Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Death of Superman

Leonore Lemmon

Leonore Lemmon
Leonore Lemmon

When a young, bold, brunette named Leonore Lemmon spies George Reeves dining in a New York restaurant, she immediately sets her cap for him. Slipping away from her female companion at the bar, she makes her way over to the table and puts the make on him. That night, she straddles him in bed, using the best weapon in her feminine arsenal to tighten the noose around her all-too-willing prey.

That's how it happened in the movie. According to accounts, it wasn't much different in real life. The relationship didn't take too much effort to progress from there. Reeves was in New York, single and fancy-free. Toni was still legally married, 3,000 miles away in California.

Had Reeves and Toni simply hung onto what they had another four years, Mannix would have been dead and they could have been free to marry. But apparently Reeves had other ideas. He was a one-woman man who had been divorced for eight years. He was ready for another shot at it.

Little is known about the background of Leonore Lemmon. She was known in her early years as a member of the so-called Café Society. This was the collective description for the aptly named "beautiful people" who gathered in fashionable cafes and restaurants in Paris, London, Rome, or New York, beginning in the late 1800s. Although members of the Café Society were not necessarily members of society's elite, they attended each other's private dinners and balls, and took holidays in exotic locations or at elegant resorts.

In the United States, the term Café Society described those who did their entertaining semi-publicly, in restaurants and nightclubs, and who would often include among their group movie stars and sports celebrities. They were generally publicity hounds who wanted to be seen and photographed and written up in the society and gossip columns. In the late 1950s, thanks to the ready availability of air travel, the terms "Jet Set" and "jet setters" became more appropriate and descriptive.

In 1941, Leonore married Jacob L. 'Jakie' Webb, who was reportedly a descendant of railroad magnate and multimillionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt. The marriage was short-lived, however, once she quickly discovered that he was almost completely tattooed (known in tattoo circles as a "full suit"). She left him and he later sued her for divorce on grounds of desertion.

Once she and Reeves became deeply involved, Leonore proved to be as possessive, protective, and jealous as Toni. In the movie she is shown to be bitchy, arrogant, and domineering. Nonetheless, Reeves apparently loved her. He broke off his relationship with Toni, resulting in a nasty confrontation that provided one of the most memorable scenes in the movie, one in which no expletives were held back. Leonore soon moved into the Benedict Canyon house Toni bought for him.

Reeves and Leonore were scheduled to be married in Mexico on June 19, 1959, and spend their honeymoon in Europe. The trip and the wedding never took place. In the early morning hours of June 16, 1959, one shot — possibly more — rang out in the bedroom of George Reeves. The 45-year-old star of the TV Superman series, the world's first superhero and the idol of millions, was dead.

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