Faster Than a Speeding Bullet? No!
On June 16, 1959, George Reeves gave millions of children worldwide firm evidence of why it's important to separate fantasy from reality ... because on that day, in the world of make-believe, Superman was not faster than a speeding bullet. But in reality it was the day that George Reeves was discovered in the wee morning hours, on his bed with a bullet to the temple. Apparently self-inflicted. Although the official police report would list Reeves' death as a suicide, his mother insisted her young, happy son was incapable of killing himself. To this day, there are three possible scenarios that explain the death of George Reeves.
Born George Keefer Brewer in 1914 in Woolstock, Iowa to Helen Lescher and Don C. Brewer, young George would grow up in Ashland, Kentucky and later in Pasadena California where his sister also lived. It was in California where George would take up boxing and amass a record of 31-0 by the time he was 20. But his somewhat controlling mother insisted that he preserve his handsome looks and give a shot at show biz. So young George hit the stage at the famed Pasadena playhouse. His talents would soon be noticed, garnering him roles in such films as Gone With the Wind, The Strawberry Blonde and Proudly We Hail! But then came the war.
Back from the War
After his return from his duties in WWII, George would find his career in the dumps. Relegated to numerous small B-movie roles from which he would find it difficult to make a living, George realized he needed a big break, so he turned to television. Although he considered TV work to be the low hanging fruit of his profession, George was desperate so he took a part in a low-budget movie called Superman and the Mole People that was to serve as a pilot for a forthcoming television series. He shot 26 segments in the first year, but they would not be aired until 1952. By this time, George was reaching a pudgy 38 years old, but the series would go on to become a huge "smash" as they say in the business. Between 1953 and 1957, George would film 104 episodes making his character famous worldwide. But he began to sense problems with his newfound fame. The same problem that would eventually curse other actors in the business. George was becoming typecast in his character. George Reeves would never be anybody but Superman.
His "Other" Life
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, unbeknownst to the majority of his legion of fans, George Reeves was keeping a huge and potentially damaging secret. He was involved in a relationship not only with a married woman, but with the wife of an MGM Studios executive. Toni Mannix was married to Eddie Mannix, a purported former crime boss who was now employed as a "fixer" for the studio - someone who keeps the studio's actors' personal lives out of the news. It has been widely reported that Eddie Mannix knew about his wife's relationship with Reeves, but that he enjoyed his "open" relationship.
Toni loved to treat her new beau like a king, and George liked having his sugar momma. She would buy him a new car, open up a nice bank account for him and even go so far as to purchase him a home at 1579 Benedict Canyon Road for $12,000! (wonder what that house is worth today.) But along with the nice things, would come the bad side of Toni. She was controlling, manipulative and, overall, just a real bitch. George would eventually sever the relationship setting up scenario number 1 for his death.
The Green Eyed Monster
George would soon hook up with Lenore Lemmon, a New York showgirl who had at one time been banned from performing at many of Manhattan's clubs because of her reputation as a "troublemaker." Hmmm... nice girl! Not only was Lemmon reported to have had some kind of connections with the mob back East, but she was also an extremely jealous sort who was known to overreact upon even the smallest of suspicions. What a deadly combination of characteristics! Could Lemmon's drunken fit of jealousy have lead to scenario number 2?
|Lenore Lemmon, George's fiancee|
After a year of dating, George and Lenore would announce their engagement to be married, but not before receiving numerous death threats on George's life that included phone calls, traffic accidents, and even one incident in which George would wreck his car before discovering that all of the brake fluid had been drained. Oh, and no leak was ever discovered.
"Hey, Be Quiet. I'm Trying to Sleep Up Here"
On June 15, 1959, three days before he and Lenore were to become married and go on their honeymoon to Spain, the couple hosted a small party at their house. Having already retired to his bedroom, George descended the stairs in the modest abode and yelled at the guests to keep the noise down. As the sulking George returned to his upstairs bedroom, his intoxicated fiancee would jokingly exclaim "Oh no, he'll probably go up to his room and shoot himself"! A few minutes later, at approximately 12:30, a gunshot would ring out from Reeves' bedroom. A male guest, Bill Bliss would run upstairs to check on George only to find the despondent actor on his bed with a .30 caliber Luger pistol on the floor between his feet, and hole in the side of his head. No suicide note was found.
|1579 Benedict Canyon Road|
The police investigation concluded that the facts surrounding George's death "indicated suicide", but that the investigation was an arduous one due to the intoxicated state of the house guests. His toxicology report would later indicate that his blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .27, well beyond the legal minimum for intoxication. Woo, Superman did some drinkin' that night!
Murder or Suicide?
Because of the mountain of evidence that doesn't quite match up with the facts of his death, many speculate, even to this day, that George was murdered. Among some of the facts are: no fingerprints on the gun (was it wiped clean?); the spent shell casing was found underneath Reeves' body; there were no powder marks found on Reeves' body; he had several fresh bruises; and the location of the entrance and exit wounds did not line up with the path of the bullet indicated by its entrance into the wall. Reeves' mother would later open an investigation by private detectives who concluded that the death was not a suicide. No charges were ever brought up as a result of Reeves' death.
|Photo courtesy of Findagrave.com|
George Reeves, in the gray double-breasted suit that he used as Clark Kent on Superman , would be buried at Forest Lawn memorial park in Glendale, California. His marker would read "My Beloved Son "Superman" George Besselo Reeves, Jan. 6, 1914 June 16, 1959."
In his will, George would leave his $71,000 worth of assets, including his Benedict Canyon house, not to his fiancee, but to Toni Mannix.
Eddie Mannix would die in 1963, Toni Mannix in 1983. We may never solve the mystery surrounding the death of the Man of Steel.
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Some External George Reeves Links:
- The adventures Continue website - A tribute to George Reeves and the cast and crew of The Adventure of Superman
- The George Reeves page at Wikipedia
- SupermanTV.net - Celebrating seven decades of fighting for truth, Justice, and the American Way.
- A Tribute to George Reeves - "There are still many of us who believe his death was not suicide."
- Superman: Serial to Cereal - The authoritative book on the Man of Steel
- The Straight Dope - Was "Superman" star George Reeves a suicide--or murder victim?
- The George Reeves page over at TV.com
- The George Reeves page over at findagrave.com.