Struggling private investigator Louis Simo treats his work more as a means to make a living than a want to do right by what few clients he has. Through connections with the investigation firm for which he used to work, Simo is hired by Helen Bessolo to investigate the death of her son, actor George Reeves. Reeves was best known for his title role in Adventures of Superman (1952), a role which he always despised, in part since it typecast him as a "cartoon", despite it bringing him a certain fame. His June 16, 1959 death by a single gunshot wound while in his bedroom in his Los Angeles home was ruled a suicide by the police, the death which occurred when the house was filled with people. Reeves' story is told in part in flashback as Simo, who is trying to make a name for himself with this case, talks to or tries to talk to some of the players involved, most specifically the wife of MGM General Manager E.J. Mannix, Toni Mannix, with whom Reeves was having a relatively open and ...Written by
An ambitious actor in '50s Hollywood and his untimely death
"Hollywoodland" has probably brought George Reeves more fame and celebrity than even he ever dreamed of - imagine being the subject of a feature film when you were most famous for being the TV Superman. Had he lived into his seventies, he might have been around for the renaissance of the old shows and stars due to the nostalgia of the maturing baby boomers. But he'd probably rather have it this way.
Reeves started out in small roles such as one of the Tarlton twins in "Gone with the Wind," and before going into the service himself, nabbed some good parts while the big stars were fighting the war. Like many young actors back then, after the war, his career had lost momentum. He ultimately landed the role of Superman and during that time appeared in "From Here to Eternity." The film shows people recognizing him as Superman during the Hollywood premiere of "From Here to Eternity," and as a result of the audience laughter, his role was severely cut. However, many people state that Reeves' role in the final product was no smaller than it was originally.
Unfortunately, in the '50s, once you were associated with a television role, it was a death knell. When Jack Larson (Jimmy Olson in Superman) went into an audition after the series, the director said to the others in the room: "Please don't embarrass this man. He knows I can't cast him," or words to that effect. The actors today are more fortunate as the business has changed. It would be a steep upward climb if Reeves was to shake that Superman image. At the time of his death, he was forming his own production company and planned to go to New York. He also wanted to direct.
"Hollywoodland" stars Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Adrien Brody, Robin Tunney, Bob Hoskins and Lois Smith. It's the story of slimy detective Louis Simo (Brody) - a man who sells info to Confidential magazine and takes low-rent clients - and his investigation of George Reeves' death, considered a suicide. During a small gathering in his home, Reeves went upstairs to his bedroom and allegedly shot himself. But many people believe he was murdered. Simo plays out different scenarios in his head with different suspects as he searches for evidence and motives. There were several people in Reeves' life who had motives: Reeves' long-time girlfriend Toni Mannix, wife of studio exec Eddie Mannix, a man with an unsavory past known by MGM as "The Fixer"; Mannix himself, who was suspected of being involved in the death of Jean Harlow's husband Paul Bern and later on of faking a car accident in which Toni was killed; and Leonore Lemmon, George's young girlfriend toward the end of his life, who expected to marry George. In the midst of his investigation, Simo has problems with a seedy client as well as difficulties relating with his young son.
This is a beautifully produced film with some marvelous performances, particularly from Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, and Ben Affleck. Affleck's resemblance to Reeves in some scenes is scary - particularly as Clark Kent! Affleck even had Reeves' vocal rhythm. An excellent performance, and hopefully one that will lead to some better films and roles for him. As Toni, Lane is superb - sexy, tough, and completely possessive of George; Bob Hoskins is great as the bombastic, thug-like Eddie Mannix. Robin Tunney makes a gorgeous Leonore, a cheap low-life. Adrien Brody's Louis Simo is probably more cerebral than most detectives of this type, but he's still good. The problem is not so much in his performance as it is that his storyline is intrusive.
The scenes filming "The Adventures of Superman" are fantastic, and I for one wanted to see more. "Hollywoodland" captures the reality of making a television show back then and evokes the atmosphere of Hollywood in the '50s beautifully. However, it moved slowly, and there was too much of Brody's problems and too little of George's relationships. While it was an interesting film and very worthwhile, it just didn't hang together as one would have hoped.
Reeves' friend, Jack Larson (portrayed in the film by Joseph Adam), who was an adviser on the film, read several versions of the script, and met with the actors. His biggest concern was that the film not put Toni Mannix, with whom he was very close, in a bad light. Larson was very, very impressed by Ben Affleck's intelligence and personality and thought all of the acting was top-notch. One thing he was sure of - Reeves never had any intention of marrying Leonore Lemmon. "George lived big," Larson said, "but it was Toni's money." He adds, "No one wants to listen to me...He committed suicide."
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