George Reeves....Murder or Suicide

Keeping with the Hollywood theme for a bit.  This is a case that I have seen a lot about over the years and have heard the debates.  Even doing the research for this and learning or refreshing more I do not know which I believe happened.


The official report is that George Reeves (45), television's Superman, went upstairs to his room while his finance and some friends were downstairs on the morning of June 16, 1959 and retrieved a gun out of a drawer and shot himself while sitting on his bed. Speculation followed as to whether it really was suicide or if it was murder.  Much of that came from the actions of his fiance I believe.


If, in fact, George committed suicide it would not surprise me.  He had sort of a rough life.  His mother had claimed that he was born in April 1914 when he was actually born January 5, 1914.  He did not know the truth until he was an adult.  She had claimed this because his birth and his parents' marriage were less than the customary 9 month difference.  His parents separated when he was very young and his father had no more contact with him.  


His mother later married a man named Frank Bessolo.  He adopted George in 1927 but by all reports this must have been done secretly because he did not learn until many years later that Frank was not his real father.  When his mother and step-father divorced George was visiting relatives.  When he came back his mother told George that Frank had committed suicide.  This was one more revelation that he found out as an adult that was untrue... Frank was in fact alive.


George was married once, to Ellanora Needles for about ten years but much of that time was spent apart while he worked as an actor and also while he was in the military.  


The idea of being Superman surfaced about 1951.  George was not too happy about it because it was a time in which television actors were considered to be beneath other actors.  On top of this the contracts were for low pay but hindered his ability to pursue other avenues in his career.  George did not particularly like playing Superman as it severely type casted him but on the other side of it his face was very well known.  Just before his death however he signed a contract for more money and more episodes (he was paid weekly so more episodes meant more weeks) as well as he had tried his hand at directing the season before and was slated to direct several in the upcoming season.


Following his divorce from Ellanora, George began an affair with Toni Mannix that lasted several years and apparently was not very much of a secret at all.  Toni was married to Eddie Mannix who was general manager at MGM.  They split in 1958.  Some reports that the split was due to George wanting some independence, even in his career as it seems Toni controlled a lot of that.  Other reports say George felt like a 'kept man' and did not like it.  There has been a theory through the years that George was murdered by Eddie Mannix.  Some say he did it because of the affair (although that was pretty much publicly known and he never seemed to care) and others say it was because George had ended the affair and Toni was upset by it, it essence Eddie was defending his wife and her happiness.  There is no evidence that Eddie Mannix was involved in any way, but Eddie's own shady past, and future, would fuel the rumors.


Soon after the affair broke up George met Leonore Lemmon.  She was twice divorce from fairly successful men.  George committed suicide three days before they were to be married.  Depending on who you ask about Leonore depends on the answer you get.  The same goes to their relationship.  Some say she was pretty much a "gold digger" and a "party girl" and that George was not happy with her. After his death Leonore tried unsuccessfully to stake a claim to part of George's estate which also raised eyeballs, but of course by this time the death was ruled suicide.  Then again there are those that argue that the suicide ruling was made in haste.  Her actions did not stop those who believed she was only with him for his fame and money.  Leonore was especially upset when after his death she learned that George's will had not been updated since 1956 in which he left everything to Toni Mannix.


Earlier on the night of his death there were reports that he and Leonore was seen somewhere and were arguing.  Leonore claims that they were at a boxing match where one of George's friends had a bout but the friend claims he never saw George.  It seems she often down played or denied any reports of discord in their relationship by witnesses.  After they got home George went to bed.  Leonore was often heard criticizing George of his age and the fact that he did not like to party like she did.  Around midnight three of her (their) friends showed up at the house and began drinking with Leonore.


The following is based on the public story these people told.  Soon after the guests arrive George had gone downstairs angry that the noise of the party and of the music had woken him and was in a bad mood.  He ended up staying down stairs for an hour or so, having a few drinks before he went back upstairs.  He was once again, or still, irritated.  Leonore admitted to, and witnesses stated, that when he went upstairs she said, "Oh, he'll probably go shoot himself now."  Some reports say they stated they heard the dresser drawer, in which the gun was in, open but that has been proven to be impossible.  A few minutes later they all heard a gunshot from upstairs.


When the police showed they found George laying on his back, across the bed, naked and the gun in between his feet on the floor.  They determined that he had been sitting up when he was shot and had fallen back on the bed.   Over the years since there have been those who have tried to determine if the gun was in fact where it should have been had he committed suicide and the angle of the bullet wound.  There was also a lot of talk about gunshot residue not being on his hands (gun was determined supposedly to be too oily) or around the wound.


Open and shut right?  Well, maybe to police, but not to the public... and truth is maybe they had reason to believe differently.  For one, there was at least a 45 minute delay in the police being called.  There was no real reason determined for that as far as I could find.  Another thing is that according to the reports the four witnesses in the house were so highly intoxicated that night that the police had trouble getting the story from them.  Others report that at least one of the witnesses later told people that while the three guests were downstairs Leonore was upstairs when the gun shot went off.


In the end George's body was cremated.  I an only assume that either Toni Mannix or his mother, since she was still alive, made that decision.  


It is unlikely that it will ever be proven with clear certainty that George committed suicide or if he was murdered.  From investigators standpoint this is a closed case, but then again so is Kennedy's assassination.



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