George Reeves: Always A Hero To Us Kids Of The '50s
For millions of kids (like me) who grew up in the 1950s, George Reeves as "Superman" was a true hero, a tremendous role model. Thus, to this day, his sudden and mysterious death, brings a frown to our faces. The program deals with the latter in the last segment and, frankly, makes me now believe that the cause of Reeves' death was murder, not suicide as first reported. The evidence - as reported on this TV program - makes it look that way. However, Jack Larson, who played "Jimmy Olsen" on the TV series with Reeves, still thinks it was suicide, as some others think. If it was murder, the death points to either one of two women: Leonore Lemmon or Toni Mannix. The latter was the scorned woman and Lemmon was about to be the same when Reeves was shot.
Most of this episode, however, is a nice, upbeat and positive portrayal of "The Man Of Steel" who was a great guy in real life (excepting his poor taste in women). Reeves is shown to be a very easy-going nice guy who was extremely generous, giving away almost all the money he ever earned.
I couldn't help but feel sorry for him, too, with his film career. Reeves was a good actor but did not get the breaks to become the star he wanted to be. World War II interrupted things just when they were looking very promising. He had just had his first leading role in "So Proudly They Hail" and was promised bigger and better things by a Warner Brothers executive but when George came back from a stint in the war, the exec was dead and the man who replaced him didn't think Reeves was star material. He never got a leading role in a big picture again.
Also, you can't help but feel sorry for him even he became almost an instant celebrity with his television portrayal of "Superman." He couldn't go anywhere as he was mobbed by kids. After just a month on the air, 91 percent of all the homes in America that had a kid 12 years or younger was tuned in to the show!! That's how big it was in 1953, and it stayed a huge hit all the way to Reeves' death.
The suit the actor had to wear, and the padding underneath, made him lose 10-20 pounds each time and was extremely uncomfortable. How he didn't pass out every time was a mystery, but he suffered each time he put on Superman's uniform.
The program here makes no judgments on Reeves. It just gives the facts about his love life and the tragic results of it.....unless Larson is right and he just got too depressed to go on living. He wasn't happy playing Superman, and he drank way too much. We'll never know. Like any celebrity who dies an early death (Reeves was 45), that's the part which always will make the story of George Reeves and Superman a fascinating and enduring one.
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