George Brewer Bessolo Reeves was born in Woolstock, Iowa, in 1914. Shortly after he was born and his parents divorced, he moved with his mother Helen to Pasadena, California. George had grown into a good-looking boy who was popular, athletic, and levelheaded. After graduating from Pasadena Junior College, where George first started to act, he joined the Pasadena Community Theater.
In 1939, George got his big break in Hollywood when he was cast in the opening scene of Gone with the Wind. Warner Bros. loved George, but they didn't like his name, so George Bessolo became George Reeves. A number of small roles in a batch of forgettable movies followed. The following year, Reeves met and married Eleanora Needles, but the pair were ill fated, and nine years later, she left Reeves for another man. After a brief stint in the Special Forces Theatrical Unit during the war, Reeves tried to revive his movie career, but he didn't get many offers.
Then in 1951, his luck changed. He was offered a part on television in The Adventures of Superman. Although he hated the role and the thought of being on television, he was desperate for the money. Reeves took the part never dreaming that the show would become popular, stay on the air for six years, and that he would become Superman to an entire generation.
Reeves drank and joked his way through the work. On the Superman set he met Toni Mannix, an older woman who became his lover. Toni was married to one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, but that didn't stop Reeves from pursuing her. In fact, the two became a fixture in Hollywood and Toni lavished Reeves with gifts, including a new house and car. Reeves movie career was dead, but he was a star because of Superman.
In 1957, The Adventures of Superman stopped filming and Reeves traveled to New York. There he met Leonora Lemmon a younger woman with whom he started a passionate affair in 1959. Back in California, she moved in with Reeves, and Reeves ended his relationship with Toni Mannix. Enraged Toni started harassing Reeves and Leonora. The couple did their best to ignore Toni, and even talked about getting married.
Then on the night of June 16, 1959, while a party was going on downstairs in his house, it "appears" that Reeves put a Luger to his head and pulled the trigger. Right away people started spreading rumors and inventing theories about how and why Reeves had died. The Los Angeles Police Department ruled that Reeves, depressed over being typecast as Superman and unable to find other work, committed suicide. However, not everyone was convinced. Some believed that Toni had hired someone to kill Reeves in a jealous rage. Others believed that Leonora had killed Reeves when she found out that he was calling off their engagement. Forty years after his death, no one is sure what happened that night in 1959. Nevertheless, everyone remains fascinated by George Reeves' life and mysterious death.