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Did Superman Kill George Reeves?

Entertainment | May 11, 2022

American actor George Reeves (1914 - 1959), as Superman, stands with Phyllis Coates, as Lois Lane, in a still from the television series, 'Adventures of Superman,' c. 1952. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Courtesy of Getty Images)

George Reeves started acting and singing while he was still in high school and continued during his time at Pasadena Junior College. He studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he met his future wife, Ellanora Needles. The couple married on September 20, 1940, but divorced 10 years later. Reeves was cast as one of Scarlett O’Hara’s suitors in Gone With the Wind and continued appearing in a number of additional films. After his appearance in So Proudly We Hail (1942), he was inspired to enlist in the U.S. Army. After the end of the war, he was in a few small roles, and in 1953, he played Sergeant Maylon Stark in From Here to Eternity, and when it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Reeves had the distinction of being in two “Best Picture” films. In 1951, he was offered the role of Superman in Adventures of Superman, the role which he became best known for. Although he was dissatisfied with the role and wanted to move on after two seasons, he stayed on when they offered him an increase in pay. He continued to play the role until 1958. 

Source: (IMDb).

Reeves Died From A Single Gunshot Wound

Reeves became engaged to Leonore Lemmon and was to be married in 1959, but on June 16, 1959, days before the wedding, he died in his home in the early morning hours from a gunshot wound. Shortly after, the conspiracy theories began as people tried to figure out who to blame for the death of the actor.

At the time, Lemmon, William Bliss, Robert Condon, and Reeves’ neighbor Carol Van Ronkel were in Reeves’ home. It is unclear what happened during the evening prior to Reeves’ death; according to some, Lemmon, Condon, and Reeves went to dinner that evening, where Lemmon and Reeves argued, although Lemmon denied the dinner happened later while talking to Reeves’ biographer. Others have said that the three attended a wrestling match. In either case, upon returning home, Reeves went to bed. Bliss and Van Ronkel came to the house around midnight and started to party. Reeves went downstairs because of the noise and shortly went back upstairs. It was soon after that the group heard the gunshot and found Reeves dead, with a .30 caliber Luger pistol at his feet. They delayed calling the police, and once they did, they claimed it was because of their shock, intoxication, and the late hour. Reeves’ death was ruled a suicide, although not everyone believed it.

Source: (IMDb).

When Reeves Died, The Conspiracy Theories Began

While Reeves was depressed at the time, some elements didn’t fit. There were three shots fired: the one that killed Reeves and two others that were on the floor. Reeves’ mother hired an attorney, Jerry Giesler, to get the case reopened, and a second autopsy revealed bruising on Reeves’ head and body. There were no fingerprints on the gun; they also didn’t test Reeves’ hands for gun residue. Additionally, there were people who wanted Reeves dead, including his former lover, Toni Mannix. She was married to MGM studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix. When Reeves dumped her, the theory is that Toni Mannix snuck into Reeves’ home, and her husband cleaned up the scene after Reeves’ death. Edward Lozzi, an LA publicist, claimed that Eddie Mannix confessed a role in Reeves’ death to a priest, although one of Mannix’s friends has disputed this. According to another theory, Lemmon was upstairs and shot Reeves.

One author, Lee Saylor, reached a different conclusion based on the evidence: that Reeves, who was depressed about his career, and who had fought with Lemmon that day, shot himself while Lemmon was in the room. According to Sayles’ theory, Van Ronkel and Condon were both drunk and did not hear the gunshot. Sayles contends that Lemmon then went downstairs and waited for more guests to arrive. When Bliss arrived, he went upstairs and discovered the body and the gun. Lemmon also later admitted that she didn’t call the police for two hours out of concern for Van Ronkel’s marriage. According to Saylor, Leonore Lemmon told him that “Superman killed George Reeves,” pointing to the notion that the guilt for Reeves’ death lay with his depression about being typecast and his failing career. 

Tags: George Reeves | Superman

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Linda Speckhals

Writer

When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.