Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Adventures of Superman
Currently Known For:
January 5, 1914
Adventures of Superman
“You can if you think you can.” George Reeves knew a thing or two about superheroes after rising to fame in the 1950s as Clark Kent and Superman on the hit series, Adventures of Superman. He spent several seasons on the series before his tragic death in 1959 from a gunshot wound that still raises questions today! Was it suicide or foul play? Let’s find out!Advertisements:
Life and Career
Long before he was known as Superman, George Keefer Brewer came into this world on January 5, 1914, in Woolstock, Iowa. His parents were newly married at the time of his birth, but little could rekindle their romance as they separated shortly after. Reeves and his mother moved to her hometown of Galesburg, Illinois before relocating to California. His mother met and married Frank Joseph Bessolo, who later adopted Reeves as his own and was the only father Reeves knew for 15 years before his mother told him that Bessolo committed suicide. Reeves later learned that his mother lied and Bessolo was still alive.
Aside from the instability at home, Reeves discovered his passion for acting in high school. After graduation, he honed his talents on stage at the Pasadena Junior College and joined the Pasadena Playhouse where he met and fell in love with his future wife, Ellanora Needles. A year before the couple wed in 1940, Reeves’ film career took off when he was cast as Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind (1939). Appearing only in the opening scene alongside a young Fred Crane, Reeves signed on with Warner Brothers and adopted his new stage name as “George Reeves.”
Over the next decade, Reeves starred in several projects and B-list films including The Fighting 69th (1940), Father is a Prince (1940), Virginia City (1940), Tear Gas Squad (1940), Torrid Zone (1940), The Strawberry Blonde (1941), and Lydia (1941). He signed on with Twentieth Century-Fox and appeared in Dead Men Tell with Charlie Chan before he set out on his own as a freelance actor. During this period, he joined Hopalong Cassidy in several westerns and starred as Lieutenant John Summers in So Proudly We Hail (1942) with Claudette Colbert.
In 1943, he was drafted into the United States Army and served in the US Army Air Force where he performed in the USAAF’s Broadway production of Winged Victory. He went on a national tour with the production and reprised his role in the film before he was transferred over to the Army Air Forces’ First Motion Picture Unit where he made training films until he was discharged at the end of the war. He briefly returned to Hollywood but struggled to find work, which inspired his move to New York City in 1949. Fortunately, the Big Apple offered even more opportunities as he landed a minor role in the award-winning film From Here to Eternity (1953).
Amid his blossoming career in New York, Reeves was offered the starring role of Superman in the new television series, Adventures of Superman, in 1951. Although he was hesitant to take the role and venture into television, Reeves reconsidered and accepted the part. He made his debut as Superman in Superman and the Mole Men, which ignited his career. He was soon a national celebrity as ABC picked up the series and broadcast it nationally, making him an even bigger icon.
Cashing in on his television fame and becoming a role model for young fans, Reeves amassed a small fortune from his stint on television and even returned to film in Forever Female (1953) and The Blue Gardenia (1953). By this time, however, he was so tied to his role as Clark Kent that he struggled to break free of being typecast and eventually left the series after the network refused to pay him more. He established his own production company and wrote the pilot for a new series, Port of Entry. Before he could get the show off the ground, however, he was lured back to the Adventures of Superman when producers offered him more money.
Over the next few years, Reeves made several guest appearances as Superman but was tired of the gimmick after he made a cameo on an episode of I Love Lucy in 1957. “After the I Love Lucy show, Superman was no longer a challenge to him,” Reeves’ longtime friend Ben Welden recalled. “I know he enjoyed the role, but he used to say, ‘Here I am, wasting my life.’” Reeves made a moderate comeback in Westward Ho the Wagons! (1956), which marked his final film credit. He spent another two seasons on Adventures of Superman before wrapping up the series in 1958.
Death and Legacy
Reeves’ career was cut drastically short on June 16, 1959, when the 45-year-old actor died of a single gunshot wound. His death remains a controversial subject as the official finding was suicide while others believe he was murdered or the victim of an accidental shooting. So, what happened?
At the time, Reeves was engaged to society playgirl Leonore Lemmon. The couple spent the evening of June 16th with Robert Condon and Carol van Ronkel. Lemmon and Reeves had an argument at the restaurant, which led them to return home where they enjoyed drinks with Condon before Reeves retreated to bed near midnight. During this time, an impromptu party began. Woken by the noise, Reeves came downstairs to complain but spent some time downstairs drinking and entertaining the guests before he returned to bed. Within moments, guests heard a single gunshot from upstairs. Reeves was found lying across the bed dead with his naked body facing upward and his feet on the floor. Lemmon and friends waited to call the police, which raised suspicion as the police struggled to gain coherent stories from them. Lemmon argued that the late hour and their intoxication were to blame for their delay and incoherency.
In the decades since his death, many conspiracy theories have arisen about Reeves’ death. Some argue that there was no gunpowder residue on Reeves’ hands and that there were three bullets found in the bedroom. Numerous questions remain unanswered, but officials ruled his death a suicide based on the autopsy, witness statements, and physical evidence. In the days following, he was interred at Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum at Altadena, California. He was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.