Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Death of Superman

Toni Mannix

Reeves' private, off-screen persona was, in many ways, 180 degrees removed from the virtuous, morally upstanding character he portrayed on TV and in public appearances. By the time the series reached its top-billing status, the recently divorced Reeves was a hot item in Hollywood. Women were drawn to him like magnets and he could have had his pick of the crop at any time. But, once he made a choice, he appeared to be faithful and rarely, if ever, strayed while the relationship was solid.

Reeves with 'Toni' Mannix
Reeves with 'Toni' Mannix

Soon after the Superman phenomenon hit full swing, Reeves became deeply involved in what appeared to be his most fulfilling relationship. Toni Mannix was dark-haired, sensuous, fun-loving, adventurous, and well-endowed. She was also married. Her husband, E.J. 'Eddie' Mannix, was a highly placed, hot-shot producer with MGM and was considerably older than her. They had lived together for many years before marrying in 1951.

Camille Antoinette 'Toni' Lanier Mannix was a former Ziegfeld Follies showgirl when she met Mannix. She even had a key role in the movie that was made about Florenz Ziegfeld, The Great Ziegfeld (1936), one of her few actual film credits. For many years, she was content to be squired around Hollywood on Mannix's arm as a trophy wife, even before they got married. She was drawn to money and power, and Mannix had both during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld

Eight years older than Reeves, Toni nonetheless attracted him and they had a torrid, long-term relationship, which was fully known to Mannix, who had a Japanese mistress of his own. Toni and Reeves were fairly public with their arrangement, but the press, out of respect for the clout Mannix wielded, never exposed the relationship outside the industry. And, because she was still legally married, Reeves never brought Toni to any of his public functions for fear of what it would do to his squeaky-clean Superman image.

In Hollywoodland, the two met at a dinner party, which is likely how it happened in real life. Portrayed by Diane Lane in the movie, Toni seduces Reeves not just with sex, but also with expensive gifts, including a house. She is extremely possessive, quick to jealousy, and protective of the younger man who is not as savvy in the ways of Tinseltown as she is. He returns her favors in kind, giving her the love she hasn't been getting from her much-older husband.

George Reeves in a tuxedo
George Reeves in a tuxedo

In one memorable scene from the movie, Reeves, Toni, Mannix, and Mannix's Japanese mistress are dining at the same table in a restaurant. Reeves, attempting to be polite, tries asking Mannix's mistress a question and Mannix brusquely orders him not to talk to her, adding that she doesn't speak a word of English. Meanwhile, Reeves and Toni are playing blatantly obvious touchy-feely games with each other under the table.

However, despite her beauty and her sexual prowess, Toni was only too aware of the limitations of these attributes. She was eight years older than Reeves and knew her attractiveness wouldn't last forever. By the time their relationship ended, she was already in her early 50s. In one memorable line from the movie, she tells Reeves, "I have another seven years, then my ass drops like a duffel bag."

Her fear that she might eventually lose one of the most eligible bachelors in Hollywood was well-grounded. It finally happened. Just as the fictitious Superman was surrounded by key people who had the initials L.L., the real-life George Reeves found one of his own. Her name was Leonore Lemmon.

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