Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Death of Superman

Everything to Live For

George Reeves
George Reeves

He had movie-star good looks and he took full advantage of them. He was a hero to a generation of children who were just beginning to grow up with television. He had a very promising future ahead of him in Hollywood and, on the surface, everything to live for. So why did George Reeves take his own life?

Or did he?

When George Reeves died at the age of 45 in his Beverly Hills home, it was officially ruled a suicide. For nearly half a century, that explanation was accepted by the general public, but in recent years, it has been called into question. The September 2006 release of the movie Hollywoodland, directed by Allen Coulter and written by Paul Bernbaum, has unleashed a flurry of speculation suggesting that Reeves' death may have been at the hand of someone else. The movie, featuring Ben Affleck as Reeves, offers a few plausible alternative theories.

Hollywoodland
Hollywoodland

The tag line for the movie reads, "Living in Hollywood can make you famous. Dying in Hollywood can make you a legend." At the time of his death, Reeves was at the peak of his career, attaining near-legendary status. As the title character on the TV series, The Adventures of Superman, from 1952 to 1958, he was as famous as the president of the United States and movie stars who had been in the business much longer. All over the country children stopped playing and ran inside to watch him on television when the show came on. His heroics fighting the bad guys in a "never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way," were a byproduct of the World War II generation.

George Reeves as Superman
George Reeves as Superman

Although the series had been canceled just before his death, and Reeves was reported to have been despondent over it, he still had some bright career prospects looming in front of him. He still had his looks, his marvelous physique, and his talent. Other film offers would have undoubtedly come his way, and the Superman series was about to be regenerated for the 1960-61 season. On the surface, he seemed to have everything to live for. So why would someone commit suicide three days before his wedding? Or a day before a widely publicized championship boxing matchup?

Like most mysteries, there are more questions than answers. Such is the case with the mystery surrounding the death of George Reeves. Although the case is still considered closed and no irrefutable evidence has surfaced that would warrant reopening it, widespread speculation persists nonetheless.

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