Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rant #278: Hollywood Kryptonite

Today is a sad day in my life. It is a day that helps me relive one of the first memories I had of my childhood, and it is not a good one.

Today is the 51st anniversary of the death of George Reeves, best known as TV's Superman.

Although I was barely two years old when this even occurred, I was already an avid TV watcher, and this was around the time I started to read--and I started to read comic books. At that time, due to Dr. Felix Wertham's pronouncements that reading comic books would turn kids into juvenile delinquents, this wasn't the preferred method for a kid to learn to read, but my parents didn't believe in this balderdash, and encouraged me to read whatever was available.

And comic books were available. My father read them when he was a kid, and he turned out just fine, so he started to buy me comic books to read, and Superman was one of them.

And mix this with being an avid TV watcher, and you can see the potency that this news had on me. I loved the Superman TV show, and do to this day. It is really one of the great TV shows of the baby boomers' generation, and even in its simplicity, it resonates with us to this day.

Reeves--who years earlier had played a small part in "Gone With the Wind"-- played the dual role of Clark Kent and Superman, and other stars in the show were Noel Neill (replacing Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane after the first season), Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen), John Hamilton (Perry White), Robert Shayne (Inspector Henderson), and a host of top character actors.

Anyway, probably my first childhood memory was hearing that Superman was dead. I remember not really understanding this, but I do remember seeing the Daily News in our apartment, and this was emblazoned across the front page. And that is my memory.

As it stands, years later, the mysterious death of George Reeves has never been solved.

The one point that all agree on was an obvious one: he died from a gunshot to the head. But who did this to him? Did he do it to himself?

Reeves was supposedly depressed about a number of things at this time in his life. His acting career was going nowhere fast, as he was typecast as Superman. He had also broken up a relationship between himself and a mobster's wife, and had been seeing another woman. So he had a lot to be upset about.

But on the other hand, things were looking up for him, in a way. Although he hated playing Superman, he had upped for another season, but this one was to be much different. He would direct most of the episodes--something he loved to do--and would write some of them too. He had also broken free of the mobster's wife, and was looking forward to being away from her.

Whatever the scenario, something happened on this night 51 years ago. The coroner ruled it a suicide, but that has never been proven.

A few books have been written on the subject, and Ben Afleck starred as Reeves in a terrific movie about this incident a few years back.

But still, the case remains unsolved.

How I can remember seeing the Daily News headline about Reeves' death is just one of those incredible things that somehow is stored in my memory to this day. I have other memories of my early childhood, but this was probably the first one that I can remember.

He was the first hero of the baby boomers to die, and die a violent death. He wouldn't be the only one, as more than 20 years later, John Lennon would perish due to an insane fan's obsession with him. A gunshot was the cause here too.

I guess I still can't get over the fact that Kryptonite didn't kill Superman, a gunshot did.

He was a mortal just like the rest of us.

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