Iowa Actor’s Death is Still Mysterious Over 60 Years Later
Iowa-born actor George Reeves is best known for his starring role on the 1950s show Adventures of Superman, but did you know that the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death are still a hot topic all these years later? Let's dive into this true crime mystery!
According to Wikipedia, George Reeves (George Keefer Brewer) was born in the Central Iowa town of Woolstock on January 5th, 1914. Shortly after his birth, George's parents separated, so he and his mother moved to Kentucky to stay with family. They then moved to Galesburg, Illinois before finally settling in California.
George began acting and singing while in high school in California. He went on to study acting at Pasadena Junior College and the historic Pasadena Playhouse. Pasadena Playhouse is actually where he met his wife Ellanora Needles, who he married in 1940. Their marriage ended in divorce ten years later.
In 1939, George kicked off his acting career as Stuart Tarleton in Gone With the Wind. He took on various roles over the years, but one in particular changed the course of his life. After playing the role of Lieutenant John Summers in the 1942 film So Proudly We Hail!, George was inspired to join the army. His Wikipedia page reads:
"He was drafted in early 1943. He was assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces and performed in the USAAF's Broadway show Winged Victory. The long Broadway run was followed by a national tour and a movie version. Reeves was then transferred to the Army Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit, where he made training films."
After he was discharged from the U.S. Army, George returned to Hollywood to continue acting. In June of 1951, he was offered the role he is best known for today: Superman in the TV series Adventures of Superman.
During his time as Superman, George Reeves began a relationship with a woman named Toni Mannix. Toni was the wife of Eddie Mannix, the general manager of MGM. An article from The Daily Beast also says Eddie was a "notorious fixer" who was rumored to have mob connections. According to Unsolved, Eddie actually encouraged Toni and George's relationship, so it was not a secret affair. The article reads:
"Off camera, George Reeves was as much Romeo as Superman. He had a steady girlfriend named Toni Mannix, a former showgirl, eight years his senior. It was a classic younger man, older woman affair, but with a twist. She was rich, generous, and married."
After three years together, George began hooking up with another woman named Lenore Lemmon, which ultimately led to the end of his relationship with Toni. Toni was reportedly devastated, which upset her husband Eddie. Lenore was younger and wilder than Toni, and the two ended up getting engaged over the course of their six-month relationship. It appears, though, that the couple wasn't entirely happy. The Daily Beast says that their relationship was filled with "booze and bickering" and that George was at a difficult point in his life regarding his career and finances, which didn't make things easier.
Cut to the night of June 15th, 1959. George, Lenore, writer Robert Condon (who was staying with them at the time), and a couple of neighbors were at the couple's home in Benedict Canyon late into the evening. George was said to be in no mood for partying, so he went up to his bedroom. Sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. on June 16th, George died of a gunshot wound to the head. He was found naked, sprawled out on his bed, with the gun on the ground between his feet.
Here's where things get complicated. Several theories have been presented over the years as to how exactly George died. Many think that it could be suicide, others think it was an accidental shooting, and there are some who believe that it was actually murder.
According to Unsolved, the police on the scene ruled the death a suicide. The site reads:
"A pistol on the floor between George’s legs seemed to confirm it. But there were inconsistencies. Not a single fingerprint was found on the gun. The fatal bullet was lodged in the ceiling above the bed, yet, the shell casing was found underneath the body."
It's also been reported that George's body had unexplained bruising and that there were two other gunshot holes in the carpet, even though all the guests only heard one shot. And then there's the report that Lenore told the guests during the evening, “he’s going upstairs to shoot himself.” After the fact, Lenore said that she had been joking. Wikipedia reports another rumor that Lenore wasn't with the guests at the time of the shooting, but upstairs where the bedroom was, and had asked the other guests to lie for her.
Because of all of the inconsistencies and rumors, some people believe that Lenore accidentally killed George, or that Eddie or Toni Mannix had him killed by a third party. Unfortunately, we may never actually know the truth of what really happened that fateful night, but it's worth noting that his mother never believed that George had committed suicide. He was only 45-years-old at the time of his death.
Which theory of George Reeve's death do you believe to be true? Let us know by posting a comment or sending us a message on our app!