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George Reeves Superman

George Reeves
The preeminent Superman

In his youth, George Reeves aspired to become a boxer, but gave up this pursuit because his mother was worried that he'd be seriously injured. Attracted to acting, Reeves attended the Pasadena Playhouse, where he starred in several productions. In 1939, Reeves was selected to play one of the Tarleton twins in the Selznick superproduction Gone With the Wind (1939). He made an excellent impression in the role, and spent the next few years playing roles of varying sizes at Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and Paramount. He was praised by fans and reviewers alike for his performances in Lydia (1941) and So Proudly We Hail (1943); upon returning from WWII service, however, Reeves found it more difficult to get good roles. He starred in a few "B"'s and in the title role of the Columbia serial The Adventures of Sir Galahad (1949), but for the most part was shunted away in ordinary villain roles.

In 1951, he starred in the Lippert programmer Superman vs. the Mole Men, playing both the Man of Steel and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent. This led to the immensely popular Superman TV series, in which Reeves starred from 1953 through 1957. While Superman saved Reeves' career, it also permanently typecast him. He made an appearance as wagon train leader James Stephen in Disney's Westward Ho, the Wagons! (1956), though the producer felt it expeditious to hide Reeves behind a heavy beard. While it is now commonly believed that Reeves was unable to get work after the cancellation of Superman in 1957, he was in fact poised to embark on several lucrative projects, including directing assignments on two medium-budget adventure pictures and a worldwide personal appearance tour. On June 16, 1959, Reeves died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. The official ruling was suicide -- and, since he left no note, it was assumed that Reeves was despondent over his flagging career. Since that time, however, there has been a mounting suspicion (engendered by the actor's friends and family) that George Reeves was murdered.

The 2006 major motion picture Holywoodland is based on the George Reeves story.

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