It’s difficult to imagine a life before superheroes – probably because for most of us, it hasn’t existed.
George Reeves was one such superhero: a strong, dependable actor who went from bit-parts in ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘So Proudly We Hail!’ to a stint in the US army from 1943 to 1945. Discharged at the end of the Second World War, Reeves returned to acting and despite a few trying years after the turbulence of the fighting, he was offered the role of Superman for the television series in 1951.
Initially reluctant to work in television as many actors were at the time, Reeves accepted and instantly shot to fame, making at least two shows every six days.
Despite a modest salary, Reeves became exceptionally wealthy after a string of personal appearances over the years. Unlike so many at the time, he took his fame seriously, honoring his role and remaining well-behaved and responsible in the public eye.
Sadly, his life ended all too shortly after.
On June 16th 1959, George Reeves was found dead in his apartment, with a single gunshot wound to the head.
According to witnesses shortly before his death, George and his fiance Leonore Lemmon and friends had been drinking and dining at a restaurant close to his home in Benedict Canyon. Afterwards, Reeves and his companions returned home and soon an impromptu party began. George retired to bed angry and frustrated. Friends then heard a single shot from upstairs and, upon investigation, his naked body was discovered, face upwards, on the bed.
Dubious, conflicting statements from the witnesses then followed, however, they were all too intoxicated to remember the details accurately. This lack of evidence was then followed by numerous controversies surrounding the death, with many people citing suicide as a less realistic option than originally thought.
Many people have refused to believe that George Reeves would kill himself and have pointed out that no gunpowder from the gun’s discharge was found on the actor’s skin, leading them to believe that the weapon would therefore have to have been held several inches away from his head upon firing. Followers of the case also point to the absence of fingerprints on the gun and of gunshot-residue testing on the actor’s hands as evidence in support of one theory or another. Police, however, found the gun too thickly coated in oil to hold fingerprints, and gunshot-residue testing was not commonly performed by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1959.
Aside from unreliable witnesses, George’s friends were thought by many to be prime suspects in what could be a chilling murder case:
Reeves fiance, Leonore was considered to be a bit of a “hell-cat”. One blog explains: “Perhaps she and George got into a fight and the gun accidentally went off?”
Another theory is that George’s friend Eddie Mannix was known to be quite protective of his wife Toni with whom George had previously had an affair with. Again the blog asks: “did Eddie react when George dumped Toni by using some of his dubious contacts to take out a hit on George?”
Or, was Toni Mannix was so distressed at the breakup that she finally snapped? Did she kill George in a jealous rage or hire someone (possibly one of her husbands contacts) to kill him?
Sadly, the case remains unsolved. Another Hollywood mystery created and left troubled and disturbed for all time. Drama comes and goes and sadly for George it remains, even in death.