks.  Worst of all, Reeves had been typecast in the worst way: He had Boris Karloff’s problem, but none of his precious money.  With Toni Mannix, Reeves worked tirelessly to raise money to fight myasthenia gravis. He served as national chairman for the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation in 1955. During the second season, Reeves appeared in a short film for the Treasury Department, “Stamp Day For Superman”, in which he caught the villains and told children why they should invest in government savings stamps.
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Born on Krypton, Created in Cleveland!!!! \S/ From left to right: Superman creators writer Jerry Siegel, artist Joe Shuster and Lois Lane actress Noel Neill. Believe it or not, this is a very rare image, autographed by Noel herself, since the creators of Superman unfortunately never could visit the studio where “Adventures of Superman” was filmed or have an opportunity to meet George Reeves himself. Photo taken in 1979.
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In the 104 episodes, Reeves showed gentlemanly behavior to his fellow actors. Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen, recalled that Reeves enjoyed playing practical jokes on the crew and cast, as depicted during a scene in the biopic “Hollywoodland”.  Reeves insisted his original Lois Lane, Phyllis Coates, be given equal billing in the credits. He also stood by Robert Shayne (who played Police Inspector William “Bill” Henderson) when Shayne was subpoenaed by FBI agents on the set of “Superman”. Shayne’s political activism in the Screen Actors Guild in the 1940’s was used by his embittered ex-wife as an excuse to label him a Communist, although Shayne had never been a Communist Party member. When Coates was replaced by Noel Neill (who had played Lois Lane in the Kirk Alyn serials), Reeves defended her nervousness on her first day when he felt that the director was being too harsh with her. On the other hand, he liked to stand outside camera range, mugging at the other cast members to see if he could break them up. According to Larson, Reeves took on-set photos and handed out prints. By all accounts, there was strong camaraderie among the show’s actors.
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Time to watch Superman!!!

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After two seasons, Reeves was dissatisfied with the one-dimensional role and low salary. Now 40 years old, he wished to quit and move on with his career. The producers looked elsewhere for a new star, allegedly contacting Kirk Alyn, the actor who had first portrayed Superman in the original movie serials and who had initially refused to play the role on television. Alyn turned them down again.  Reeves established his own production company and conceived a TV adventure series, “Port of Entry”, which would be shot on location in Hawaii and Mexico, writing the pilot script himself.

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A smiling Superman? Even Hack Snyder might have concerns with that. Too bad because that’s exactly what Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman (George Reeves) does!!!! From the season 5 episode, “The Prince Albert Coat” (1957).

 

However, Superman producers offered him a salary increase and he returned to the series. He was reportedly making $5,000 per week, but only while the show was in production (about eight weeks each year). As to “Port of Entry”, Reeves was never able to gain financing for the project and the show was never made.  In 1958, the producers considered another Superman theatrical film, “Superman and The Secret Planet”. A script was commissioned from David Chantler, who had written many of the TV scripts. In 1959, however, negotiations began for a renewal of the series, with 26 episodes scheduled to go into production. (John Hamilton, who had played Perry White, died in 1958, so the former film-serial Perry White  Pierre Watkin was to replace him.)
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Kirk Alyn in George Reeves’ Superman costume with Whitney Ellsworth in 1960.

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By mid 1959, contracts were signed, costumes refitted, and new teleplay writers assigned. Noel Neill was quoted as saying that the cast of “Superman” was ready to do a new series of the still-popular show. Producers reportedly promised Reeves that the new programs would be as serious and action-packed as the first season, guaranteed him creative input, and slated him to direct several of the new shows as he had done with the final three episodes of the 1958 season.  In early 1959, after a decade together, Reeves left Toni Mannix for Leonore Lemmon, a nightclub hellion who had been a staple of the gossip columns since eloping with a penniless sprig of the Vanderbilt dynasty in 1941.  For the now visibly aging Toni, it was a mighty blow.
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Toni Mannix with George Reeves, 1958.

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George was her sweet and shining prize. She had built him from the ground up and without him, she felt doomed to a life of waiting for Eddie Mannix to die, something that seemed to be taking a very long time. She sequestered herself at home, cried for weeks and phoned George up to 200 times a day.  It is quite clear, that Toni Mannix wanted to marry George, perhaps, more than anything. That idea was silenced, not just by her husband, but also, by religion. Toni Mannix, her husband Eddie Mannix and George Reeves, were all Roman Catholic. Before Vatican II, Catholics were not allowed to divorce at all. If they were to accomplish divorce, they would be banished forever from the glorious Catholic Church and, in the eyes of the Church, be damned to fiery Hell.
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DC Comics executive and producer of “Adventures of Superman”, Whitney Ellsworth takes a photo with George Reeves, 1952.

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The movie, “Hollywoodland”, shockingly enough, offers a rare glimpse of Toni’s noted temper and terrible backstage mouth: “Does she blow smoke rings with her cunt?!” she screams, before threatening: “I’ll tell them you’re a Red and a fag and a lush!!!!” She was so inconsolable, her closest friends worried for her health. This is the basis for one of the alter native theories to explain Reeves’s unfortunate death.  Eddie Mannix may have been ailing, but he had naughty minions at hand to do his bidding, even from his sickbed. He’d grown up with Bugsy Siegel (No relation to Superman’s co-creator, Jerry Siegel.) and a lot of Irish and Jewish wiseguys back around New Jersey’s Palisades Park. He had ties with an LA mobster and the chief of police. And for all his philandering, Eddie was devoted to his wife.  Mess with her and you had to deal with him.
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Merci, Superman!!! The Man of Steel (George Reeves), helps out Lilyan Chauvin, with Franz Roehn and Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson) in the season 5 opener of “Adventures of Superman” episode entitled, “Peril in Paris” (1957).
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In “The Fixers”, his account of the strong-arm reign of Mannix at MGM, EJ Fleming details the scandals that Mannix made disappear for Louis B. Mayer and his wayward employees: Reckless affairs, drunk driving busts, wife beatings, drug arrests and union beefs. Mannix was thought by many to have had his uncooperative first wife killed in 1937, when her car was run off the road near a nightspot owned by one of Mannix’s unsavoury pals. If strong-arm men were needed to seek vengeance for the aggrieved Toni, Eddie Mannix had them on retainer.  But did he ever use them?! Did Toni have access to them?!  Kashner and Schoenberger theorize that William Bliss – perhaps, and for unknown reasons – distracted the revellers on the night of Reeves’ death, permitting a second man to get upstairs and kill Reeves. The relative inaccessibility of the bedroom seems to make this unlikely, unless the witnesses downstairs were scared into silence by the time the police arrived. This might also explain Toni’s otherwise inexplicable small-hours call to former “Adventures of Superman” co-star Lois Lane Phyllis Coates. Weird!!!
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A skilled musician, George Reeves appeared briefly with his “Adventures of Superman” co-star Noel Neill in a touring county-fair act in which she sang and he played guitar and upright bass, following his performance of a wrestling/judo act as Superman vs. “Mr. Kryptonite”, played by legendary wrestler and trainer, Gene LeBell.

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In 1999, Beverly Hills publicist Ed Lozzi claimed on the tabloid TV show “Extra” that before her death, a bedridden Toni had confessed to her priest, while Lozzi was present, that she had had George killed. Lozzi said that none of the thugs who worked for Eddie Mannix were alive anymore and he now felt safe to talk. He told the LA Times Toni had confessed “because she was absolutely terrified of going to Hell”. Again, her confession provides no practical explanation of how the TV star was killed with a house full of witnesses and no fingerprints on the gun that killed George Reeves. Very strange.  Other mysterious bullet holes were found in the house. Two were in the floor, with one bullet lodged in the wall of the downstairs living room.  Lemmon claimed they’d got there after she fired the gun in an argument with Reeves. Lemmon’s volatile nature and famous Vesuvian temper tantrums have long made her a prime suspect in projected murder scenarios, but here again, there is no satisfactory evidence. She did, however claim, 30 years later to a young reporter when she was in her declining years in New York, that Bliss had concocted her step-by-step “predictions” of Reeves “suicide”.

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When flint strikes steel, there is a spark. In other words, to be great the role of Superman, you have to do something significant in The Man of Steel that’ll set you aside from other actors that will play the part, like an actor that plays Hamlet or Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes. That spark I was just talking about? That’s George Reeves as the mighty Superman.
Despite all the actors that have played the role of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman throughout the decades and how other actors are admired from other actors and their point of view in the different parts that they play. Speaking of which, we can’t ignore that Reeves revered brilliant actors like Spencer Tracy both as an actor and a leading man. This is captivating because modern movies are always depicted as inevitably superior to primitive 1950’s TV or films. Perhaps, the fact that Reeves never had the chance to be a leading man in any “A” list feature made him pour his heart and soul into the role of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El.
When you take a moment to consider it, it’s ironic that Reeves death continues to fascinate us and not just for the JFK conspiracy theory crowd that contends Reeves death was a homicide, not the official finding of suicide, but for the more meta idea that Reeves death, the first “Death of Superman”, came when it did, at the dawn of the new, tumultuous decade. His fall ended up foreshadowing the deaths of our real-life superheroes, like Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and both Kennedy brothers John F. and Bobby in the years to follow. The death of Reeves prepared us for the deaths that would tear our nation in half in the 1960’s.
We must remember that George Reeves was the consummate professional when he played the role of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El. The movie “Hollywoodland” is only one interpretation, but the film, “Hollywoodland” accomplished nothing more, but amplified the fact that his death was a sadistic and unconscionable murder and no logical embracing, straight-thinking individual should believe otherwise and the many of the urban legends continue to persist, including the one that Reeves committed suicide by jumping off a building dressed as Superman. When someone thinks those thoughts without considering the facts, they’re providing an injustice to the legacy of Reeves’ and to his memory. The death of Reeves was a tragic depletion, not only to Hollywood, but to the hundreds of millions of fans throughout the world that love, respect and adore Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman. I assure you all, their pain lingers, as the pain of Hollywood’s devastating loss.
You see, what Reeves had down, is what no other live-action Superman ever had perfectly. Tyler Hoechlin? Close. Kirk Alyn? Kinda. Bob Holiday? Sorta. Dean Cain? Maybe. Henry Cavill? NOPE. Christopher Reeve? Yes, but there’s a reason for that. Like Reeves, Reeve grasped Kal-El’s genuine good-nature, his yellow sunlit personality and his very essence of what we expect in a mild-mannered journalist from Kansas and an intergalactic Boy Scout in tights. We never thought of The Man of Steel as an alien, as it is fashionable now and we didn’t have to.
Krypton’s catastrophe became Earth’s gift, courtesy of the work and of the genius of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and of their profound invention of Superman.

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Veteran actor Jeff Corey gets to learn the hard way when he decides to match wits with Superman (George Reeves) in an interesting moment from, “Superman and The Mole Men” (1951).
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Her subsequent flight from the law is as readily explained by what was already known of her routinely scandalous behavior as by any imponderable motive she may have had for bumping off Superman. Still, we might plausibly picture some stupid drunken argument over the gun and a fatal, albeit accidental, discharge. The weapon, however, was too recently oiled to retain fingerprints, hers or his. Which leaves the possibility of suicide. Was Reeves career in horrific ruins?! No. Not necessarily.
                                            *
Super Friends: The cast of “Adventures of Superman” takes a photo together after a day of shooting in 1956. From left to right: George Reeves, Jack Larson, Noel Neill and John Hamilton.

 

Although, much has been made of his having been pathetically reduced to appearing in pro-am wrestling matches dressed in his Superman costume, this was a publicity stunt that Reeves had cheerfully undertaken during the Superman run and he trained hard for the few bouts he fought. This was not his likely future. He had ably directed three of the later episodes of “Adventures of Superman” and was well positioned for a career in TV or film direction, which he took very, very seriously.
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In 1960, George Reeves was posthumously awarded a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard, located at 6709 Hollywood Blvd., for his contributions to the TV industry.

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A new Superman feature film, “Superman and The Secret Planet”, was in the works as well as the 7th season of the SUPER television show was slowly going into production later on in 1959. George had filmed Fred Zinnemann’s “From Here To Eternity” and “Westward Ho The Wagons!!!” for Walt Disney and he was happy all the success that he was in. There is absolutely no evidence that this gentleman wanted to commit suicide whatsoever. Zero. None. Na-da.  Reeves also had his new girlfriend, Leonore, a piece of work by all who knew her to be sure, but lots of fun and a vacation, if not a “honeymoon”, had been arranged and was eagerly anticipated. He had been drinking extremely heavily on the night he died, but he had the constitution of a enormous elephant: Alcohol consumption never seemed to affect him anyway. Go figure. The shell-casing found beneath his body suggested certain realities of ballistics, not reconcilable with a verdict of suicide. The death of George Reeves continues to captivate, perplex and infuriate those who would attempt to solve it. All the witnesses are dead or scattered, the archives are closed, the coroner’s reports filed, the case allegedly solved, but to no one’s satisfaction.
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Look, up in the sky!!! It’s George Reeves to the rescue!!!!

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What we do have is, hard to believe, “Hollywoodland”, a careful and compelling sifting of the facts and possibilities. Believe you me, even that movie has its share of holes in it, such as Phyllis Coates being labeled a lesbian and the supposed part where George called his Superman costume “a monkey suit”. Both have been disputed by the cast members of the “Adventures of Superman” show and surviving friends of George Reeves as false. Please don’t forget, time cannot solve the whole mystery, but it does offer the restless soul of George Reeves, a worthwhile memorial, which is, perhaps, the best he can ever hope for.
You are missed incredibly, George, even to this very day and after all these years.
Thank You. \S/
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