There was a lot of mystery surrounding the death of Superman, actor George Reeves in June 16th of 1959. He died in the middle of the night of a single gunshot to the head in the bedroom of his home in Benedict Canyon. Some say it was murder, some say it was an accident, some say it was suicide. Removing all the hype and guesswork created by the media, here is the actual story by the person closest to him who was there in the house when it happened.
Now, to start, you have to understand George’s background, leading up to the event. For 12 years George Reeves was a struggling actor with few credits before he was cast as Superman for TV’s Adventures of Superman. The TV show became an instant hit nationwide and made George Reeves a household name, but it came with a caveat. George would be forever typecast by the role and would struggle up until his death to find other roles. No one would hire him, saying they didn’t need, “Superman” for the role. This was especially troubling for George as he was making very little money playing Superman and doing personal appearances and was really hoping that the show would be a springboard for bigger and better productions. This was not to be as he was turned away, time and time again.
He tried opening up his own production company but was never able to find funding for several projects. This was very depressing for him. After a failed marriage with Ellanora Needles and an affair with Toni Mannix, who was married to MGM Studio Executive Eddie Mannix, he felt he wasn’t going anywhere and didn’t have much to look forward to in the future. In 1958 he met a society girl named Leonore Lemmon and was set to marry her on June 19th a year later… but died 3 days before. Now here’s her version of what happened that night, very quick…
They had just gotten home from having dinner with another couple, Carol Van Ronkel and Bob Condon. Carol was married to another man, Rip Van Ronkel and she was cheating on him with Bob. They all got to George’s house and Carol and Bob retired to the guest bedroom and George and Leonore retired to his room. Leonore tried to make a move with George, but she says he rejected her. He wasn’t mean or anything and she really didn’t think anything of it. She couldn’t sleep so she went downstairs.
The patio light was usually left on, but she noticed that George had turned it off and so she absent-mindedly turned it back on. It was about midnight at this time. Bill Bliss was driving by, seeing the light and thinking that everyone was still up, knocked on the door and Leonore let him in. They had a few drinks when they heard a gunshot from upstairs. Not really knowing what it was, flippantly Leonore said, “Ahh, that George there, probably going to shoot himself…” Then a few minutes later after some thought, she got a little nervous and asked Bill to go check on George and see what the hell he was doing.
Bill went upstairs and found George naked, laying back on the bed, with a gunshot to his head. The gun had fallen between his feet. He went downstairs and told Leonore, who got Carol and Bob out of the guest bedroom and dressed. Leonore called a lifelong friend, Polly Adler, to come and help get Bob home because she did not want to have to tell Carol’s husband that she was there fooling around. She also called Gwen Carter to come over. Gwen Carter went upstairs and made sure that Leonore would not see the body, she also grabbed all the bedding from off the bed and threw it into the shower, so that the mess was minimal. This caused problems for police and some of the newspapers took this as a sign of foul play.
The police was finally called and came and interviewed Bill and Leonore and took the body to the morgue. After a lengthy autopsy the method of death was determined a suicide by self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The police file was closed.
Leonore went back home to her apartment in New York. She never married and she never moved away from New York again. All of this information was given to Lou Koza in an interview in May 1989. She died 6 months later. I believe it to be the real story. Leonore never had anything to benefit from George’s death and I think the love triangle between him and Toni Mannix and Eddie Mannix is all just supposition as that affair had ended over a year before. Eddie Mannix would die 4 years later and Toni Mannix would live 20 more years until 1983. She also would never marry again.