Underneath the beautiful veneer of pristine people was a world where sordid affairs, business intrigue, and mafia connections were alive and well. Ah, old world Hollywood—what a place!
Men there dressed like cowboys, women were very pretty, and magic came to life on the big screen. The people they looked up to were real, and their reputations always seemed so good. There was a place called Tinseltown where everyone loved and admired you.
Hollywood is still known for being very hard on the people who work there physically and emotionally. As an actor, your life can go wrong in a lot of ways. You might be in charge of a scandal. Because you’re successful, you might feel alone. You might stop being important.
You could also get typecast, which is much worse.
People like Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Downey Jr., and others who have played heroes know how bad it can be for your career to be a superhero or a major character in a series. It’s almost like “de*ath by success.”
George Reeves was one of the first actors who was often cast as a superhero. He loved how being Superman made kids feel, but he hated how it hurt his career. It is safe to say that Reeves was a very complicated person. His inner turmoil may have led to his de*ath.
Not many people’s lives showed how strangely different Hollywood’s clean and dirty sides are. George Reeves’s did. Children all over the world saw him as a hero who was bigger than life. Behind the scenes, he had a pretty shady life and hung out with some pretty sketchy people.
Reeves was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head. His de*ath was ruled a suicide. No doubt about it, though: it’s a murder. Who did it, George Reeves?
A Hollywood Dream Come True
George Reeves was born and raised in Iowa. He moved to Hollywood and changed his name to try to make it big. It was a risk that soon paid off. Reeves had done well in small roles by the late 1930s thanks to his good looks and charm.
His big break came when he played Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind. That part helped him become a Hollywood legend. In the 1940s, he quickly signed with Warner Brothers and became a star in a number of B-side films.
During this time, he married and divorced Ellanora Needles, who was also an actress who was having a hard time. He was known as a good, quiet, and honest man, even though divorce was still frowned upon.
He did his two years in the war, and then Reeves went back to acting. He was in films with James Cagney and Ronald Reagan, who would later become president. After that, one role changed his whole life.
For Reeves, it wasn’t in his stars to become a playwright, even though he was a great actor. He was found to play Superman in a B movie in 1951. Not long after that, he became the main character in The Adventures of Superman, which is always a hit.
He had a huge hit with that part. Millions of kids looked up to him as a hero, and he must have liked that. There were times when Reeves tried not to smoke around children. He finally quit because he felt he needed to be a better example for the kids who looked up to him.
The Typecasted Actor
Around the middle of the 1950s, George Reeves was always thought of as Superman. He played Superman in a number of US Treasury films and commercials. He was even booked to make public appearances as Superman.
It became really tough to get other gigs. As for Reeves, he didn’t like being typecast in this way. Like a lot of actors who get stuck in one role, Reeves was very angry about it. He was known for calling the leotard he wore a “monkey suit.”
Jack Larson, who worked with Reeves, said right away that Reeves hated his part as Superman. In fact, he said this about how Reeves felt about Superman:
“Anyone who thinks another season of Superman wouldn’t depress George didn’t know George.”
Most people who lived in Hollywood knew that Reeves was very upset about being typecast. Reeves often worked with the famous studio manager Eddie Mannix to try to get new roles, but they didn’t have much luck. This is where the problems started to show…
The Affair That Stunned Hollywood
People knew that Reeves tried to keep his personal life as private as possible, but some things about his life still made it into the rumour mill.
In Hollywood, everyone knew that George had been having an affair with Eddie Mannix’s wife, Toni, for most of the 1950s. The affair went on for many years.
Today, this would be enough to make someone worry about their job, but in the old days of Hollywood, it would be enough to make someone fear for their life. It turns out Eddie Mannix was more than just a studio manager. People called him a “fixer.”
Bigwigs in Hollywood would go to fixers to hide serious scandals, get abortions, or just “deal with” people. There was more to Eddie than just fixing things. He had ties to the mafia and was known to hire dishonest cops to hide serious crimes.
From what was said, Eddie knew about and liked their relationship. He even went on double dates with him while his mistresses were with him. So, it’s possible that the Man of Steel was able to avoid at least a few bullets back in the day.
The relationship between George and Toni was known for being very passionate and loving. Additionally, Toni’s habit of giving George gifts made the relationship have strange “sugar mama” traits. Toni even gave George a house as a gift at one point!
The Affair’s Breakup and Lenore Lemmon
Reeves’ mental health started to get worse over the years. People could tell he was going through a midlife crisis, and his girlfriend Toni was getting old. Reeves didn’t want his life to be the way it was.
Part of his depression came from the fact that he was single. George Reeves was almost 40 years old and missed being married like he did when he was 20. He was ready to get married, but Toni wasn’t going to leave Eddie for him.
Reeves got tired of dating Toni over time and knew that they had to break up. He broke up with her because of this. That was not enough for him.
Lenore Lemmon, a socialite from Fort Lee, asked Reeves to marry her soon after. Leon was about 20 years younger than Toni, and he moved into the house that Toni bought for George. This made it even worse for George’s ex-wife.
The wedding was planned for June 19, 1959.
Toni Mannix Loses It
It might not be fair to say that Toni was devastated by the breakup.
It was like a bad dream come true for Toni. Because she was married and nine years older than George Reeves, her biggest fear was that he would leave her one day. And there it was, right in front of her.
Toni stopped being able to act like a normal person when she found out that George was leaving her. She cried all the time, sat around the house doing nothing, and drank her pain away.
At one point, Reeves would get up to 20 calls a day, all of which were said to be from Toni, who was crying deeply. As you might guess, Eddie didn’t like seeing his wife suffer.
Things Get Scary
Eddie and Toni cared about each other enough to cheat on each other. It goes without saying that Eddie was furious about the breakup and how it made his wife feel. There were rumours that he used his ties to the mafia to get back at them.
The first event happened when George’s beloved dog, Sam, went missing. Toni had taken the dog, it turned out later. But it’s still not clear if she k*illed Sam.
Soon, George started getting threatening calls on the phone, and he ended up in three very strange car accidents. After each accident, it became a little more dangerous, as if someone had tampered with his car or planned the crashes.
A lot of people think that George Reeves was k*illed by a hitman and that the Mannixes hired him to do it. Based on the evidence, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
But What About Lenore?
But the picture might not be what it seems to be. There were other people with ties to the mob in George’s love life besides the Mannixes. The actress Shirley Lemmon was linked to the mafia and was known to be a fiery personality who became very mean after a few drinks.
We have good reason to think that Lenore may have also been dangerous. Jack Larson, who played co-star with Reeves in Superman, said this about Lenore Lemmon’s reputation:
“She was well-known to be a partygirl, and she was involved with Hoffa and all of that. Look what happened to Hoffa.”
A Tornado of a Relationship
Aside from his relationship with Toni Mannix, George Reeves’s relationship with Lenore was at best unstable. A lot of people thought that Lenore was only with him for the money and the wild parties he went to.
It was known that they would fight over small things when they were drunk. When they went to parties, they were often “that couple” who would get into huge fights while getting trashed. They did not do anything that would have made their relationship happy.
Once Reeves started dating Lenore, a lot of his friends stopped wanting to talk to him, and it wasn’t just because he made Toni feel bad.
Lemon was known for wanting money and getting very drunk very quickly, which got him kicked out of bars and nightclubs a lot. This is how one friend put it:
“Lenore isn’t the kind of person you fall in love with. She’s the kind of person who wants to run your life.”
Tabloids said at one point that they were no longer together. But they got back together in the end, and the wedding date stayed the same.
There was going to be a party at George and Lenore’s house three days before the wedding. Author Robert Condon, his neighbour Carol Van Ronkel, and another neighbour, William Bliss, were all inside the house.
It was later brought up by Lenore that Gwen Dailey and Polly Adler were also invited. Soon after, the other two guests arrived, and everyone began to talk to each other.
After some drinks, there was a fight. Reeves left the party to sleep upstairs because he was tired of it. After that, there was a pop, then another, and another. The gun was found between his legs and a bullet hole in his head.
The police say that all of the guests were downstairs when Reeves k*illed himself, but this doesn’t make sense. Even Lenore said the story was “bullshit.”
According to William Bliss, the story that the police told wasn’t true. Lenore reportedly ran downstairs after hearing the gunshots while she was upstairs. Then Bliss said Lenore said these things:
“Tell them I was down here! Tell them I was down here!”
Some time around the middle of the night of June 16th, a mutual friend got a frantic and hysterical call from Toni, claiming that Reeves had been k*illed. How did Toni know, when she wasn’t present in the house?
The Grisly Aftermath
Lenore didn’t call the police right away, even though her husband had shot himself. Instead, she found Carol, who was married, lying next to Robert Condon naked and passed out. So that her marriage could stay together, she told Gwen to get Carol out of the house.
Soon after, the police were called to the home of George Reeves.
Around 2 AM, the police showed up and began to make notes. Soon after, crime tape was put around the house. Gwen and Lenore snuck past everyone to get Lenore’s cat and $5,000 in travellers’ checks. No one ever got why she needed the money.
The police did question some of the guests, but that was it. People started to question their work because of how careless they were all the time. Not a single picture or print was taken of the body, and the room wasn’t even remotely searched.
Police let Lemmon wash the bloody sheets at one point, but they didn’t even try to get information from them. Before the autopsy was even done, Reeves was put in a coffin. It’s possible that these mistakes were some of the worst ever made during murder investigations.
It didn’t make sense at all, even with the bad police work. There were three bullet holes, but the hands and face did not have any burn marks on them. He was found to have kil*led himself, and Lenore tried to get his assets but was stopped.
Was it Eddie, Toni, or Lenore?
Many people don’t think George Reeves could have shot himself three times, so it’s clear that someone else may have ki*lled him. For his part, Reeves thought that Toni might have been behind the “warnings” and the threatening phone calls.
Toni was also getting strange calls at home, which was found out when the police looked into the calls. Could this have been Lenore telling Toni to stop? Or, could Eddie Mannix’s rival have been trying to scare the mobster?
Why did Lenore wait so long to call the police? Why did Eddie keep quiet all this time? A lot of people think that Eddie Mannix or one of his lovers ki*lled George Reeves.
There is a rumour that Toni Mannix told her priest that she and Eddie set up the murder of Reeves, but there is no proof of that. When Mannix told the truth, she was dealing with Alzheimer’s, so what she said might have been made up.
We might never know who did it or what Reeves saw right before he was kil*led. This is one of the most mysterious murders in Hollywood history that has not been solved.