The Man of Steel mystery: Was George Reeves murdered 50 years ago today?

June 17, 2009 | 3:25 a.m.
George Reeves dead 50 years ago today

Look past the bright spotlights and you’ll notice that Hollywood history is drenched in scandal and haunted by heartbreak. Take the case of George Reeves, who died of a gunshot to the head 50 years ago today at his home in Benedict Canyon.

It was reported and ruled a suicide, a heartbreaking end in light of the children around America who had cheered Reeves as make-believe bullets bounced off his chest on “Adventures of Superman” from 1952 through 1958. The actor’s death, though, has taken on more grim layers through the years amid persistant arguments that the 45-year-old was actually a victim of murder.

There has been much written about this through the years and it’s a compelling riddle. Theories abound but, as with so many unsolved mysteries, dust and legend gather as the years pass and the truth becomes ever more elusive.

Here are some videos of the actor who, for a whole generation, was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

–Geoff Boucher

RECENT AND RELATED

Bob Holiday as Superman on Broadway

See the 1959 L.A. Times coverage of George Reeves death

More footage of the caped George Reeves and the trailer for “Hollywoodland” 

<<< A look back: Superman on Broadway in 1966

The Superman problem: Can he still fly in 21st century?

The sordid secret of “Superman” co-creator Joe Shuster

First Superman comic book sold for $317,200

Photos from the Los Angeles Times archives.

Comments


17 Responses to The Man of Steel mystery: Was George Reeves murdered 50 years ago today?

  1. Tim O'Shea says:

    Did not realize today was the day. Thanks for the reminder and for the links.

  2. JRW says:

    Nice the article mentioned that Superman could leap tall "budilings" in a single bound…but…what's a "budiling? And, who edits this stuff?

  3. Juss says:

    What a face! What a manner! I'll bet he wouldn't even come close to a casting call for Superman today, but he seemed perfect to me back then–and still does. I wonder if we'll ever again be privileged to have a Superman so mature. And George's Clark–I'm well aware of those who say his Clark and Superman were exactly the same. I don't agree. Clark was funnier, for one thing. And that he was supposed to be vulnerable allowed for a wonderful, unspoken dynamic with viewers, a wonderful connection where we and he had an extra layer to our knowledge of a situation that the bad guys and civilians in the story didn't. I still regret that fate did not grant him longer life and more success.

    • Steve Widdicombe says:

      Its called the Dialectic or Socratic Irony Juss, and has the effect of intimacy with the character. Your in on the secret, resulting in a positive emotional hit based on the humans instinctive habit to socialize and how he goes about it. The artifice of "the wonderful connection"
      It is used used by con men, barristers to win over and appeal to juries,in literature, in the theater and of course by the old master Socrates, and can used to represent real intimacy and affection, or as the tangible distraction to something more sinister, adding variations on the theme, or extra layers on our knowledge, to use your metaphor. It is difficult , in the sake of brevity to describe in detail, but it is a very interest phenomena and area of philosophy and well worth Googulating :)

  4. jggrimm says:

    Born in '48, I'm one of millions of kids born to parents who fought WWII and raised their kids in a time, in reflection, that is almost surreal. Superman was a TV staple, and I thought Louis Lane was the prettiest lady on TV, next to Donna Reeves. Wow, what we grew up with. Fully clothed adults on TV who didn't curse or make sex a joke, stood for things that made us safe, and often were just plain gorgeous. We could fall in love and not have it twisted. As for Clark Kent, Mr. Reeves, his death, reported to be a suicide, was a deep shock and disappointment, to say the least. The year following his tragic death, my own Father died. I began to realize, though I did not fully understand, that life could end quickly and it was not always fair or good. But, we have our memories, and to this day, as ridiculours as we have all been at one time, my generation still seeks Truth, Justice, and the American Way. I appreciate the LA Times for providing this article. Thank you.

  5. Stan says:

    I was nine years old in the car with my mom driving down Santa Monica Boulevard near La Brea. My mom looked out the passenger window and gasped. I asked her what happened. She didn't want to tell me, but I looked out the window and figured she had read the headline on the Herald saying "Superman Dead" (or close to that). No one had yet died in my life, nor had any TV or movie star that I knew of…I was so shocked and sad…still am when I think about it.

  6. steve says:

    My favorite show when I was 4. My brother and I would run around with towels stuffed in the back of our T shirts to get the right "look". Reeves was THE MAN. My guess is he was murdered.RIP

  7. Andy says:

    Donna Reeves? Must be related to George, I reckon. She never had a show I remember. I used to watch The Donna REED Show when I was growing up.

  8. ejdubya says:

    It's slightly ironic that George REEVES was the original Superman, followed by Christopher REEVE in the later movies. Both met rather tragic ends.

  9. jtbwriter says:

    Thank you for remembering the day, and a good man who was murdered for loving the wrong person. I'm just sorry the coverup of George Reeves's death exists to this day-both forensically and logically the man could not have killed himself in the manner "discovered". May a good man rest in peace knowing he touched many generations.

  10. Bill Healy says:

    In 1968 I was working in a real estate mortgage banking office in Beverly Hills. One day the door opened and in walked Lois Lane. When I spoke to her and called her by that name she smiled and said that people my age were the ones who recognized her and came up to speak. She was very pleasant, and had not changed a bit from when she was on television. I was born in 1939, so the ages of the audience was pretty wide. Try convincing a youngster brought up on the current digital wonders of the new Superman movies, that the original television shows were great and they look at you as though you must have been Abraham Lincoln's classmate. Reporter-helper Jimmy would set them straight.

  11. Otis says:

    Yes – George was absolutely "The Man." His brother Steve wasn't bad, either. Wish someone would cold-case this and solve it.

  12. […] NOTE: The Benedict Canyon area is full of ghostly visions…including those of Manson murder victims Sharon Tate, Paul Bern and Jay Sebring. The Tate house was razed and another luxury home was built near the location. Since the completion of the new residence, the owner has reported several paranormal events. If you are interesting in reading about the mysterious death case of George Reeves, let me suggest the following links: The Death of George Reeves – the Original Superman, Relative Revelations and The Man of Steel Mystery…Lon […]

  13. Russ says:

    George Reeves had no brothers.

    • SHADOW says:

      STEVE REEVES PLAYED AS 'HERCULES' AND IN 'THE WHITE WARRIOR'. HE IS CONTRARY TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE THE ONLY BROTHER TO THE' MAN OF STEEL, SUPERMAN'. GEORGE REEVES.

  14. […] been so many versions of the hero — Christopher Reeve and George Reeves , the Fleischer cartoons and “Smallville,” Kirk Alyn in serials and Bob Holiday on […]

  15. Emily says:

    Thanks for remember that day. To this day I still believe George Reeves was murdered in cold blood. I mean look at the facts, no finger prints on the gun, more bullet holes found under the carpet, oil on the bullet that went in his head. If someone killed them selfs I’m pretty sure there would be finger prints on the gun. I think the police officers back then were just being lazy and went with what they thought was easy so they didn’t have to do any work. I mean how much work did those police officers do. From what I have read they didn’t even spend that much time on the case. I loved to watch George Reeves on TV and I still do.

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