Friday, September 25, 2009

Honest George - The People's Friend

Smallville starts season 9 tonight . What a run for the latest “Superman” television show. Of course Superman has always had very successful runs on TV. Lois and Clark was a huge hit with it’s focus on the romantic triangle of Lois, Clark and Superman, Superboy did very well as a syndicated show, The Animated Superman set new standards for what an animated show could be. In fact it is hard to find a time when The Man Of Steel was absent from the small screen.
Which brings us to the grand daddy of them all, The Adventures Of Superman (1951-1958) and Honest George, The People’s Friend – George Reeves.

For millions of fans Tom Welling is the embodiment of Superman. If you are slightly older it is Dean Cain. A bit older and it is the great Christopher Reeve who made us all believe a man can fly. And later, through his remarkable courage, made us truly believe in Superman. But if you were born before 1960 it was George. To me and those of my generation George Reeves WAS Superman.

Even today, George is the blueprint for Superman on the screen. Square jawed, sober and earnest . That’s it in a nutshell. But what George brought to the role is that wonderful touch of gentle humor. The twinkle in the eye. Chris Reeve and Dean Cain most certainly brought that element into their portrayals of Superman. Welling not as much because of the whole teenage angst thing, but he did double up on the earnest.

I think what sets George apart from all the others however is how comfortable he was being Superman. He was always so relaxed. It was not uncommon to see George, in his Superman uniform leaning against a wall, delivering a line to Lois or Jimmy. He often joked with the crooks he was capturing and he SMILED when they shot at him. George’s Superman had a lot of FUN just being Superman. And he often broke the fourth wall to give us kids a wink and a smile. George was like the perfect dad or uncle. In my generation, when being a role model was actually a good thing, George was one of the best.

I learned a lot from watching George in those old shows. I learned about the importance of honesty, looking out for my friends, helping people less fortunate than I am. Most importantly I learned that it was ok not to take myself too seriously. I learned ALL of that from Honest George, so I figure I owe him one. I am going to set the record straight on a few things regarding my old friend.

You all know that George died from a bullet wound to the head. Some say it was suicide (that is the official line), others believe it was homicide. Frankly no one will ever know for sure. But what IS true is that, in the wake of his death a lot of misconceptions about George began to surface. There was a rumor that George was just plain nuts and thought he WAS Superman and jumped out a window. It was generally accepted that he was despondent over being type cast and could not find work which drove him to suicide. People said he was an alcoholic and killed himself in a booze induced haze. It is generally accepted that he hated playing Superman and was miserable on the set.

None of this is true.

1) George NEVER lost his sense of reality. Never jumped out a window. The only think he would jump into is the occasional martini at a party.

2) George was NOT out of either work or prospects. He had directed the last few episodes of The Adventures Of Superman from the 6th season and was slated to direct more in the NEXT season that was signed for before his death. He was delighted to be back at work (according to Noell Neill) and saw directing as the next phase of his career. George was optimistic about his future.

3) George liked to drink! No doubt about it. Once shooting was over for the day, cocktail hour began. But he was not an alcoholic by any stretch. George was a product of his times when afternoon cocktails were a normal thing. In fact he was very much into physical fitness and took his body very seriously.

4) Was George sometimes frustrated by Superman. Yes! After the first season the scripts became more and more juvenile. On the other hand, he liked to stand outside camera range, mugging at the other cast members to see if he could break them up. According to Larson, Reeves took on-set photos with his camera and handed out prints. By all accounts, there was a strong camaraderie among the show's actors. He maintained close friendships with Jack Larson, Robert Shayne, Phyllis Coates and Noell Neill. To this day when they speak of George a smile lights their face. Hardly the memory of someone who was miserable and hard to work with.

There you go George. I set the record straight on that, but there is one more thing that needs clearing up. Over the years when George would get frustrated he often wished that he could have at least one ADULT fan. He did not feel that he had been successful. George was wrong.
That generation of kids grew up to be millions of adult George Reeves fans.

Mention George to Mark Hamill, or Bill Mummy, or Ron Perlman and watch their faces light up.
He spent the last years of his working life giving a lot of kids joy and thrills.

We loved him for that.

That is what I call successful George.

Somewhere I like to think he knows this and is giving us all that famous wink and smile.

That’s 30!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Greetings friend!

I discovered a link to this article on the Friendly Adventures of Superman Message Board.

What a great tribute to George Reeves!

You were so right when you stated that the kids who watched TAOS grew up to become adults who honored, respected, and really appreciated George Reeves.

It's a real shame that George didn't live to see it.

Even though I sometimes become a bit bored rewatching Superman I really enjoy watching [actually, studying] George.

He was a unique individual. It's so sad to realize he died the way he did [I believe he was murdered, what a waste]

I read somewhere that there was a sign posted on his dressing room door that read the same as the title of this article. This really sums up who George was!

We are all better off for having "known" this Superman!

Thanx and God Bless you for writing this article.