George Reeves’s Affair With a Hollywood Executive’s Wife Ended In His Suspected Murder

Superman is quite possibly the most famous superhero to ever exist in comic books and on the screen. George Reeves played Superman in the 1950s and this role quickly boosted him to stardom and recognition among the public. Unfortunately, Reeves’s life came to a tragic and mysterious end in 1959. His death was officially ruled a suicide, though the details indicate there are other possible causes. Read on to learn more about who the actor George Reeves was, and why many don’t buy the suicide story. 

George Reeves as Clark Kent in 'The Adventures of Superman', posed using a phone, in black and white
George Reeves as Clark Kent in ‘The Adventures of Superman | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

George Reeves’ rise to fame

According to Biography, George Reeves was born in Iowa in 1914, and shortly after, his mother moved the two of them to Pasadena, California. Reeves enrolled in a junior college, focusing on music and acting. He joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse at the age of 21, where he was involved in several plays. He got his break into film by appearing in Gone with the Wind (1939) in a minor role, but he ultimately signed a contract with Warner Brothers Studios.

Reeves appeared in a few movies throughout the 1940s that saw little success, but he eventually played Superman in The Adventures of Superman in the early 1950s. The show became a hit, and Reeves catapulted to stardom relatively quickly through this role. When Reeves tried to go back into film by taking a prominent role in From Here to Eternity (1953), a test audience laughed that “Superman” was in this role. His scenes were largely cut from the film for its final release. The Adventures of Superman was canceled in 1957 after a remarkable run, and he never acted in anything notable again. 

His relationship with Toni Mannix

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Toni Mannix was the wife of MGM executive and producer Eddie Mannix, but she and George Reeves were known lovers for years. Eddie Mannix also had his fair share of extramarital affairs and lovers, which was another widely known fact in the Hollywood realm. Reeves’s relationship with Toni Mannix appeared to be amiable, especially since Toni Mannix reportedly purchased a modest house for Reeves in 1950. 

In 1957 after the cancellation of The Adventures of Superman, Reeves began dating a young woman from New York named Leonore Lemmon. Biography mentions that Toni Mannix became infuriated when Reeves broke off their relationship to be with Lemmon. Reeves eventually filed a restraining order against Mannix. 

George Reeves’ mysterious death commonly deemed a suicide

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In 1959, George Reeves was found dead from a gunshot wound to his head in his home. His death was quickly ruled a suicide, though some details make this seem implausible. Some speculate that Tonni Mannix’s jealousy of Reeves’ relationship with Leonore Lemmon led Mannix to murder her former lover. Others wonder if Eddie Mannix played a role in Reeves’ death, hiring a hitman to carry out the murder.

We may never know for sure, but Edward Lozzi, an LA-area publicist claimed that Toni Mannix admitted to having Reeves killed to her priest before she died. According to The Guardian, Lozzi explained to the LA Times that Mannix was scared of going to hell, and thought confession was warranted. Lozzi claims that he held this information until then because Eddie Mannix’s henchmen were all finally dead. 

Others believe Leonore Lemmon murdered Reeves, as there were a few other mysterious bullet holes in walls around the house. Lemmon asserted that those bullet holes came about when she fired a gun during an argument with Reeves in the past. The 2006 film Hollywoodland (starring Ben Affleck) explored a fictionalized version of the story of George Reeves’ death, but it rekindled Americans’ wonder about what actually happened to Reeves.