George Reeves as Superman. Did the nicest guy in
Hollywood really commit suicde?
By all accounts, handsome, athletic George Reeves was a likeable, happy guy who always had time for kids who wanted to meet Superman. (Even when one pointed a loaded .38 at him for a few tense seconds.) However, playing Superman on the dubious new medium of television wasn't the greatest career move for an actor whose first appearance on screen was in the blockbuster Gone With the Wind. (One of the twins.) But from 1952 through 1958, the Man of Steel was nicest guy in Hollywood..
At two a.m. June 16, 1959, he died of a gunshot wound to the head. It was ruled a suicide despite some dodgy details.
Eddie Mannix's wife & Superman's
squeeze / bunny boiler Toni Mannix.
Though being Superman was a lousy gig for an actor, for seven years he had the solace of Eddie Mannix's wife, Toni. Now, you might think dating the woman of MGM's most notorious "fixer" wouldn't be the greatest career move either, if by "career," we mean "staying alive."
But Eddie didn't mind one little bit. Reeves kept Eddie's long-time mistress and newly wedded wife Toni happy, and no doubt Eddie, who held the official title of producer, did not lack for feminine consolation at MGM.
Toni was eight years Reeve's senior, and infatuated with the star of the cheesy TV show. (It didn't seem cheesy when I was a kid, so who cares?) They were a regular Hollywood couple. In every sense of the word.
Enter Leonore Lemmon. (Picture below and to the right. Look at that face. What an innocent little mouse, huh?)
Exit Toni Mannix.
One can easily imagine the conversation at the Mannix kitchen table. "Eddie, George dumped me for some gold digger. I'm so mad at him. Would you please bump him off, sweetheart?"
Of course, being a dutiful husband, Eddie would have said, "Sure, baby, I'll put in on my to-do list for next week, 'kay?"
Was Eddie Mannix capable of ordering a hit on Superman?
Yeah, probably. But the truth is hard to find after it has been through the studio publicity machine, the Mocambo rumor mill, columnist Louella Parson's double-ended pen with poison on one end and sugar on the other, and the mountain of autobiographies and authorized biographies written with buckets of whitewash and snake venom.
George Reeves didn't seem like a guy who was contemplating suicide. His Superman career had perked up with a lot more cash to stuff in his tights, and he had romantic travel plans with Leonore. On the other hand, guys with prospects do commit suicide, and today's smiling mouth is taking a bite out of the licorice stick tomorrow. You just never know.
Toni was a bunny boiler. Or, in this case, I like her for whacking George's beloved dog. ("Like" meaning "suspect.") Either way, after seven years of bliss with George Reeves, Toni was unlikely to go quietly. A bunny boiler and a shady fixer with mob connections. Hmm. What could possibly go wrong?