The 1st Superman
Actually, there were some very early Superman serials done starring Kirk Alyn, but George Reeves will always be Superman to me. As a kid in the fifties, I watched him play Superman in the TV series, "Adventures of Superman" from 1953 to 1958. It seems as if it was on every afternoon for a half hour. He also starred in a number of films, but it was his Superman role that was his claim to fame. Well, almost.
Actually, he's most remembered in the ironic way in which he died. This fellow, who played the invincible Superman, committed suicide at the age of 45. At least that was how his death was ruled. Some speculate that he was murdered, but the circumstances are a bit murky. It was 1959, and his TV series had just ended. He was having a party at his Hollywood home, when a gunshot rang out from his bedroom. Reeves was found dead lying on his back, a German Luger pistol next to him, a hole through his skull, and the shell casing underneath him. No suicide note was ever found and some say he was depressed, others say, definitely not.
George Reeves was born in 1914 in Woolstock, Iowa. Sometime in the early '20's, the family moved to California, and when Reeves was 18, he began studying acting at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. He appeared in small roles in several films, but in 1939, he was given a small part in "Gone With the Wind". This film brought him recognition though, probably because he was the first man to speak in the film.
Many small parts followed and in 1943, he was given the lead in the film "So Proudly We Hail!". Then, along came World War II, and Reeves joined or was drafted into the Army Air Corps where he was used to make training films. After the war, Reeves was once again relegated to small parts in major movies, until 1951, when he starred in the production of "Superman and the Mole Men." Naturally, this led to the inevitable TV series, and as far as Reeves was concerned it was the "bottom of the barrel." Realizing, he would never be the big name star he had so hoped to become, Reeves began drinking heavily at this juncture.
"The Adventures of Superman" aired in late 1952 and was immediately successful. Reeves was still having drinking problems and was having a long running affair with a woman whose husband had ties to the studios and the mob. But in 1959, things started to look better. He had fallen in love and was about to marry. The TV series was being proposed for another year and Reeves was scheduled to do a film in Spain. And then, he had a party, not the first, but certainly the last.