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Bad Luck for Superman

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Kids had stars in their eyes when they talked about their hero Superman. A DC comic superhero who was incredibly strong and to top it all off he was as fast as the wind and he could fly. However, this was just what they could get from the pages of a comic book. Then in 1952 came the TV series “The Adventures of Superman” putting their hero on the screen. The actor playing Superman was rightly chosen since he looked strong and muscular and was a handsome figure. Now the kids could watch Superman do all those things they just saw on the pages of their comic books and to them, it all seemed so real. However for the actor portraying Superman life was not all about being a superhero on the TV screen, life had its problems. In 1959 the show ended and George Reeves, who had left everyone thinking about him as Superman ended his life on June 16, 1959. Even though the coroner ruled his death as an “indicated suicide” everyone was left with more questions than answers. So it came to be that his death remained an unsolved mystery and apparently his ghost has come back to haunt his Benedict Canyon Drive house and perhaps, just perhaps the ghost of Superman has the answers needed but no one is listening.

In the Beginning

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George Reeve came into this world as George Besselo in Galesburg, Illinois. Later the family moved to Iowa and finally once his mother divorced she and baby George settled down in Pasadena, California. During WW II Reeves enlisted in the Army at which time he discovered certain things about his life that had been hidden from him. It appeared that his home life had been anything but blissful. His mother had chosen to conceal the true identity of his father and his stepfather committed suicide years after his mother divorced him. Reeves was so disturbed by these things that he hardly ever spoke to his mother during the 1940s.

During his growing-up years Reeves became an accomplished athlete and in 1932 he entered the Golden Globes Boxing competition and did well enough to head for the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932. Only after being injured many times while boxing Reeves chose to give acting a try.  Reeves was a guy who had rugged, good looks however he was not a tough guy. He started taking acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse. It was during this time that he met his first and only wife, Ellanora Needles and married her in 1940, divorcing nine years later.

Acting Career

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Reeves began by taking small parts and even though he had only a minor role he was on the big screen in the all-time greatest classic “Gone With the Wind”. He portrayed one of the red-haired Tarleton twins who were madly in love with the movie’s heroine Scarlett O’Hara. He went on to other roles in movies such as “From Here to Eternity” and “Proudly We Hail among others but fame eluded him. Finally, his lucky star shone the day he was cast to play mild-mannered newspaper reporter Clark Kent, who was actually Superman. Suddenly everyone from kids to adults wanted to meet Superman.  As Superman, he even got on the ever-popular TV show “I Love Lucy” with Lucy Ball and Desi Arnaz to portray his Superman character at his idol Little Ricky’s birthday party.

Death Threats

Reeves loved the public and enjoyed being recognized. It might be said that he enjoyed the ladies a bit too much and was accused of being a womanizer.  As it often goes in cases like this the rumors that surfaced were that he was also involved with a number of married ladies who were the wives of well-known film executives and that just possibly one of these affairs might have led to his unfortunate death. In the month leading up to his death, Reeves was involved in three mysterious automobile accidents, one of which almost ended his life. In the first one his car was almost crushed by two trucks upon the freeway, the second time a speeding car nearly did him in but he escaped using his athletic reflexes and the third came when the brakes on the car he was driving failed along a particularly narrow and twisting road. Even though after this time Reeves was warned that someone had it in for him he dismissed it all and never heeded the warnings.

A month later just like in any thriller movie Reeves began receiving death threats only these were very real. At this time he put two and two together and realized that the car accidents were intentional so he turned to the Beverly Hills Police Department and put in a complaint at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. He even named a woman known as Toni Mannix to be the one he suspected. No one was sure why he pointed to her because the two had been involved romantically and had kept their romance a secret. It was important for them to keep their romance out of the public eye because Reeves was engaged to Lenore Lemmon and Toni was married to Eddie Mannix, the vice president of Loew’s Theaters, Inc. Since Mannix was an uncouth and despicable man it was believed that he was the man threatening Reeves.

Future Plans

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When the D.A. took a closer look at the case they discovered that both Reeves and Toni Mannix were receiving threats by telephone. So now it was time to take a closer look at Eddie Mannix. His influence was far reaching and he could always find someone to do his bidding for a price. In the meantime, Reeves was riding high on his Superman fame as new offerings came pouring in and just three days after his death he was supposed to have returned to the boxing ring with the light heavyweight champion, Archie Moore. It was to be an exhibition match shown on TV so his fans could see if Superman had the strength to beat the champ. It was after this fight that Reeves was supposed to marry his fiancée, Lenore Lemmon, a former New York socialite. They would honeymoon in Spain and then go on to Australia where Reeves was to earn more than $20,000 for public appearances as Superman. This series had just been sold to an Australian TV network and Australians were demanding to meet Superman. It was certainly no time to die, leave alone think about suicide.

Upon his return to Hollywood Reeves was set to star in a feature film which he would also direct. Afterwards, he was going to shoot more episodes of Superman for syndication. At this point in his life, he had everything to live for. The evening of the tragedy June 16 Reeves was having dinner with Lenore Lemmon and a guest, Robert Condon at his Benedict Canyon home. Condon was a writer doing an article on Reeves and his upcoming exhibition with Archie Moore. Around midnight Reeves and Lemmon retired. Reeves had a general rule for his home that no one was to come visit them in the late hours of the night. However, this particular night a friend of both of them, Carol Von Ronkel, came by the house at around 1 AM with another friend, William Bliss. The banged on the door until Lemmon let them in and Reeves yelled at them for showing up so very late.

Continued in Part 2


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