TAC Table of Contents
Father's Day: Frank Joseph
Step-Father of George Reeves
Researched and Compiled by Serena Enger
©June 17, 2007, revised September 28, 2008
Frank Bessolo and a young George
Friends and Fans of George Reeves,
Following the publication of this article on Father's Day, 2007, Jim, Lou and I were contacted by Gail Carter, the granddaughter of Frank Bessolo's second wife, Althea Alice Weaver Bessolo. Ms. Carter has graciously shared family photos and documents, along with additional information about Mr. Bessolo following his divorce from Helen Bessolo. She also watched the Adventures of Superman as a child in the 1950s. We thank her for her willingness to share private family history with those interested in the life of George Reeves. The following information is a revision of the 2007 article. Ms. Carter, having been born following Mr. Bessolo's death in 1944, did not know him or George Reeves, but was raised by his wife, and is able to offer some information, although we still do not have a first person account of Mr. Bessolo's relationship with his step-son, George Bessolo Reeves. What we do have is a fuller portrait of Mr. Bessolo's life during the 1930s and 1940s.
The iconic portrayal of Clark Kent and Superman, along with his friends, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Inspector Henderson, seemed like an adopted second family for many of us. Perhaps the staying power of the 1951-1957 Superman series, unlike many television programs from the period, lies in the fact that we had an adventurous second family, and could project ourselves into anyone of these characters. They were good and kind people focused on doing right.
Many fans also like Reeves, the actor and man. He was a successful fundraiser for children's medical charities and for Rancho San Antonio, the Boys Town of the West, as well as visited children in hospitals. He served as a friendly uncle to many children and financially helped numerous friends and colleagues. His friendly and generous character, his athleticism, along with his keen intelligence and humor, interest in classical music, Spanish culture, and literature, and handsome, sunny countenance, make him an appealing "star" to several generations of admirers.
On this Father's Day, Lou Koza, Jim Nolt and I felt it was appropriate to honor Reeves by telling the truth about his step-father, Frank Bessolo. Years of confusing stories have suggested that Bessolo had committed suicide and that Reeves had not had a relationship with Bessolo for many years. This is not the case. I can only provide some facts, not interviews, or a psychological portrait. I will leave a nuanced portrait of their relationship in the good hands of Jim Beaver.
From 1919-1944, Frank Bessolo was the step-father of the actor, George Reeves. He was a descendent of an early Southern California pioneer Italian-American family. He worked in the banking profession until the stock market crash, and then became a salesman for Bohemian Distributing and LA Brewing. Around 1939, he owned a liquor store, North End Liquor, in Manhattan Beach. Friends of Reeves have reported that Reeves and Bessolo enjoyed a strong father-son relationship. Reeves would have been about age four when he met Bessolo and according to the A&E Biography episode on Reeves, was formally adopted in 1927. He was not deprived of a father for the majority of his childhood or early adult years.
They appear to have shared a love for good food and liquor, were both good cooks, had a zest for life and dressing, a soft spot for dogs, and a quiet, but lively personality. Lou reports that Reeves once told Walter Reed that for many years, he thought he had been an Italian-American, until he discovered he was Scots-Irish and that his father was actually his adopted father.
Published accounts of the Bessolos' divorce have dealt in speculation. It seems possible that Mr. Bessolo may have lost his job at a bank, after the stock market crash. While I find much of Hollywood Kryptonite questionable, it does offer a sensible psychological portrait of Helen's possessive relationship with Reeves, as well as a few good characterizations of other people in Reeves's life, notably Lenore Lemmon. After the Bessolos divorced in 1932, Reeves continued to visit his father. Hollywood Kryptonite claims that Reeves did not see his father again. Possibly for a short time, Helen Bessolo may have prevented Reeves from visiting his father, who lived on South Oxford Street, in Los Angeles, only a few miles from his brother. Reeves's friends, Nati Vacio and Fred Crane, reported to Jan Alan Henderson, that they visited Mr. Bessolo in Manhattan Beach, where he lived from 1938-1944.
It had been rumored that Mr. Bessolo had committed suicide. The following timeline also provides commentary on Helen Bessolo's lifelong attempt to depict Reeves as having been Frank Bessolo's natural father, and having been born in California on April 6, 1914.
As reported on the Wikipedia entry for George Reeves, Catherine Chase, the daughter of Helen Bessolo's sister, Olive, reported to Reeves's biographer, Jim Beaver, that Helen Bessolo told her eighteen-year-old son that his father had committed suicide in 1932. He possibly did not know that Mr. Bessolo was still alive for several years or that his father was actually his step-father. Jim Beaver in a Google list-serv post dated June 19, 2005, also stated that Reeves attempted suicide for the first time after learning of his father's alleged death. He says that Reeves had been away visiting family in the East, while his parents had gotten a divorce. Beaver states that Reeves had "adored his stepfather." It seems easy to see why Reeves had thought his stepfather was his natural father: they share a certain resemblance and certainly from all reports, shared some finer aspects of personality. Frank probably served as a respite from Helen's overbearing personality, as everyone who has been interviewed has characterized her.
Hollywood Kryptonite reports on page 20 that Helen Bessolo told Reeves of the existence of his natural father, sometime in his youth, and that his father had "committed suicide by shooting himself in the head." Obviously, there are several conflicting accounts involving both fathers. It is possible that Helen found it convenient to "eliminate" both her husbands to save her social standing and draw Reeves closer to her. In any case, Frank Bessolo must have been despondent at the loss of his banking career and his loss in the divorce settlement. Interestingly, either due to the recorder or Helen Bessolo's reporting, she is listed as a widow of Frank Bessolo in some of the entries for the Pasadena City Directories from the 1930s through the early 1950s.
(Editor's note: Authors have long confused readers with the accounts of suicide by either Don Brewer and/or Frank Bessolo. For a thorough listing of these sources, click here.)
Mr. Bessolo had, in fact, remarried to a woman named Althea Alice Weaver, who went by the first name of Alice, on June 22, 1935 in San Francisco. According to Fred Crane and various public documents, he owned a liquor store in Manhattan Beach. The County of Los Angeles death certificate states that Mr. Bessolo's doctor had treated him for hypertension between February 23 and the day of his death, March 4, 1944. Mr. Bessolo died from a brain embolism, with multiple embolisms in his brain stem, possibly originating from a coronary embolism. He died in the ambulance, on route to the hospital at 9:45 p.m. on March 4, 1944. He was 51 and just shy of his 52nd birthday.
He is listed as a merchant at a retail liquor store. He lived at 113 29th Street, Manhattan Beach, California. He was married to Alice A. Bessolo, age 39.
Mr. Bessolo was buried on March 7, 1944 at Holy Cross Cemetery. According to the Los Angeles Times, he received full Catholic death rites - Mass, rosary, and burial. This would also validate in addition to the death certificate that he did not commit suicide. For much of the twentieth century, Catholic doctrine denied Catholic death rites to people who took their own life. Ms. Carter also states that Mrs. Bessolo's teenaged sons from her first marriage who lived with Mr. Bessolo were saddened by his sudden death, considered him a supportive step-father, and at the time of the death, did not realize he was experiencing an embolism. They thought he had been dozing in the living room.
The local paper, possibly the Hermosa Beach Review's Bowling Along column, dated March 7, 1944, observed his passing by indicating the respect he had among his community. He apparently sponsored the "North End Liquor" team and various bowling teams, as well as being a respected bowler. "Frank will be greatly missed as he was without a doubt, one of the few men in this troubled world who call all that knew him 'friend.'" For George Reeves's fans, this sounds like a description of Reeves, also known for his generosity of funds, spirit, and camaraderie.
Mr. Bessolo must have been pleased to see the success of his son: married to a talented and beautiful actress; an attentive adult son; the respect of Gilmor Brown, a noted drama producer, and a job as a secretary to Brown; a credited role in the most popular film of Hollywood's Golden Age, Gone with the Wind; sharing Rita Hayworth's first Technicolor moment in Blood and Sand; and lead and supporting roles with Jimmy Cagney and Merle Oberon; the romantic lead in So Proudly We Hail!, and Broadway roles in Winged Victory and Yellow Jack.
The following is a timeline with commentary and citations.
Frank Joseph Bessolo
Born April 30, 1892, Los Angeles, California
Father: Ferdinando Bessolo,
born about 1854.
Proprietor of Hotel Roma,
611 North Alameda, Los Angeles, California, in 1888.
Mother: Domenica Maga
Married to Ferdinando by the time of the 1920 Census.
Sister: Lorina. Possibly changed her name to Louise Marie by the time of the 1920 Census.
Brother: John Joseph
Wife: Joan Toole
Daughter: Barbara R.
Bessolo, born about 1925
Son: John Joseph Bessolo,
born January 29, 1930, Los Angeles.
1910 United States Federal
Census, Los Angeles Assembly District 74, Los
Frank Bessolo listed as 18,
Ferdinando Bessolo's occupation is listed as a wine merchant. He is a widower.
World War I Draft
Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry.com database.
According to documents shared by Mrs. Bessolo's relative, Mr. Bessolo received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. He served as a Sergeant in the 819th Aero Squadron, Air Service (A) and was appointed Sergeant on April 9, 1918.
Frank Bessolo's occupation is listed as a "Bookkeeper 28" at the U.S. National Bank at 2nd and Spring, Los Angeles, California. He is listed as age 25, single, and with brown hair and eyes. He resided at 1405 Arlington Road, Los Angeles, California. He signed the card on June 5, 1917.
World War I Draft
Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry.com database.
John Joseph Bessolo's occupation is listed as a "Foreign Exchange Teller" at the International Savings and Exchange Bank at Temple and Spring Streets, Los Angeles, California. He is listed as age 26, single, and with dark hair and brown eyes. He resides at 1405 Arlington Road, Los Angeles, California. He signed the card on June 5, 1917. He was born on December 21, 1890.
1920 United States Federal
Census, Los Angeles Assembly District 63, Los Angeles,
Ferdinando Bessolo listed as head of household, age 65. Owns Home. Retired. Immigrated in 1880 and granted citizenship in 1885. Married to Lorenza, age 58, no occupation, immigrated in 1904 from Italy and granted citizenship in 1911. Other household members include son, John Joseph Bessolo, age 29, bank teller; daughter, Louise Marie Bessolo, age 26, private nurse; housekeeper Ida Bertolotti, age 30, and lodger, Lorenza Bertolotti, age 5 and seven months.
1917-1919 Pasadena City Directory: no Bessolo, Lescher, or McKenzie listed.
1919-1920. Frank Bessolo marries Helen Lescher in California.
1920 United States Federal
Census, Pasadena, Los Angeles, California. Roll:
Frank J. Bessolo, head of household, age 28. His occupation is listed as a bank auditor. Married to Helen L. Bessolo. Rents home. George K. Bessolo is listed as son, age 5, born in California. His father is listed as having been born California and his mother in Illinois. Lillie Myers is listed as housekeeper, age 33.
Note: George Bessolo would have been age 6 on the date of the Census, January 8, 1920. His mother, who conceived George out of wedlock, reported his birth as April 6, 1914, rather than his real birthdate of January 5, 1914 in Woolstock, Iowa, on many public records, including his death certificate and Social Security Death Index, with the exception of his birth certificate and the Iowa State Census of 1915. According to A&E Biography, Frank Bessolo did not formally adopt George until 1927. This is the only known instance of George's middle name, Keefer, being used after his birth records and Iowa State Census for 1915, on a public document. Mr. and Mrs. Bessolo appear to have agreed to lie about George's birth history to protect Mrs. Bessolo's propriety. The 1920 Census would suggest that that George was born to Frank Bessolo, in California, on April 6, 1914.
1920-1921 and 1921-1922
Pasadena City Directory
On page 21, Hollywood Kryptonite erroneously states that Helen was married to Frank for eight years, and then divorced him. They were, in fact, married for 13-14 years, from 1918/1919 to July 2, 1932. Kashner and Schoenberger also state that Helen moved away from Pasadena, moved back, and then bought the house at 1447 N. Michigan Avenue. Census records and the Pasadena city directories show that they lived in the house as a family from 1919-1932, first as renters, then as owners. At the time of the divorce, Reeves would have been eighteen, hardly abandoned by a Father, with whom they claim he had a close relationship. The house, as we will see, was a contentious issue at the time of their marriage and became part of lawsuit filed by Frank Bessolo following their 1932 divorce.
Family photographs of infant, George Brewer. Henderson, Jan Alan. Speeding Bullet: The Life and Bizarre Death of George Reeves, 2nd edition.
On page 9, Henderson shows two photos of Reeves as an infant, that Jim Nolt received from Betty Weissman, the widow of Art Weissman, Reeves's business manager in the 1950s. On page 8, Nolt says that on the back of a photo, "Helen has written 'George at 18 months in our Pasadena home.'" On page 9, Henderson's caption reads, "Sixteen-month-old George with his nanny in the back yard of their Pasadena home." While Henderson may be referring to the same photo of 18 months-old Reeves, the handwritten text is telling. Helen Bessolo extended her cover-up to her family photos. We know that Helen and George were not living in California until at least 1916, if not later.
1927. Frank Bessolo
formally adopts George Keefer Brewer, age 13.
October, 1929. Stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.
1930 United States Federal Census, Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California. April 10, 1930. Ancestry.com database.
Frank J. Bessolo, head, age 37. His occupation is listed as a cashier, brokerage house. Married to Helen L. Bessolo, age 34. Owns home, valued at $18,000. George L. Bessolo is listed as son, age 15, born in California.
Note: Reeves would have been 16 on the date of the Census. The 1930 Census states that Frank was 21 at the time of his first marriage (1913) and Helen was 17 at the time of her first marriage. Helen would have been about 17 at the time of her marriage to Don Brewer in August, 1913. George L. Bessolo is listed as having been born in California. This could be interpreted with several scenarios:
a) Frank and Helen are complicit in
characterizing George as the natural son of Frank. Frank would
have been married to Helen one year before George's 1914
1930 United States Federal
Census, Pasadena, Los Angeles, California. Roll: 140.
John J. Bessolo, Head, age 39. Secretary of Italian Wine. Irene L. Bessolo, wife, age 37. Born in Iowa to Irish-born Father and Kansas-born Mother. Children: Joan E. Bessolo, age 8; Barbara R. Bessolo, age 5; John Joseph Bessolo 2 ½. Elizabeth J. Toole, age 71, "mother-in-law;" and Selma Davis, age 21, "servant."
Between 1930 and 1935, Frank Bessolo held various jobs. Ms. Carter has shared these certificates and tags indicating his employment during the height of the Great Depression. He appears to have been a railroad agent for Yreka Railroad for a short period of time. She believes he either met Alice Weaver in San Francisco where she was living in the early 1930s or in Yreka where she had previously lived. However, he appears to have also worked for a shipping concern, possibly as a chef.
The earliest piece of identification is a Service Record, #86560 from the Marine Service Bureau. It indicates that he was still living with his family in Pasadena, and was employed as a telephone operator for the City of Los Angeles. According to Ms. Carter, the "log indicates that he was referred to the position in Wilmington, California on October 6, 1931." The I.D. was issued on January 26, 1932. However, in comparing the various certificates, he appears to have worked on board ships since 1931. Possibly, he held multiple jobs.
He held a Seaman's Protection Certificate, #3706, dated August 19, 1932, a crew identification card, #3007, issued on October 1931, and had two certificates of discharge from trips on the S.S. Monterey and S.S. City of Los Angeles to the Hawaiian islands in 1931 and 1932.
It appears that he may have taken up the role as railroad agent for Yreka Railroad Company in 1932.
July 2, 1932. Frank and Helen Bessolo get divorced.
1932-1933 Pasadena City
1933-1934 Los Angeles City Directory
Bessolo Lorenza (with
Ferdinando) h1405 Arlington av (Frank's stepmother)
Note: Founded by Secundo Guasti, the Italian Vineyard Company was one of the largest and earliest wineries in California. John Bessolo held this prominent job during the Depression and until at least the mid-1940s.
Library of Congress photos:
"Grape Workers at Guasti, California" working for Italian Vineyard Company. Secundo Guasti founded a town with his name, modeled after Italian agricultural towns. He had hoped to make immigrants feel more at home, rather than having to commute to work, with a strong Italian community.
In the original 2007 article, I speculated that Mr. Bessolo may have worked as a railroad agent for Italian Vineyard for a brief time following the stock market crash of 1929. I would speculate that he lost his job at Citizens Savings Bank due to the crash and then found work through family connections.
While his share of the family's Italian Vineyard stock became the source of a divorce lawsuit, according to Ms. Carter, Mr. Bessolo held several jobs in the early 1930s.
The larger Bessolo family was among the earliest pioneers in southern California. Frank's stepmother and other relatives were socially prominent as well as active in the Catholic Church in the Los Angeles community according to several citations in the Los Angeles Times's social pages during the 1920s and 1930s. One cousin was an architect. The 1935 Superior Court case reported in the Times that Frank contended that the stock belonged to him, and that he gave it to his wife for safekeeping in 1930 while he was frequently away on business as a "railway man."
May 6, 1935. Frank Bessolo sues Helen Lescher Bessolo. The
case went before
From Ms. Carter, we received a couple of interesting additional newspaper articles concerning the lawsuit. The articles were clipped by Frank and Alice and do not indicate from which newspaper they were taken, although they are possibly from the Hermosa Beach Review and the Daily Breeze. We also now have two photos of Helen Bessolo at age 42, if the photos were taken in 1935.
While we do not have a full account of what actually transpired between Helen and Frank involving the purchase of their home at 1447 North Michigan Avenue, in Pasadena, it appears that Frank was pressured into buying the house around 1920-1921 with collateral from his stock in the Italian Vineyard Company, although the stock appears to be part of a future inheritance from his Father, upon his death. The 1930 Federal Census states that the house was worth $18,000, a considerable sum for Depression period America. It would have been a significant sum for middle class families even in the 1960s. Possibly, Helen wanted to achieve a place in Pasadena society and a home to indicate her position. However, $87,500 is more than enough to cover the cost of the house. There must have been other financial considerations for both Frank and Helen, if Frank had asked for a loan in the 1920s or had asked her to safeguard the money in her name in the early 1930s. He assigned her the money on August 12, 1930, according to a Los Angeles Times article dated, May 7, 1935. In that article, Helen claimed that she loaned him about $30,000 and felt that since she gave up alimony claims at the time of the divorce, that the $87,500 was due to her. It also indicates that she "won the divorce." The court did decide in Helen's favor.
Interestingly the other article, Rail Man Battles Divorced Wife for $87,500, indicates that he is a rail man. The certificates, while not conclusive evidence, seem to suggest he was frequently traveling, but why he should assign her the stocks and not in both their names, remains unclear.
June 22, 1935: Frank Bessolo marries Aletha Alice Howard Weaver.
Aletha Bessolo was born in Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon, on March 22, 1904 to George Washington Howard and Clara Ward Howard. She attended Siskiyou Union High School in Yreka, California. Alice was a secretary and at one time worked in the prosecutor's office. She also worked for a utility company. She married Lawrence Mervin (Merv) Weaver in early 1925 and had two sons. She received training as a beautician in San Francisco. She divorced Weaver in early 1935. According to her relative, Ms. Carter, she may have met Frank Bessolo "sometime in 1934 or before. I believe she said she met him in Yreka because he worked the railroad and came through. However, she could have met him in San Francisco. She graduated from the Don Lux Academy of Cosmetology on April 1, 1935. She married Frank in San Francisco, on June 22, 1935, according to her handwritten note on the back of George Reeves' photo. Frank was 12 years older."
She mentioned that the actor, Frank Jenks, would visit Frank's North End Liquor Store in Manhattan Beach in the 1940s. She was surprised to learn that Frank Jenks is legendary among the ranks of devoted fans of Season One of The Adventures of Superman for his role as Candy, the detective, in the episode, The Stolen Costume. I explained that it could possibly stand as the most often discussed episode for the ethical dilemmas facing Clark Kent and his secret identity, and that it has most likely inspired many comic book writers.
Frank and Alice Bessolo with unknown person
One can only speculate whether Reeves knew Jenks frequented his step-father's store. Jenks also appeared in Christmas in Connecticut with Robert Shayne.
She also indicated that two close friends of Frank and Alice's were Edgar and Louis Mailloux. Edgar was a maitre d' at an unknown highly respected restaurant in the Los Angeles area.
Ms. Carter states that based on discussions with Alice Bessolo, she does not recall whether she knew George Reeves or the nature of his relationship with Frank Bessolo. She states that, "my recollections are that she liked Lorenza, Frank's stepmother. She had extreme dislike for Helen because she deceived Frank and took his money. Alice must have stayed in touch with Frank's sister, Katie Delmenico, as she had the remembrance card from her funeral."
She reports that, "I believe that she had a happy, stable marriage with Frank. She always spoke fondly of him," as did her relatives, Alice's sons. Alice remarried in 1945. She lived until 1998.
She has no letters of documents between Frank and George. She did share jpeg photos of an eighteen page booklet on Gone with the Wind, published by Ellison B. Greenstone in New York, in which Alice indicated that George was Frank's step-son and that he appeared as Stuart, rather than Brent Tarleton. They are not signed by Reeves. The relative also owns a soft-cover reprint of GWTW, published in 1939 in which the roles of Brent and Stuart Tarleton have been reversed. Again, Alice circled George's name and remarked that he was Frank's step-son.
She also owns a 1931 photo of George Bessolo, with a handwritten note from Alice indicating that he was Frank's step-son. Additionally, Frank's will specifically state that George would not receive any inheritance. His inheritance went solely to his wife, Alice Bessolo, who was raising two teenage sons.
Frank Bessolo's Will
One can only speculate that the outcome of the lawsuit involving Mr. Bessolo's stock in the Italian Vineyard Company in Helen Bessolo's favor, would have benefitted Reeves indirectly. Perhaps Mr. Bessolo felt that Reeves had a successful career, and that he would eventually inherit his mother's house and stocks. This is only speculation on my part.
At this time, we cannot verify whether Mr. Bessolo attended the marriage ceremony of Reeves to Ellanora Needles in September, 1940. We did receive a wonderful new marriage announcement photo, now one of three, known to Jim Nolt, Lou Koza, and me.
1936 Los Angeles City
1936 Los Angeles City
Bohemian Distributing Co. J S Foto Pres. Antone Trapani (San Diego) V-Pres, V J Trapani V-Pres, Frank Vitale Sec, A J Foto Treas, Clive W Johnson Asst Sec. Acme Beer, Acme Malt Syrup, Royal Crest, Cordials and Brandies, Royal Taste Cocktails, Wines and Whiskies, Silver Knight Gin, Golden Oak and Old Master Piece Whiskies. Bohemian Banquet and Ramona Wines, Also Complete Line of Imported Wines and Liquors and All Carbonated Beverages. 2060 E 49th. Tel Kimball 1181
1936-37 Pasadena City
Note: Helen Bessolo began listing herself as a widow and continued to do so through the early 1950s for the Pasadena City Directory, even though she briefly remarried in 1938. In fact, Frank Bessolo would remarry a woman named Alice, who was eleven years his junior, on June 22, 1935. However, Mrs. Alice Bessolo is not listed in Los Angeles City Directories for several years following their 1935 marriage.
One June 16, 1938 in Bay County, Panama City, Florida, Helen remarried a stock broker, Harvey Maurice Overgaard, who had been living with the Bessolos since at least 1935. He had previously been convicted for swindling individuals during the 1920s as part of a stock broker ring in San Bernardino County. In 1935, from the Bessolo home, he was even arrested and charged with eight counts of violating the Corporate Securities Act for filing a false stock broker application for a license and selling securities. They apparently divorced between 1940-1941. For a fuller account of her marriage and Overgaard's history, see my article, Helen Bessolo's Third Marriage.
Shortly after their marriage, according to an unknown newspaper article, dated July 18, 1938, the young George Bessolo broke his ankle while fencing after a performance as Hector Hushabye in the Pasadena Playhouse's production of Heartbreak House, by George Bernard Shaw. He continued to "trod the boards" on crutches. Frank and/ or Alice saved this article.
1937 Los Angeles City
1937 Pasadena City
Note: The Pasadena City Directories do not list Reeves living with his mother from 1937-1940. There were no listings for a "George Reeves," either.
1938 Los Angeles City
1939 Los Angeles City
1940 Frank Bessolo rewrites
his will and consciously excludes George Bessolo.
1940-1941 Pasadena City
1940-1941 Pasadena City
1941-1942 Pasadena City
March 4, 1944. Death of Frank J. Bessolo
The obituary may have been clipped from the Daily Breeze, a local paper for Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. Mr. Bessolo, who had been treated for hypertension by his doctor since February, 23, 1944, died of multiple brain embolisms in his brain stem with the possibility of a coronary embolism. No autopsy was conducted. He died in an ambulance on route to the hospital at 9:45 p.m. He was 51.
The County of Los Angeles Death Certificate, filed on April 14, 1944, and dated March 4, 1944, states the following:
Occupation: Merchant of
Retail Liquor Store.
Burial: March 7, 1944 at Holy Cross Cemetery, Manhattan Beach.
Note: Henderson's Speeding Bullet (page 13) states Fred Crane as having visited Mr. Bessolo with Reeves in Manhattan Beach where, according to Crane, Mr. Bessolo "owned a liquor store."
March 6, 1944. "Obituary 1 - No Title." Los Angeles Times Vital Record. March 6, 1944, pg. A9.
"Bessolo, Frank J.
aged 51 years of Manhattan Beach, beloved husband of Alice
Bessolo. Rosary will be recited at the Glade L. White Memorial
Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Manhattan Beach, Monday at 8 a.m.
Mass Tuesday 9 a.m. Church of the
November 20, 1943 - Mary
20, 1944. George Reeves appears as Lieutenant
April 7, 1944. George
Reeves appears as Dr. James Carroll in the revival of Yellow
1947-1948 Pasadena City
1950 Pasadena City
1951 Pasadena City
1956. John J. Bessolo,
step-uncle of George Reeves, dies on February 13, 1956 at the
Note: At that time of this article, there have been no published accounts, online, in print, or on film, concerning Reeves's relationship with the Bessolo family and whether he maintained a relationship with his uncle and his family. Nor are there reports of his relationship with his grandfather, Ferdinando Bessolo, and his second wife, Lorenza Bessolo, who lived at least through the 1940s. This timeline did not include information about other possible Bessolo cousins living in Los Angeles and active members of the greater Los Angeles community as reported in articles in the Los Angeles Times in the 1920s and 1930s.
Note on Research: Public records can have errors due to stenography and accuracy of the information given by the reporting individual(s).
Special thanks to Gail Carter, the granddaughter of Alice Weaver Bessolo, for generously sharing family photographs, documents and family history.
Email correspondence and JPEGs of photos, family documents, and newspaper clippings shared by Gail Carter, August, 2008; A&E Biography (television) episode: George Reeves: The Perils of a Superhero (2000); The Adventures Continue website (jimnolt.com); Ancestry.com database; United States Federal Census Records; Pasadena and Los Angeles city directories; County of Los Angeles Informational Death Certificate for Frank J. Bessolo; Jan Alan Henderson's Speeding Bullet: The Life and Bizarre Death of George Reeves, 2nd edition (Michael Bifulco, 2007); Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger's Hollywood Kryptonite (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996); Imdb.com entry on George Reeves; Library of Congress digital photo archives; Los Angeles Public Library digital photo archives; Los Angeles Times online archives; personal correspondence; Wikipedia entry on Reeves (last accessed September 14, 2008).
Special thanks to Lou Koza and Jim Nolt for their encouragement, as well as my respect for their non-sensational approach to researching and honoring the life of George Reeves.
George Keefer Lescher Brewer Bessolo - Age 17
All images denoted with "(c) Gail Carter" are from the Alice Bessolo Family Album and cannot be used in any other publication or website without written approval from Gail Carter and The Adventures Continue. The images from Gone With the Wind are copyrighted by Warner Brothers. The publication of these images is not a challenge to the rights held by the afore-mentioned company. The information gathered herein is for historical reasons and it is our purpose to educate the general public further regarding the life of Mr. George Reeves. - LK
In closing, Jim and I would like to once again thank Serena Enger for another incredible effort on her part to explore the relationship between Helen Lescher and Frank Bessolo. Never before has there been a more thorough research for the readership to comprehend regarding this subject. This article started out as a simple request on my part to Serena to research Frank Bessolo and if evidence existed that he committed suicide, as told as fact and for years to follow it would be regenerated as rumor many times over. While we were never offered anything else to believe it just didn't make much logical sense to me in all my years of reading about the life and death of George Reeves. It gives me tremendous satisfaction to realize Frank Bessolo did not put an end to his own life. You might be wondering why does this information hold value? And what bearing does this have on George's own tragic ending? George's death is often told in the form of three varied versions and the official ruling of suicide is often supported with numerous associations. But the first and foremost reason is to clear a misconception labeled against Frank Bessolo's name. If his name is to be entered into the George Reeves story, it should be told correctly. With that said, let's consider the theory of the alledged suicide of George Reeves. For many years it has been told Frank Bessolo's suicide had an ill effect on George. When Serena completed her findings for the original article, I was overwhelmed to know there is no foundation to support a correlation, either by a family lineage (trait) which George knew Frank wasn't his father or from the anquish coming from an influencial step-father he greatly admired. Now of course, it doesn't prove George didn't commit suicide, only that Frank's name cannot be used to support it. It's logically ruled out. If anyone (expert or novice on the subject) were to continue down the path of explaining Mr. Bessolo died by suicide and this had a copy-cat effect on George, they'd be making an incompatable statement to the truth. At the time Serena completed her essay, Father's Day was two weeks away. I thought; hmm, wouldn't it appropriate for George if we released this incredible news on this special day. Jim and Serena felt the same. In a way, it is our gift to George and Frank. THANK YOU Serena for going where no one has ever gone before. We could not have achieved this or learned the truth without you.
For a number of years I've had the pleasure to communicate with several relatives of George from both the Brewer and Bessolo families. The relatives have often provided interesting insight and confirmation to many unanswered questions regarding George's relationship with his family, most especially with his natural father and step-father. They've also extended their appreciation and encouragement for our efforts towards remembering George in a true and realistic fashion. Gail Carter, a relative from the Frank Bessolo side is no exception. Ms. Carter who upon doing her own family roots research was surprised to find our humble TAC website with much information of personal interest. In turn, Ms Carter contacted us and after a couple of e-mails we were in awe of her treasure trove of uniques articles and photos from her family scrapbook. Unfortunately, some information pertaining to the lawsuit between Helen and Frank isn't very pleasing. It is nonetheless extremely educational for those of us who are interested in learning about the dynamics of their relationship and its obvious effect on George's life, for better or worse, whatever that may be. A highlight is of course seeing George in a wedding day kiss and embrace with his bride Ellanora Needles. This appears to be a most happy moment for Mr. Reeves. An emotion I know we all wish for him forever. A very special thank you to Gail for sharing with TAC and its readership the many wonderful items from her family scrapbook.
ORIGINAL READER RESPONSES
BESSOLO FAMILY PHOTO GALLERY and FINDING HELEN
To the Readership....
Thanks for Watching.
Lou (October 14, 2008)
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"