1959: Los Angeles police arrive at the home of 45-year-old actor George Reeves, famous for his role as TV’s Superman, and find him naked and dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Ruled as a suicide, Reeves’ death inspires a series of conspiracy theories and the interpretive biopic Hollywoodland, as well as a persistent urban legend, itself famously known as the Superman curse.
Reeves’ life was dogged by bad luck. Born in Iowa as George Keefer Brewer in 1914 to Don Brewer and Helen Lescher, his parents separated soon after his birth and he never saw his biological father again. Lescher then married Frank Bessolo, who adopted George as his own son.
When that marriage ended in divorce 15 years later, Lescher told George that Bessolo had committed suicide. It wasn’t until years later that he found out that not only was his father alive but, in fact, was not his biological father.
After spending his youth acting, singing and boxing in Pasadena, California, where he met his first wife, Ellanora Needles, George got his start in film playing a suitor in Victor Fleming’s decorated 1939 epic, Gone With the Wind — where he officially became known as George Reeves. But his cinema career never really took flight into the A-list.