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The Mysterious Death of Actor George Reeves


On June 16, 1959 actor George Reeves, famous for the role of TV's Superman, was found dead in his Benedict Canyon home. Los Angeles Police deemed his death a suicide but many, to this day, are speculating foul play. If Reeves was murdered, his killer may have gotten away with it. Determination: Open Investigation

George Reeves - Superman Suicide or Murdered

"Actor George Reeves, 45, known to children the world over as television’s Superman, killed himself with a bullet through the head early yesterday in his Benedict Canyon home." This according to a June 17, 1959 article by the Los Angeles Times which said the motive for his alleged suicide "was not completely clear."

The LA Times said, "An element of mystery was injected by his fiancée, Miss Lenore Lemmon, 35, an actress from New York, who said they were to be married Friday in Tijuana." Miss Lemmon was entertaining some visitors some time after midnight when Reeves came downstairs to complain about the noise and then returned upstairs to the bedroom. The article said, "Seconds before the fatal shot was heard, Miss Lemmon inexplicably predicted to visitors that Reeves was going to kill himself."

The reasons for suicide are disputed by many.

Depression and The Adventures of Superman cancellation:

According to a video interview on the David Letterman program actor Jack Larson who played Jimmy Olsen believed Reeves suffered from depression over being type casted. The Adventures of Superman was cancelled in 1959, but production for 26 more programs were in the planning when the show's sponsor, Kellogg's, renewed their contract. Larson believed Reeves killed himself.

The iRumorMill crew found video posted on YouTube:

Reeves Early Life and Film Career:

According to the book, "George Reeves" by Liudmyla Der, the Superman actor was born George Keefer Brewer in Iowa in 1914. After his father left the family, his mother moved them to Pasadena, a suburb of Los Angeles, Ca. His mother married Frank Bessolo, who would raise the infant George as his own son.  Der wrote, "In fact, the boy had no idea that Italian Bessolo wasn't his real father."

Reeves graduated from high school, sought out an acting career and married Ellanora Needles. They both studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. Shortly after that, Reeves landed a his first big part as Stuart Tarleton, one of the twins competing for the hand of Scarlett O'Hara in Warner Brothers' "Gone With the Wind." As part of the Warner Brothers contract, he had to dye his hair red and change his last name to Reeves.

Reeves got parts for Warner Brothers and eventually landed an acting role on the Hopalong Cassidy series.

In those days working actors did not earn very much and a bad investment deal led to the break up of his first marriage. Der wrote, "Needles left him for a richer fella who swept her off her feet."

Reeves' Love Life May Have Led To His Demise:

In a financial crisis and newly single, Reeves met Toni Lanier (aka: Toni Mannix), a former show girl. Lanier was married to MGM General Manager Eddie Mannix, but she wanted a "romantic plaything," which Reeves was up for the part. According to Der's book, Eddie Mannix "was actually aware of his wife's affair with Reeves, and in fact condoned it."  Der wrote that Mannix was a "fixer" who "made the bad things go away when stars got into trouble." This sort of task could employ some "unsavory characters," which could imply a mob connection.

In 1951 Reeves landed the part of Clark Kent/Superman in the film "Superman and the Mole Men. This eventually led to the television program "The Adventures of Superman." Because of his new celebrity status as a role model for kids, Reeves kept his vices as well as his relationship with the married Toni Lanier out of the public's eye. Eventually he would break up with her in 1958.

Almost immediately after the break up Reeves proposed to socialite Leonore Lemmon. All was not happily ever after as there were a number of incidents that forced Reeve to file a restraining order against Lanier. Reeves' dog was kidnapped, and the brake lines on his car were cut, which resulted in an accident that put Reeves in the hospital.

If George Reeves did not shoot himself, who did? There are three possible suspects:

Leonore Lemmon's motive would have been jealousy over Toni Lanier multiple harassing attempts to win back Reeves. She possibly feared that Reeves was going to break off the marriage and knew where Reeves kept the 9mm Luger.

Eddie Mannix knew about the affair that his wife, Toni Lanier, had with George. There are two possible motives for him to kill Reeves, jealousy or to punish him for making his wife miserable after the breakup. Mannix was a "fixer" in Hollywood, which meant he would clean up messes (such as actors publicly doing things that would reflect on the integrity of MGM) by any means possible.

Toni Lanier's motive was revenge for the breakup. Reeves suspected that she had harassed him with phone calls, kidnapped his dog and cut the brake lines to his automobile.

Der wrote that there was a startling revelation decades later. In 1999 Edward Lozzi, a publicist from Beverly Hills, told the EXTRA TV show "that he had witnessed a confession." Out of fear of eternal damnation, Toni Lanier, near the end of her life, told him that she had confessed to a priest "that she arranged for the Reeves' murder."

According to her IMDB profile, Lanier died on Feb. 2, 1983 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

The iRumorMill crew found video from a Court TV  Lozzi interview:  (Note Toni Lanier was married to Eddie Mannix. In the interview she was referred to as Toni Mannix.)

The iRumorMill will continue to investigate this unsolved murder and post findings here as they develop.


More on George Reeves

The Haunting of Reeve's Benedict Canyon Home:

The home in Benedict Canyon was purchased for George Reeves by Toni Lanier. Shortly after Reeve's death, the home was put up for sale. The house is located at 1579 Benedict Canyon Drive in the Beverly Hills area and residents of the old Reeves home have reported sightings of the late actor in his Superman costume, voices and sound of a gunshot.

The iRumorMill crew is looking forward to organizing a paranormal investigation and will post findings here when they develop.


The Superman Curse:

Speculation of a curse leading to the untimely deaths of actors who played Superman since the 1960's. At that time the only untimely death of a Superman Actor was George Reeves.

Actor Christopher Reeve was 24 when he donned on the cape in 1978 and starred in four full length Superman feature films. These were big budget films with well known actors supporting him. Marlon Brando played his father and Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor. The first two films did very well at the box office. Superman III was panned by the critics. After the box office failure of Superman IV, Reeve was ready to hang up the cape.

By the late 1970's typecasting had become less of a problem for actors and Reeve got the role of Richard Collier in the love story Somewhere in Time. This film was not commercially successful but ten years later became a cult favorite as period films grew in popularity.

In 1985 Reeve took up horse riding and enjoyed competing in equestrian events. On May 27, 1995 the horse he was riding made a refusal which caused him to be propelled forward, over the horse's head. The actor landed in a way that shattered his first and second vertebrae. Reeve was paralyzed after that and relied on a respirator to breathe.

Reeve's heath continued to deteriorate after the On Oct. 9, 2004 Reeve went into cardiac arrest, fell into a coma and died the following day.

To date, this is only actor after George Reeves whose life was cut short.

Kirk Alyn played Superman in the movie serials in 1948.  According to his IMDB biography he died of natural causes in 1999 at the age of 89.

Dean Cain, Brandon Routh, Henry Cavill and Tyler Hoechlin have all acted as Superman and are still alive and well. Ben Affleck played George Reeves/Superman in movie Hollywoodland and has also portrayed Batman in two films.

The iRumormill has found no evidence of a Superman curse.



Posted 02/23/2022   Updated 02/25/2022

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