George Reeves

George Reeves

A false story has also circulated that Reeves had signed a five-picture deal with Paramount studios just prior to his death, this given as evidence that his life was on an upbeat and thus, presumably, he could not have been depressed enough to take his own life. Whether he did so or not, there is no truth to the rumor that he had a deal of any size or number of pictures with Paramount or any other studio at the time of his death. Paramount, like all the major studios in the 1950s, was jettisoning actor deals and contracts as quickly as possible in face of the onslaught of television. In 1959, only superstars such as John Wayne or William Holden would have been given multi-picture studio contracts. Reeves, whose contract with Paramount had been dropped a few years earlier was, in 1959, a typecast TV kiddie show star who hadn't had a job anywhere in film or television in over two years. It is virtually impossible that he could have achieved such a deal at that point in his life and in the existing studio hierarchy, and indeed Paramount administrative records confirm that no such contract existed.

A false story has circulated that Reeves auditioned for the role of Samson in Samson and Delilah (1949) but lost the role to Victor Mature. Reeves was never under consideration for the role of Samson. However, he was given a role as the Wounded Messenger at the recommendation of Mature, who was very loyal to his friends from his student days at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. Many of the smaller roles in Samson and Delilah (1949) were played by Mature's friends from Pasadena.

A false story has circulated that Reeves was hired to play detective Milton Arbogast in Psycho (1960) and filmed a few of his scenes with the rest of the cast just a week before his death. There is no truth to this rumor at all. Reeves died on June 16, 1959, almost two months before Alfred Hitchcock decided to make a film of "Psycho." Work on the script began in October, 1959, four months after Reeves' death. Filming began in November, 1959, five months after Reeves' death. At the time of his death, Hitchcock was on a world tour promoting North by Northwest (1959) (Source: "The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock," by Donald Spoto). Reeves did not live long enough to even know the film was planned, much less actually appear in it.

A skilled musician, he appeared briefly with his "Adventures of Superman" (1952) co-star Noel Neill in a touring county-fair act in which she sang and he played guitar and upright bass, following his performance of a wrestling/judo act as Superman (versus "Mr. Kryptonite," "Gene LeBell").

Actor Jim Beaver is at this writing (2006) preparing the definitive biographical book on Reeves's life, and served as historical consultant on the film about Reeves's death, Hollywoodland (2006).

Although his Superman costume was padded, Reeves himself was actually very athletic and did most of his own stunts for his role in the "Adventures of Superman" (1952). Episodes routinely required him to jump from significant heights to simulate Superman landing in frame or hitting a springboard with enough force to propel him out of frame. A frequent stunt required Reeves to grab a bar (outside of camera range) and swing in through a window, clearing his own height (over six foot) and landing on his feet. Reeves had mastered this gymnastic move so well that he could perform the stunt and immediately deliver his dialog without the need to cut to another angle.

Although it is circulated that he was depressed over being labeled Superman, and that it inhibited his future career, he took the part of "role model" seriously, even to the extent of quitting smoking and not making appearances around children with his girlfriends.

Another false story has Reeves appearing as a bespectacled TV news reporter in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). In reality, the actor playing the role bears no resemblance to Reeves, and in a 1995 interview with Reeves biographer Jim Beaver, director Robert Wise stated unequivocally that it is not Reeves in the role. It appears that someone jumped to conclusions based on the image of a reporter wearing glasses and thus resembling roughly the image of Superman alter-ego Clark Kent. Reeves had nothing to do with the film in any capacity.

Best remembered by the public for his starring role in "Adventures of Superman" (1952).

Born George Keefer Brewer, but was adopted by step-father and took name George Bessolo, by which he was known until taking the stage name George Reeves in 1939.

Did TV ads for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes during his tenure as Superman in the 1950s. In one commercial, George, as Clark Kent, used his super vision to see through a wall to show the viewer two children arguing over whether or not a girl could be Superman, but by the end of the argument they had united over their mutual fondness for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, which Superman promoted. George then turned to the camera, smiling, and said "See, kids may argue, but never over Kellogg's Frosted Flakes."

During the hiatus of the "Adventures of Superman" (1952) TV series, Reeves made guest appearances around the country. In one appearance he appeared at Kennywood Amusement Park just outside of Pittsburgh; the next year he was also slated to appear and billboards had advertised that fact, however that was the year that he died and Kennywood had to find a replacement act; the act which replaced Reeves was Guy Williams as Zorro. The billboards whitewashed over the Superman ad to add Zorro, but the Superman logo could still be seen underneath the ad for Zorro.

He was a devout supporter of "The City Of Hope" Cancer research hospital and the Los Angeles chapter of United Cerebral Palsy. He also appeared on "The City Of Hope" and UCP Telethons on local Los Angeles TV and at "The City Of Hope" parades in Duarte, California as Superman.

He was cautious in his interaction with the young children who were fans of "Adventures of Superman" (1952) because they often tried to test his "invulnerability" by assaulting him. At one appearance a young boy came up to Reeves, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at him. The boy had taken the weapon, a Luger that his father had brought home from World War II, to see if "Superman" really was invulnerable. Reeves convinced the boy to give him the gun by saying that someone else would get hurt when the bullets bounced off of "Superman".

His birth date is often given as April 5, 1914, but that was due to his actual birth date, January 5, being considerably less than nine months after his parents' wedding. His mother lied even to him about his birth date and it was not until adulthood that he learned the truth. To further confuse matters, his mother made a mistake when having the urn containing his ashes inscribed, and thus his burial urn reads January 6 instead of January 5.

In Blood and Sand (1941) as Captain Pierre Lauren, Reeves shares the screen with Rita Hayworth in her first Technicolor scene.

Interred at Mountain View Cemetery, Altadena, California, USA in the Pasadena Mausoleum, Sunrise Corridor.

Is portrayed by Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland (2006)

Met wife, actress Ellanora Needles, while studying at the Pasadena Playhouse.

On April 15, 1955, he made a rare public appearance as Superman at the annual Cub Scout Jamboree at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where he patiently met hundreds of Cub Scout fans and signed autographs of himself as Superman in his famous costume.