TAC Table of Contents
Superm.......eh sorry, George Reeves passed away on June 16, 1959. Today, fifty years later TAC honors George with reflections from a small number of his fans. I want to thank Carl Glass, Alfred Walker, Ginny Moore, Colete Morelock, Delmo Walters, Milt Storey, Bruce Dettman, Thom Hamilton and Richard Potter for their time to reflect on George Reeves in their own personal way.
You'll note, for a moment there I almost wrote "Superman" rather than George Reeves. In doing so I would have broken my own golden rule of placing the Superman name ahead of George Reeves. As we've come to witness, the contemporary newspaper reporting on his death couldn't resist exploiting the Superman name. For all intents and purposes George Reeves is the prime focus of this web-site, whether it be good, bad or indifferent. What this means is, we at TAC present George to the readership with no intent to sugarcoat his life or misrepresent who he was or what he did in life, good or bad. In the big picture, we see George Reeves as a normal human being, for all his good, strengths, faults and weaknesses. It is the man we want to understand, more so than his combined persona with the iconic imaginary character created by Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster. But let's be frank, it's not a bad combination to think of George Reeves and Superman as one entity. Almost immediately a director named Tommy Carr knew he had his man when George first walked in the door.
TAC is never short to remember that Superman is one of many wonderful roles George Reeves performed as an actor. But let us not be mistaken, George Reeves in life and death has become synonymous with Superman. George's career, while filled with many great performances never became a house-hold name until he and Superman where brought together to entertain audiences. As Superman he shared a public image in the same manner as others like Boris Karloff did as the Frankenstein Monster, Bela Lugosi as Dracular, Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger, Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, and Fess Parker as Davy Crockett and soon after Daniel Boone. Fess Parker by the way was a good friend of George's. So close are their public perceptions, the image today is difficult to separate even when other competent modern day actors take on the respected roles. For example, can anyone consider Robert De Niro's (no introductions required) performance as the Frankenstein Monster memorable? Of course this is not to say modern day versions hold little value. For example, Anthony Hopkins along with Antonio Banderas brought solid performances as a retired Zorro handing the torch to a new generation in 1998's The Mask of Zorro, followed by 2005's The Legend of Zorro. Both are fun, charismatic and entertaining films. The contemporary public during the classic Hollywood times placed more recognition on the characters before the individual playing the role. It wasn't Johnny Weissmuller walking down the street or dining in a restaurant, it was Tarzan. George experienced the same illusion.
Let's face it; George never made it to the Hollywood star level of John Wayne, Victor Mature, William Holden, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck. How many actors can claim this distinction? But as Superman, he was much bigger. So were Roy Rogers and Buffalo Bob and his wooden sidekick, Howdy Doody. At least they were to the millions of children who were enjoying the thrills, spills and adventures of the imagination wherever and whenever they could. In George's case, parents did enjoy the Superman show along with their kids, but rarely if ever conceded to denote their admiration during social conversation. I suspect if you speak now to any parent of the baby-boomers generation you will learn the truth to the matter is George always had an adult audience.
To the Pop-Culture television public, the Adventures of Superman show is as endearing as I Love Lucy. The mere mention typically brings on smiles and praise. Memories of George plowing through walls, bending an object of steel were and still are impressive. His dynamic landings and take-offs also elevated the imagination of wonder. Flying also was a thrill to see, even if the wires holding George in place can be seen slightly in several if not all early episodes. Technical flaws, flubbed lines are just not important to many of the shows audience. Nor do they distract from the story in any way. In fact, to the most devoted fan these only add to the charm of the episodes. With all the imaginary powers beyond mortal men, what is most often admired about the 50's Superman show is how George made both Superman and Clark Kent come alive. Many believe his portrayal is not far from his own personality. I tend to agree. George brought out the best in himself with both characters. When Clark expressed compassion, it was indeed a genuine moment from George Reeves. And so, of those millions of weekly viewer's throughout the 50's and 60's that included the Emperor of Japan, a small fraction continues to this day. They make up the everlasting devoted community who continue with the interest and have been held together by non-mainstream market fanzines, displayable statues, songs, books, DVDs of both Superman shows and theatrical films of George Reeves and devoted web-sites. From time to time the mainstream media also kept information flowing in the form of newspaper and magazine articles, television segments, a silver screen movie and TV Superman episodes on VHSs and DVD's. These were aimed at the larger size general public.The difference is the contributors in the non-mainstream market know who a good majority of their audience is. The ties are much more personable and friendly.
How often have you heard friends and acquaintances and even TV and Radio talk show host ask why Lois and Jimmy didn't recognize Clark Kent and Superman as being the same person. After all, it's just a simple pair of glasses he wore to distinguish himself apart. They also wonder why Superman ducks when a crook throws his gun at him and also where did Superman keep his Clark Kent clothes. One actress who played the part of Lois Lane offers her reason for not placing the two identities together. Noel Neill explains lightheartedly, "I wanted to keep my job (LOL)." However, let's also not forget, it was her Lois that in many episodes had the intuition that Clark and Superman were one and the same. All things being equal, her hunches weren't wrong. She was just simply foiled time and time again by a guy with super powers. Remember the phone book sans the lead weight Clark tosses onto the lap of Lois in Semi-Private Eye? Regarding the avoidance of the thrown revolver, perhaps the scene was meant to show Superman's super-speed? Whatever The Mind Machine script called for, those with critical questions don't realize it was the stuntman who was filmed ducking from the weapon's trajectory and not George. The real question is; why was a stuntman needed? As for where Clark Kent's double-breasted suit was kept when Superman was saving the day, well, does this really need an answer?
In the past several years, George's theatrical film work has finally caught the attention of many fans. At various places on the Internet you will find writer reflections for films such as So Proudly We Hail!, Always A Bride, Jungle Goddess, Sainted Sisters to name a few. A book titled Beyond the Crimson Cape, The Cinema of George Reeves by Steve Randisi and Jan Henderson features story synopsis of all George's movies. Fans together are trading VHS and DVD's and announcements are shared on message boards for upcoming films broadcast from stations such as the Turner Movie Classics. Interesting to observe is George worked with popular stars such as Rita Hayworth, Lionel Barrymore, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney, Burt Lancaster, Pat O'Brien, Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, Ginger Rogers, William Holden, Raymond Burr, and much more.
Overall, George's portrayal of Superman remains the strongest influence for fans. Millions of 50's and 60's kids grew up with the frenzy of Action Comics and Superman comic books and combined for television, George and Superman went together like a peanut butter and jelly - Wonder Bread sandwich. Perfect in every way. George's inspiration on his fans comes in many creative fashions. One talented individual actually took the time, 3 years to be exact to create a fully illustrated version of an unreleased 50's Superman movie script. Another individual with fond memories parallel's his childhood in "Wonder Years" like fashion with the episodes of Adventures of Superman. There is even a George Reeves Hall of Fame to recognize those individuals who bring out the very best in the spirit of George Reeves. By the time you read this a new and much long overdue entry will be included.
Indeed George's death is tragic and most sad to many of us fans is the loss of not seeing him continue as a person and fulfill his own life-long dreams. We have to wonder what he could have brought to the film world had his life continued instead of coming to a tragic halt. Putting aside from his personal struggles, George was full of life and he left us the benefactors of his screen work. If you were fortunate enough to meet him, he was your friend. I know a good many still today rarely go a day without thinking of him and all the good he brought not only to the screen world, but to the lives of people whether it be on a personal knowing level or from a distant. He was "Honest George, The People's Friend" and he touched many lives.
While we live today to honor his memory, there are those George visited in hospitals whose lives were sadly succumb to a disease. George visited many hospitalized children knowing they had little time to live. It was his thought to take their minds elsewhere and away from their illness. If he could bring smiles to their faces for just one day, one hour or minute it was worth everything to him. He would encourage these youngsters to be brave and listen to their nurses and doctors. Visiting hospitals was not uncommon for actors or sports figures. At times it would appear to be photo opportunities for the promoted celebrity of the month. George often went unannounced and on his own time. For him, it was all about the children. Below is a rare image I've longed saved for another project to make this point. For now, the place and time is unknown. However, I think it's best to now profile the image here in George's memory and the children he unselfishly showed care and concern for.
No, he really couldn't bend steel with his bare hands or change
the course of mighty rivers. But he could make a child feel safe,
comfortable and special. If that wasn't saving the day, then
I don't know anything else that could.
Lou - June 16, 2009
From Carl Glass - Glass House Presents. Whether you take 'Rod Stewart's' old song title track 'Every Picture Tells a Story,' or the old saying, 'A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,' it still rings true today. Randy Garrett so masterfully on canvas expressed the theme, heart and affection a little boy had for any super hero ever portrayed. The demise of George Reeves was hidden from me by a loving grandfather until the fall of '59 in an encounter on the playground wanting to role play 'Superman.' I was informed he wasn't around anymore. That tells you how real George Reeves made 'Superman' on a generation of 'baby boomer' kids. However, he was more than that. He was a talented actor, full of love for his fellow man, the needy, sick children, inner city school children, the hungry and those who were down and out as we have learned after his death. He sought no publicity. That's a real 'Superman' to me! And on this occasion, 50 years after the death of George Reeves, find a way to celebrate his life and legacy. 'Lil' Carl & George' does it for me every day, 50 years later. I wish to thank Carl Godfrey and the 13' Philco, Lou Koza, Jim Nolt, Randy Garrett, Larry Ward, Noel Neill, Don Holmes, Jan Alan Henderson and all our friends for allowing me to be a part of it all.
From Alfred Walker - George Reeves got his hooks in me early. In fact, watching TAOS in late 1956 at age four survives among my earliest memories. Of course at that time, I did NOT sit there thinking "What a fine actor this Reeves fellow is. He's taking this kiddie drama to a much higher level with the integrity of his performance!" But George's charisma was already having its effect, and I recall another dynamic of his acting that played out in my young mind: the delineation and distinction he brought to Clark Kent and Superman. There was enough of a difference between the two that, while on one level I got that they were the same guy, I remember having my doubts: when Clark would throw Lois and Jimmy a little curveball of an explanation as he so often did, I had a tendency to buy into it. Part of me experienced George's Clark and Superman as two distinct people, just as Lois and Jimmy did. (I see this kind of processing now with my four year old son, so - if not normal, it's at least genetic.)
I believe part of George's long lasting appeal is the nearly unique opportunity he seized - perhaps unwittingly - to make a strong impression on our young generation. But that's not the whole story, not for me and not for many of you reading this. I do not own DVDs of Howdy Doody, The Mickey Mouse Club, Sky King, or Cisco Kid (well, one Cisco Kid with Noel Neill). These programs, for me, are nostalgic remembrances that are fixed to their era of origin. TAOS, in contrast, has a timeless attraction and George is at the center. He anchors our childhood memories, yes, but as adults we find a man bringing a solid integrity to the role, along with underplayed qualities that continue to convey all these decades hence. George's life has since been examined microscopically, but learning of his challenges and shortcomings only gives me a deeper appreciation of the rock steady presence he brought to his TV persona.
George emblazoned himself in my mind and imagination early on. Watching his work a half century later, I see not a cartoon character, but a hero portrayed with decency, compassion, humor, and quiet courage. A good role model, both for little kids in the Fifties and grownups in their fifties!
From Ginny Moore - June 16th is a bittersweet date
for me too. It marked my admission into Jim's GR Group while
it was still a yahoo group (Fiends!). Maybe the best thing I
can do is to echo my inaugural post. Let me attempt.
From Colete Morelock - June 16, 1959 was the day that
I lost my first hero. That being said, I came to realize that
heroes are not invincible, yet their influence is everlasting.
This being said, if I were to try and relate anything about George
Reeves, I would start off with this.
From Delmo Walters
From Milt Storey - George should be remembered for embracing life, spreading happiness around, and being loyal to his friends and fans. He never disappointed either. And for us fans, he stands tall among the relatively few who have inspired us throughout our childhood and in our adulthood as well. An accomplishment not many can claim.
From Bruce Dettman - The Adventures of Superman caught many in my Baby Boomer generation at just the right time. TV was the new kid on the entertainment block and it was still getting its sea legs when the show made its debut in 1953. While Hollywood as well as many in the general public might have had its doubts about the new medium, no kid ever did, certainly no kid who regularly tuned in Superman. The Adventures of Superman fed not only our growing imaginations but our hearts and consciences as well. Although many shows of that period are fondly recalled, a great many just do not hold up under the magnifying glass of time. However, Superman does. Mostly this was because of George Reeves. Although the children of that period certainly were cemented in front of their TV sets largely for the action and the excitement they also came to feel a kind of special closeness, kinship and affection for this super powerful figure who was, in addition to being heroic and brave, kind, generous, empathetic and sensitive. Reeves' Superman was a melting pot of all the best and most admirable in what good people aspire to be. He resonates in us so strongly because he lent a humanness and legitimacy of conviction to a character which could have just easily been played in a one-dimensional or superficial manner. Because of this we owe a great debt of thanks to George Reeves. On this, the fiftieth anniversary of his untimely death, I recall him with great respect and admiration; not for just what he was but for what he made so many of us believe should be.
Thom Hamilton -- On the day of June 16, 1959 I was nine years old, and I played Superman, like everyone else did. At that time I was living with my dad, at his parents house, since my parents were divorced. My dad, who liked to tease me, asked, "Did you hear about Superman? It's on the news. The announcers on the local station in Seattle were talking about George. It put me in shock. At the time, George was everthing to me -- my role model, father figure (my dad worked all the time and we didn't talked much then, tho now it is better). I remember running up stairs and into my room, throwing myself on my bed and crying. I couldn't believe George was gone. Even at that age I looked up to him, not just as Superman, but as a role model and as a person. I thank God that I have some of his films and television shows to remember him by. Two of my favorite George Reeves movies are So Proudly We Hail! with Claudette Colbert and From Here to Eternity. Tonight I'll watch one of them and some of my favorite episodes of Superman. It gives me comfort to know there are others who share the feelings.
From Richard Potter -
Is knowing what else to cling to without feeling bereft.
Well, if I could I'd like to, I would like to remember you,
Just as you were the day before you left.
And Lois wonders why,
You're taking off your glasses
And loosening your tie.
Well we both know you've got to
From Serena Enger - I agree with Lou. George Reeves's
portrayal of Clark Kent/Superman and his own dedication to children's
charities, made "a child feel safe, comfortable, and special."
From John Raspanti - Fifty years after dying, George Reeves is more alive then ever. He lives on in our hearts and minds inspiring awe, admiration and loyalty.
I met him at four years old on a grainy black and white television. Forty six years later I remember that day as if it was yesterday. Other then my Dad, he was my first hero and week after week he never let me down. What I truly remember is the warmth of soul George was able to project as Superman. When I watch episodes today that warmth still shines through like a beacon.
I think the reason was obvious enough. George Reeves was in a real life a kind person. He was the peoples friend.
I dont think often of that terrible day fifty years ago. I have read about it, talked about it and thought about it over the years. I certainly have my own opinion of what happened in the wee wee hours of the night. But it all seems irrelevant right now. The human race lost a very good person that day, not a perfect person by any means but a good person. George was a very talented actor, able to handle comedy and drama with ease. The fact that he never achieved superstardom in the movies was his loss and most likely ours. What he did achieve was immortality and I bet ya as he looks down on all of us, hes nodding feeling content, peace and love.
From Gail McIntyre - Thank you Jim Nolt and Lou Koza for posting the timeless words of our friends with whom we share this mutual love and passion for a man who never understood the superpowers he really had.
I'd like to think that George is in heaven listening to his adult fans singing his praises today and finally knows just how made of steel he really was to be remembered by so many 50 years later.
Keep on flying Mr. Reeves!
From Jody McGee - I guess I always accepted the suicide
theory, because all my life I have encountered people who had
serious stresses in their lives. Whether it was suicide, an accident,
or a love triangle gone murderously awry, I think we all accept
the fact that George did take a walk on the wild side, and if
he slid down that dangerous slope to the "dark side,"
then his story is a cautionary tale for all of us. Meanwhile,
to honor George for all the pleasure he has given us over these
many years, maybe the best thing we can do is to live our lives
as much like George's most famous two alter egos as possible.
Thanks for Watching.
Lou (June 16, 2009)