George Reeves was an American television and film actor best remembered for portraying the iconic comic book character “Superman” in the 1950s television series “Adventures of Superman.” In the early days of television, he rose to fame as a famous actor who was beloved by kids, but he was never able to surpass other charismatic Hollywood performers. One of the main causes of this was his rigid contract with the company, which prevented him from working on any other movies while also keeping him in poverty. Born and raised in Pasadena, where he initially got acting instruction at the Pasadena Playhouse, he made his screen debut in a supporting role in the classic film “Gone with the Wind.” Prior to World War II interrupting his career, he spent the following ten years working for Warner Bros., Fox, and Paramount. After failing to restart his career after the War, he moved to the world of television, where he finally found the fame that had proven elusive earlier. He became best known for playing “Superman,” a role in which he became typecast until he died in a mysterious and contentious accident that was allegedly a suicide but was widely believed to be a murder.
Early Childhood & Life
Donald Carl Brewer and Helen Lescher welcomed George Keefer Brewer into the world on January 5, 1914, in the sleepy rural town of Woodstock, Iowa. However, shortly after George was born, the couple divorced.
Following the divorce, Helen and baby George relocated to her house in Galesburg, Illinois, before going to Pasadena, California, to live with her sister. George Brewer changed his name to George Bessolo after Helen married Frank Joseph Bessolo, who adopted George in 1927. Donald, George’s biological father, remarried as well, but George never saw him again.
George Reeves grew up in Pasadena and attended Polytechnic School before enrolling at Pasadena Junior College. He participated heavily in college drama, the acapella chorus, and guitar playing while he was a student.
George joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse, one of the most renowned and distinguished theaters in the country, in 1935 when he was 21 years old. George performed in various Playhouse shows during the following four years.
His mother informed him that his father had killed himself the day after she got back from vacation. In fact, the couple had separated after a 15-year marriage. He didn’t discover Frank Bessolo’s existence or the fact that he wasn’t his biological father until many years later.
Career of George Reeves
In the 1939 epic “Gone with the Wind,” George Bessolo made his acting debut as Stuart Tarleton, one of Scarlett O’Hara’s two suitors. He signed a deal with ‘Warner Brothers’ soon after being selected for the part, and they immediately changed his screen name to George Reeves.
‘Warner Bros.’ made and released four films with him in the year it took for ‘Gone with the Wind’ to be finished and released, despite the fact that it was the first movie he signed up for.
He was also on loan from Warner Bros. to Alexander Korda for the 1941 movie “Lydia,” which starred Merle Oberon and him. At the box office, the movie flopped.
After being let go by “Warner Bros.,” George Reeves signed on with “Twentieth Century-Fox,” but the partnership was short-lived as only a handful of pictures were produced, including Charlie Chan’s “Dead Men Tell.”
He left “Twentieth Century-Fox” and went freelance, appearing in as many as five “Hopalong Cassidy” westerns before landing a small part in the hugely successful war drama “So Proudly We Hail!” directed by Mark Sandrich in 1943.
In 1943, Reeves joined the Special Theatrical Unit of the American Army Air Corps after enlisting in the military. He appeared in the USAAF production “Winged Victory,” which ran on Broadway for a very long time. He was reassigned to the First Motion Picture Unit of the USAAF and produced various training videos after a national tour and even a movie adaptation of the play.
Reeves returned to California in 1945 following the conclusion of World War II only to discover Hollywood in change. Only low-budget flops like “Thunder in the Pines,” “Jungle Goddess,” and Sam Katzman’s 15-part Columbia Pictures serial “The Adventures of Sir Galahad” were able to get him any work.
Reeves left Hollywood in 1949 because he was dissatisfied with the dearth of prospects there, but he later went back to appear in the Fritz Lang film “Rancho Notorious” after spending some time there.
‘Adventures of Superman,’ a brand-new television series that was in the works, gave George Reeves the chance to portray ‘Superman’ in June 1951. He agreed to a highly demanding schedule that included shooting at least two shows per week for a reported $1,000 per half-hour episode, despite the fact that he believed television to be a low-importance medium and worried he would not attract a large audience.
But Reeves’ first appearance as “Superman” was in “Superman and the Mole Men,” which was actually meant to be a pilot for the TV show. The character earned positive reviews for being the subject of the first-ever feature film based on any “DC Comics.”
The television airing of “Adventures of Superman,” which was produced in 13 weeks during the summer of 1951, began in the fall of 1952. George Reeves became an immediate famous and household name across the country thanks to the show, which received both very high ratings and critical acclaim, especially among the younger audience.
Between the first two seasons of “Superman,” Reeves was able to land a few acting gigs. In 1953, he played in the feature films “Forever Female,” “The Blue Gardenia,” and “Here to Eternity,” which won the Oscar for “Best Picture.” Reeves, however, discovered that because he was already typecast as “Superman,” he was unable to obtain roles that satisfied him.
Reeves left the character of “Superman” after being deeply unhappy with his meager pay and one-dimensional position, and he founded his own production business to create a TV adventure series. The ‘Superman’ producers, unable to find a replacement, persuaded him to return by offering him $2,500 per episode.
After staying out late partying with pals at his Hollywood home on June 16, 1959, he was discovered naked and dead in his bed the next morning from a gunshot wound to the head. The abrupt death of a beloved superhero initially thought to be a suicide spurred much debate, including accident and murder, but nothing has ever been proven.
Major Works of George Reeves
George Reeves became a famous in America thanks to the TV series “Adventures of Superman,” which aired from 1952 to 1958 on various TV networks.
Personal Legacy & Life
He met actress Ellanora Needles while working at Pasadena Playhouse, and the two were married on September 21, 1940. However, the childless couple separated on October 16, 1950, ten years later.
He had a committed relationship with Toni Mannix, a former showgirl who was eight years older than him and the wife of senior “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer” executive Eddie Mannix. He broke up with Toni in 1958 and started dating New York socialite Leonore Lemmon.
Reeves put forth a lot of effort to gather money to battle myasthenia gravis and even served as national head of the “Myasthenia Gravis Foundation” in 1955. Additionally, he participated in parades and telethons to help the City of Hope cancer research hospital and the Los Angeles branch of United Cerebral Palsy.
Despite his depression and frustration at being stereotyped as “Superman,” which he believed prevented his career from succeeding, he made an effort to uphold his honorable reputation by never smoking or hanging out with women in front of kids.
George Reeves’s Net Worth
He is above 6′ tall Being incredibly athletic, Reeves did the majority of the stunts for “Superman” by himself.
He ended up being the oldest actor to date and the second to play the part of “Superman.”
His roles in the Academy Award-winning movies “Gone with the Wind” (1939) and “From Here to Eternity” (1953) both included him.
Although he played Stuart Tarleton in “Gone with the Wind,” his real name is Brent Tarleton, according to the credits.