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George Keefer Brewer Bessolo's Overly-Capable, Underly-Appreciated Talent and an Unsolved Murder
This episode spotlights the life and career of stage, screen and television actor George Reeves, from his 1914 birth, in Woolstock, Iowa, the son of Helen Lescher Brewer and Don Brewer, whom George would not know about for many years, for Helen returns to her native Galesburg, Illinois, with baby George.
From here, Helen and George relocate to the state of California, where, in 1925, she marries Frank Bessolo, who adopts George, in 1927. After fifteen years, her second marriage ends in divorce, and Helen tells George, who is out of town at the time, that Frank has passed even though still alive, one fact which George would not learn for some time to follow, and another is that Frank is not his biological father.
George studies acting, singing and boxing, and enters the stage at Pasadena Junior College although Helen orders him to stop boxing. While studying at Pasadena Playhouse, George meets Ellanora Needles, whom he marries, in 1940, until their 1950 divorce.
In 1939, George adopts the stage name of Reeves, and enters his film acting career under contract with Warner Brothers, but making a noteworthy impression at MGM, by portraying the role of Stuart Tarleton, Scarlett's Beau in "Gone with the Wind" (1939).
Finding himself released from Warners, George signs with 20th Century Fox Studios to appear in a small number of films, before director Mark Sandrich signs George Reeves to star at Paramount in "So Proudly We Hail!" (1943) as Lieutenant John Summers, opposite Claudette Colbert's Lieutenant Janet 'Davy' Davidson.
Director Mark Sandrich reportedly sees great potential in George Reeves' acting career, but passes at a young age, before George reaches that anticipated potential, causing George and many others to speculate as to how things may have been.
This same year, he is drafted into the U.S. Army, and assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces, also performing with them on Broadway, in "Winged Victory," which leads to a national tour and a film adaptation.
After the War, George is assigned athletic-type roles, as in "Jungle Jim" (1948) as Bruce Edwards, with Johnny Weismuller.
But when George Reeves portrays the title character in the film "Superman and the Mole-Men" (1951) as Superman/Clark Kent, his popularity reaches new heights beyond his expectations, and perhaps reluctantly.
For he will soon be cast in a television series based upon the super-hero, entitled "Adventures of Superman" (1952-1958), starring George Reeves as Clark Kent, Noel Neill as Lois Lane (after Phyllis Coates), Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, John Hamilton as Perry White, and Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson.
His public receives him well, as children gather at his many public appearances to see their hero, but when George Reeves becomes so identified with the overly-demanding role that industry insiders on the set scoff at the screening of "From Here to Eternity" (1953), his role is clipped. (This episode claims that he never films again, but yet he actually does.)
As the story goes, after George off the set becomes entwined with two reportedly powerful, overly-demanding, and extremely jealous women, Toni Mannix and Leonore Lemmon, and entangled with the reportedly mob-connected MGM executive E.J. Mannix in the process, and Hollywood insiders who say that George Reeves will never work again, a naked body is discovered by party guests at his Beverly Hills residence late one night in June of 1959.
Detectives find bullet holes in the bedroom floor and bruises were upon the victim, and shell casings, but no suicide note beside the pistol containing no fingerprints, and neglect to perform resin testing. A botched investigation leaves speculators to wonder for more than fifty years whether or not it is murder.
Interview Guests for this episode consist of Noel Neill (Actress/Co-star/Co-author: "Truth, Justice and the American Way"), Whoopie Goldberg (Actress), Jack Larson (Actor/Co-star), Jack Harris (Actor), Jim Beaver (Actor/Biographer), Jim Hambrick (Curator, SuperMuseum), Nancy Schoenberger (Biographer/Co-author: "Hollywood Kryptonite"), Sam Kashner (Biographer/Co-author: "Hollywood Kryptonite"), Jan Alan Henderson (Biographer: "Speeding Bullet"), and Chuck Harter (Author).
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