GEORGE REEVES Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: George Keefer Brewer                                                                 
Born: 5 January 1914 Woolstock, Iowa                                                       
Died: 16 June 1959 Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California                                   
George Reeves (January 5, 1914 – June 16, 1959) was an American actor, best               
known for his role as Superman in the 1950s television program Adventures of               
Superman and his mysterious death at the age of 45.                                         
Reeves was born George Keefer Brewer in Woolstock, Iowa, the son of Don Brewer             
and Helen Lescher. George was born five months into their marriage. They                   
separated soon afterward, and Helen moved back home to Galesburg, IL.                       
George's mother moved to California to stay with her sister. There Helen met and           
then married Frank Bessolo. George's father remarried in 1925 to Helen Schultz             
and had children with her. Don Brewer made no attempt to see his son George                 
In 1927, Frank Bessolo adopted George as his own son, and the boy took on his               
new stepfather's last name to become George Bessolo. Helen's marriage to                   
Frank lasted fifteen years and ended in divorce while George was away visiting             
relatives. Helen told George that Frank had committed suicide. Reeves's cousin,             
Catherine Chase, told biographer Jim Beaver that George did not know for several           
years that Bessolo was still alive nor that he had been his stepfather and not             
his birth father.                                                                           
George began acting and singing in high school and continued performing on stage           
as a student at Pasadena Junior College. He also boxed as a heavyweight in                 
amateur matches, until his mother Helen ordered him to stop, fearing his good               
looks might be damaged. Accepted by the Pasadena Playhouse, Reeves had prominent           
roles. His film career began in 1939 when he was cast as Stuart Tarleton (although         
incorrectly listed as Brent Tarleton), one of Vivien Leigh's two suitors in Gone           
with the Wind. It was a minor role, but he and Fred Crane, both in dyed bright             
red hair as "the Tarleton Twins," were in the film's opening scenes. He was                 
contracted to Warner Bros. at the time, and the actor's professional name became           
"George Reeves" and his GWTW screen credit reflects the change. He married                 
actress Ellanora Needles in 1940, but had no children with her during their nine-year       
He starred in a number of two-reel short subjects, and appeared in several B-pictures       
(including two with Ronald Reagan) and three with James Cagney, Torrid Zone, The           
Fighting 69th, and The Strawberry Blonde. Warners loaned him to producer                   
Alexander Korda to co-star with Merle Oberon in Lydia, a box-office failure.               
Released from his Warners contract, he signed a contract at Twentieth Century               
Fox, but was released after only a handful of films. He freelanced, appearing in           
five Hopalong Cassidy westerns, before director Mark Sandrich cast Reeves as               
Lieutenant John Summers in So Proudly We Hail! (1942), a war drama, opposite               
Claudette Colbert, for Paramount Pictures. He won critical acclaim for the role             
and garnered considerable publicity.                                                       
Reeves was drafted into the U.S. Army 17 months after Pearl Harbor.; In late               
1943, he was transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces and assigned to the                   
Broadway show Winged Victory, produced by and for the Army Air Forces. A long               
Broadway run followed, as well as a national tour and a movie version of the               
play. Reeves was later transferred to the Army Air Forces' First Motion Picture             
Unit, where he made training films. He looked forward to working with his So               
Proudly We Hail! director Mark Sandrich again. Sandrich apparently felt that               
Reeves had the potential to become a major star; however, Sandrich died while               
Reeves was still in uniform. In later years, Reeves would ruefully recall the               
impact Sandrich's death had on his career.                                                 
When Reeves returned for more film work, many movie studios were slowing down               
their production schedules, while many production units had been shut down                 
completely. He took work where he could, including a pair of outdoor thrillers             
with Ralph Byrd, and a Sam Katzman-produced serial, The Adventures of Sir                   
Galahad. These postwar pictures were not star vehicles; Reeves simply fit the               
rugged requirements of the roles and, with his retentive memory for dialogue, he           
could function well under rushed production conditions. In addition, he was able           
to play against type and starred as a villainous gold hunter in a Johnny                   
Weismuller Jungle Jim film, which for a B-movie was an average success at the               
box office.                                                                                 
In the autumn of 1949, Reeves (whose divorce had recently become final) decided             
on a change and moved to New York City. While there, he performed on several               
live television anthology programs, as well as on radio. Reeves returned to                 
Hollywood on April 10, 1951, specifically for a role in a Fritz Lang film,                 
Rancho Notorious. Meanwhile, DC Comics was planning an adaption of one of                   
their most famous characters.