Edit
George Reeves Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (26) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 5 January 1914Woolstock, Iowa, USA
Date of Death 16 June 1959Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (gunshot wound)
Birth NameGeorge Keefer Brewer
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

George Reeves was raised in Pasadena, California, and educated at Pasadena Junior College. He was a skilled amateur boxer and musician. He interned as an actor at the famed Pasadena Playhouse, and was discovered there. He was cast as Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind (1939). Over the next ten years he was contracted to Warners, Fox and Paramount. He achieved near-stardom as the male lead in So Proudly We Hail! (1943), but war service interrupted his career, and after he returned it never regained the same level. While in the Army Air Corps he appeared on Broadway in "Winged Victory", then made training films. Career difficulties after the war led him to move to New York for live television. It was television where he achieved the kind of fame that had eluded him in films, as he was cast in the lead of the now-iconic Adventures of Superman (1952). He got a few film roles, but he was mostly typecast as Superman, and other acting jobs soon dried up. His career had slid to the point where he was considering an attempt at exhibition wrestling when he committed suicide by shooting himself. Controversy still surrounds his death, due mainly to the fact of his longtime affair with Toni Lanier (aka Toni Mannix), the wife of MGM executive E.J. Mannix. Many of Reeves' friends and colleagues didn't believe that he had committed suicide but that his death was related to the Mannix situation. However, no credible evidence has ever been produced to support that contention.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (1)

Ellanora Needles (22 September 1940 - 1950) (divorced)

Trivia (26)

On June 16, 1959, he was found shot to death at his home in Hollywood, California. To this day, there is still controversy over whether he killed himself or was murdered.
Born George Keefer Brewer, but was adopted by step-father and took name George Bessolo, by which he was known until taking the stage name George Reeves in 1939.
Interred at Mountain View Cemetery, Altadena, California, USA in the Pasadena Mausoleum, Sunrise Corridor.
He was a devout supporter of "The City Of Hope" Cancer research hospital and the Los Angeles chapter of United Cerebral Palsy. He also appeared on "The City Of Hope" and UCP Telethons on local Los Angeles TV and at "The City Of Hope" parades in Duarte, California as Superman.
Was somewhat depressed over his identification with the role of Superman because he felt that it prevented him from being able to take on more challenging roles.
He was cautious in his interaction with the young children who were fans of Adventures of Superman (1952) because they often tried to test his "invulnerability" by assaulting him. At one appearance a young boy came up to Reeves, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at him. The boy had taken the weapon, a Luger that his father had brought home from World War II, to see if "Superman" really was invulnerable. Reeves convinced the boy to give him the gun by saying that someone else would get hurt when the bullets bounced off of "Superman".
His birth date is often given as April 5, 1914, but that was due to his actual birth date, January 5, being considerably less than nine months after his parents' wedding. His mother lied even to him about his birth date and it was not until adulthood that he learned the truth. To further confuse matters, his mother made a mistake when having the urn containing his ashes inscribed, and thus his burial urn reads January 6 instead of January 5.
Personally defended Noel Neill when she replaced Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane in the second season of the Superman TV series when he felt the director was being too harsh with her. He also defended Robert Shayne, who played Inspector Henderson, when Shayne was accused of being a radical during the 1950s witch hunt and was in danger of losing his job. Producer Whitney Ellsworth also defended Shayne along with Reeves.
Although it is circulated that he was depressed over being labeled Superman, and that it inhibited his future career, he took the part of "role model" seriously, even to the extent of quitting smoking and not making appearances around children with his girlfriends.
Did TV ads for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes during his tenure as Superman in the 1950s. In one commercial, George, as Clark Kent, used his super vision to see through a wall to show the viewer two children arguing over whether or not a girl could be Superman, but by the end of the argument they had united over their mutual fondness for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, which Superman promoted. George then turned to the camera, smiling, and said "See, kids may argue, but never over Kellogg's Frosted Flakes."
Although his Superman costume was padded, Reeves himself was actually very athletic and did most of his own stunts for his role in the Adventures of Superman (1952). Episodes routinely required him to jump from significant heights to simulate Superman landing in frame or hitting a springboard with enough force to propel him out of frame. A frequent stunt required Reeves to grab a bar (outside of camera range) and swing in through a window, clearing his own height (over six foot) and landing on his feet. Reeves had mastered this gymnastic move so well that he could perform the stunt and immediately deliver his dialog without the need to cut to another angle.
Actor Jim Beaver is at this writing (2006) preparing the definitive biographical book on Reeves's life, and served as historical consultant on the film about Reeves's death, Hollywoodland (2006).
Is portrayed by Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland (2006)
During the hiatus of the Adventures of Superman (1952) TV series, Reeves made guest appearances around the country. In one appearance he appeared at Kennywood Amusement Park just outside of Pittsburgh; the next year he was also slated to appear and billboards had advertised that fact, however that was the year that he died and Kennywood had to find a replacement act; the act which replaced Reeves was Guy Williams as Zorro. The billboards whitewashed over the Superman ad to add Zorro, but the Superman logo could still be seen underneath the ad for Zorro.
What raised eyebrows regarding Reeves' death is that he was found naked in his bedroom by his guests during a small gathering at 1:59 a.m.; his guests waited 45 minutes to call police; detectives found additional bullet holes in the floor of his bedroom; bruises were found on Reeves' body; shell casings were discovered in strange locations; and a jilted lover of an MGM executive and a volatile, overly- possessive fiancée also figured into the unhappy storyline.
Met wife, actress Ellanora Needles, while studying at the Pasadena Playhouse.
A skilled musician, he appeared briefly with his Adventures of Superman (1952) 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 (versus "Mr. Kryptonite," "Gene LeBell").
A false story has circulated that Reeves was hired to play detective Milton Arbogast in Psycho (1960) and filmed a few of his scenes with the rest of the cast just a week before his death. There is no truth to this rumor at all. Reeves died on June 16, 1959, almost two months before Alfred Hitchcock decided to make a film of "Psycho." Work on the script began in October, 1959, four months after Reeves' death. Filming began in November, 1959, five months after Reeves' death. At the time of his death, Hitchcock was on a world tour promoting North by Northwest (1959) (Source: "The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock," by Donald Spoto). Reeves did not live long enough to even know the film was planned, much less actually appear in it.
A false story has also circulated that Reeves had signed a five-picture deal with Paramount studios just prior to his death, this given as evidence that his life was on an upbeat and thus, presumably, he could not have been depressed enough to take his own life. Whether he did so or not, there is no truth to the rumor that he had a deal of any size or number of pictures with Paramount or any other studio at the time of his death. Paramount, like all the major studios in the 1950s, was jettisoning actor deals and contracts as quickly as possible in face of the onslaught of television. In 1959, only superstars such as John Wayne or William Holden would have been given multi-picture studio contracts. Reeves, whose contract with Paramount had been dropped a few years earlier was, in 1959, a typecast TV kiddie show star who hadn't had a job anywhere in film or television in over two years. It is virtually impossible that he could have achieved such a deal at that point in his life and in the existing studio hierarchy, and indeed Paramount administrative records confirm that no such contract existed.
A false story has circulated that Reeves auditioned for the role of Samson in Samson and Delilah (1949) but lost the role to Victor Mature. Reeves was never under consideration for the role of Samson. However, he was given a role as the Wounded Messenger at the recommendation of Mature, who was very loyal to his friends from his student days at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. Many of the smaller roles in Samson and Delilah (1949) were played by Mature's friends from Pasadena.

The source for the rumor is most likely confusion over the similar name of the bodybuilder/actor who was considered for the role of Samson. The actor who auditioned for the role was in fact, Steve Reeves, (Mr. Universe, 1950.) Steve refused the role when Cecil B. DeMille demanded that he lose fifteen pounds of muscle. The role eventually went to Victor Mature, when Burt Lancaster wasn't available.
On April 15, 1955, he made a rare public appearance as Superman at the annual Cub Scout Jamboree at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where he patiently met hundreds of Cub Scout fans and signed autographs of himself as Superman in his famous costume.
Another false story has Reeves appearing as a bespectacled TV news reporter in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). In reality, the actor playing the role bears no resemblance to Reeves, and in a 1995 interview with Reeves biographer Jim Beaver, director Robert Wise stated unequivocally that it is not Reeves in the role. It appears that someone jumped to conclusions based on the image of a reporter wearing glasses and thus resembling roughly the image of Superman alter-ego Clark Kent. Reeves had nothing to do with the film in any capacity.
Served with actress and friend, Virginia Grey, as chairperson of autograph booth for Fiesta Sunday, a fundraiser for Rancho San Antonio, the Boys Town of the West, Fifth Annual Benefit, sponsored by Knights of Columbus of the Southern California Chapter on September 19, 1954, Chatsworth, California.
In Blood and Sand (1941) as Captain Pierre Lauren, Reeves shares the screen with Rita Hayworth in her first Technicolor scene.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role in Adventures of Superman (1952).
He was the oldest actor to play the role of Clark Kent/Superman.

Salary (2)

Adventures of Superman (1952) $1,000/episode
Adventures of Superman (1952) $2,500/week

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page