Born George Keefer Brewer on January 5, 1914, in Woolstock, Iowa,
George Reeves started off as a movie actor. Did you know that he was one of Scarlet O’Hara’s suitors in Gone With The Wind and that was his first film role? Warner Brothers with whom he was contracted with, changed his name to George Reeves. He had an interesting film career as he worked with Ronald Reagan, James Cagney, a Johnny Weismuller Jungle Jim movie. He also appeared in From Here To Eternity. So in reality he was in two movies that won the Oscar for Best Picture.
In June 1951, Reeves was offered the role of Superman in a new television series titled Adventures of Superman. He didn’t want to take the role because, like many actors of his time, he considered television unimportant. The half-hour films were shot on tight schedules; at least two shows were made every six days. Multiple scripts would be filmed simultaneously to take advantage of the standing sets, so that, e.g., all the “Perry White’s office” scenes for three or four episodes would be shot the same day and the various “apartment” scenes would be done consecutively. Isnt that interesting. Doing all the scenes that used the same location for the year at the same time so that once you were done, you were done.
Superman started with Superman and the Mole Men, a film intended both as a B-picture and as the pilot for the TV series. Right after the film was done, the first season’s episodes were shot over 13 weeks in the summer of 1951. However the series didnt air until the following year but once it did, Reeves became a national celebrity. In 1952, the ABC Network purchased the show for national broadcast, which gave him even greater visibility.
The Superman cast members had restrictive contracts which prevented them from taking other work that might interfere with the series. They all had a “30-day clause”, which meant that the producers could demand their exclusive services for a new season on four weeks’ notice. Basically this stopped anyone from doing any long-term work on major films with long schedules, stage plays which might lead to a lengthy run, or any other series work.
Their salaries were very little however Reeves took advantage of his celebrity by doing personal appearances. Reeves believed he was a role model and his affection for his young fans was genuine. The problem was that Reeves found himself so associated with Superman and Clark Kent that it was difficult for him to find other roles.
After two seasons though, Reeves was dissatisfied being only known as Superman and the low salary he was receiving. He was 40 years old and wished to quit and move on with his career. The producers actually started looking for a new star, allegedly contacting Kirk Alyn, the actor who had first portrayed Superman in the original movie serials and who had initially refused to play the role on television.
In 1957, the producers considered a theatrical film Superman and the Secret Planet. A script was commissioned from David Chantler, who had written many of the TV scripts. In 1959, however, negotiations began for a renewal of the series, with 26 episodes scheduled to go into production. (John Hamilton, who had played Perry White, died in 1958, so the former film-serial Perry White Pierre Watkin was to replace him.)
By mid-1959, contracts were signed, costumes refitted, and new teleplay writers assigned. Noel Neill was quoted as saying that the cast of Superman was ready to do a new series of the still-popular show. It never happened.
George Reeves died of a gunshot wound to his head in the upstairs bedroom at his home in between approximately 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. on June 16, 1959. There is still controversy to this day about the death of George Reeves. Many people dont believe he would ever commit suicide. Others feel that his failure to breakaway from being typecast as Superman depressed him too much. We may never know.
Well on the anniversary of his birthday, we want to say thank you George for all the enjoyment you gave us and making us believe that a man can fly. R.I.P