by HB Auld, Jr.
Today is the anniversary of one of the heroes of most of us over the age of 60.
Today is the anniversary of the death of Superman. The first TV Superman, George Reeves, died on this day, 62 years ago, allegedly of a self-inflicted gunshot.
George Reeves was born on January 5, 1914. He died at age 45 on June 16, 1959.
Although he was not the first Superman on radio or TV (that was Bud Collyer during World War II), George Reeves is the first Superman most older TV viewers remember.
George Reeves’ first credited movie role was as one of Scarlett O’Hara’s suitors, Stuart Tarleton, one of the Tarleton twins, in “Gone With the Wind.” He appears in a minor role in the opening scene in which he dyed his hair red to be one of the twins.
He went on to star in minor movie parts with several big-name Hollywood stars, including Ronald Reagan (twice), Charlie Chaplin, Merle Oberon, and James Cagney. During World War II, George served in the Army Air Corps where he made training films. In 1953, George played the minor part of Sergeant Maylon Stark in “From Here to Eternity.” George began filming the “Superman” TV series in 1951, in a tough filming schedule that saw them produce two 30-minute episodes every six days.
George Reeves allegedly shot himself in his bedroom during a noisy party downstairs at his home. Much controversy surrounds his death, due to a number of questionable physical findings reported by investigators and others: no fingerprints were recovered from the gun and no gunpowder was found on George’s hands. Despite these contradictions, George’s death was officially ruled a suicide.
Bud Collyer, the voice of Superman on radio during World War II, went on to star as the game master on TV on Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth.
Kirk Alyn was the first Superman on the big screen, starring as Superman in 1948 and again in 1950 in “serials” in movie theaters.
I first saw George Reeves as Superman on TV as a nine-year old in New Gulf, Texas. My family had no TV, so my best friend would invite me over every afternoon at 5 to watch Superman with him. I was thrilled the Saturday my dad bought our first TV, because now I could invite my friends over to share Superman with me at our house.
Rest In Peace, George “Superman” Reeves.