George Reeves was born George Keefer Brewer in Woolstock, Iowa, to Helen Roberta (Lescher) and Donald C. Brewer. He was of German, English, and Scottish descent. Following his parents’ divorce and his mother’s remarriage to Frank J. Bessolo, Reeves was raised in Pasadena, California, and educated at Pasadena Junior College. He was a skilled amateur boxer and musician. He interned as an actor at the famed Pasadena Playhouse, performed in dozens of plays, and was discovered there by casting director Maxwell Arnow. He was cast as Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind (1939). While shooting the film, he appeared in another play at the Pasadena Playhouse and was seen there and signed by Warner Bros. studios. Over the next ten years he was contracted to Warners, Fox and Paramount. He achieved near-stardom as the male lead in So Proudly We Hail! (1943), but war service interrupted his career, and after he returned it never regained the same level. While in the Army Air Corps he appeared on Broadway in “Winged Victory”, then made training films. Career difficulties after the war led him to move to New York for live television. It was television where he achieved the kind of fame that had eluded him in films, as he was cast in the lead of the now-iconic Adventures of Superman (1952). He got a few film roles in the early 1950s, but he was mostly typecast as Superman, and other acting jobs soon dried up. His career had slid to the point where he was considering an attempt at exhibition wrestling when he committed suicide by shooting himself. Controversy still surrounds his death, due mainly to the fact of his longtime affair with Toni Lanier (aka Toni Mannix), the wife of MGM executive E.J. Mannix. Many of Reeves’ friends and colleagues didn’t believe that he had committed suicide but that his death was related to the Mannix situation. However, no credible evidence has ever been produced to support that contention.
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