1914 - 1959
George Reeves, the actor who played Superman in the popular 1950’s television series, Superman, died June 16, 1959. He was 45.
Reeves was born George Keefer Brewer on January 5, 1914 in Woolstock, Iowa. His parents divorced when he was a young boy. His mother remarried to Frank Bessolo in 1927. Bessolo adopted George and gave him his last name.
Bessolo graduated from high school in 1932, and enrolled in Pasadena Junior College. There he decided upon a show business career. Majoring in music and acting, he also sang in the school choir.
In 1935, he joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse. While there, he met his future wife, Ellanora Needles. They married in 1940, and had no children. They divorced in 1949.
Taking on the stage name, Reeves, George had a small speaking role in the 1939 classic, Gone With The Wind. He appeared briefly at the beginning of the movie as one of Scarlett O’Hara’s suitors.
After serving in World War II, Reeves appeared on the stage in Winged Victory.
But Reeves is most remembered for his casting as Superman, the invulnerable man from Krypton who came to Earth with ‘powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.’
Reeves entertained baby boomers during most of the 1950’s as Superman. He was one of the most popular television stars of the decade. His wholesome characterization of the super hero gave children a role model to look up to.
His mysterious death in 1959 shocked his fans. Reeves was found dead in his Beverly Hills home, the apparent victim of a suicide. He died from a single gunshot wound to the head. His body was found in his bedroom on June 16, 1959.
But speculation has run rampant for years that he was murdered, a victim of his own troubled personal life that was characterized by living beyond his means and having questionable relationships.
Regardless, police ruled the death a suicide. No note was found by the body to explain the death. Reeves is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California.