Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Death of Superman

"Gone With the Wind"

Although he was best known as TV's Superman, Reeves had a lengthy resume for more than a decade before he was offered that high-visibility role. In 1939, he was cast as Stuart Tarleton, one-half of a pair of twin brothers competing with many other suitors for the hand of the dazzling Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) in Gone With the Wind. Although it was a relatively minor role in the opening scene of a marathon production, it served as a springboard for the career of the newly surnamed George Reeves.

Gone With The Wind
Gone With The Wind

Over the next few years Reeves flirted with true film stardom in such pictures as So Proudly We Hail! (1943), alongside three of the greatest beauties of that era — Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake, and Paulette Goddard. The term "matinee idol" was very much in vogue at the time and Reeves was well on his way to becoming one. His six-foot, one-inch height, muscular build, and stunning good looks garnered him much attention from filmgoers — especially the ladies, even though he was married and theoretically ineligible. However, World War II intervened and he enlisted in the Army Air Corps where his acting skills kept him out of combat and busy making training films. He also acted in patriotic stage productions like Winged Victory on Broadway.

So Proudly We Hail!
So Proudly We Hail!

After the war, Reeves struggled to get his film acting career back on track. Although contracted by Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount — three of the studio giants of Hollywood — Reeves would never achieve true stardom on the large screen. He starred in a few highly acclaimed features like The Adventures of Sir Galahad (1949), in which he was given the title role. However, most of his roles in the postwar years were bit parts in B movies, some of which were uncredited in the films' original releases. Many of his early pictures were Westerns, which enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1940s. According to one account, these minor roles paid so little he was forced to dig septic systems to earn a decent living. In all, he appeared in about 50 films before making the jump to TV, the medium that launched him into the world spotlight.

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