Superman’s phone booth in Woolstock, Iowa

At the intersection of Percival Street and Herman Street in Woolstock, Iowa, you’ll find this memorial to George Reeves. Reeves was born in Woolstock and was considered by many to be the “original Superman”. The memorial is an old pay phone booth with a mannequin dressed as Clark Kent starting the process of revealing himself as Superman.

Google Maps location: Intersection of Percival St and Herman Street in Woolstock, Iowa.

Who was George Reeves?

George Reeves was an American actor who is best known for his role as Superman in the 1950s television series “The Adventures of Superman.” Born George Keefer Brewer on January 5, 1914, in Woolstock, Iowa. After his parents separated, he moved to California with his mother.

Was George Reeves really the “Original Superman”?

Technically, no. There were two other actors who plays Superman on the radio and on film before Reeves. However, Reeves was still referred to as the “Original Superman” because his role in “Adventures with Superman” is what brought international fame to Superman. In fact, Reeves once mentioned that he received a letter from the Emporer of Japan telling how much each enjoyed the TV series.

How did George Reeves get into acting?

Reeves’ acting career began in the late 1930s, when he appeared in several films, including “The Wolf Man” and “Gone with the Wind.” He also appeared on Broadway in the play “The Time of Your Life.” In 1951, Reeves was cast as Superman in the television series “The Adventures of Superman,” which aired for six seasons and was a huge success.

Reeves’ portrayal of Superman made him a household name and a cultural icon, and he became widely known for his handsome, rugged appearance and strong, confident demeanor. He also played the role of Superman in a series of theatrical films that were released during the 1950s.

Is it true that George Reeves didn’t really want to be Superman?

Yes, this is true. George wanted to be a film actor – and this was true for most actors at the time. At the time, superheroes weren’t the thing they are today. When he took the role, it was low paying and the show didn’t even have a sponsor yet. Reeves assumed that only kids would watch the show and that it would not reach a large audience. Yes, Superman was not his first choice, but he was selected out of 200 applicants and did accept the role.

How did George Reeves die?

Tragically, Reeves’ life came to a sudden and unexpected end on June 16, 1959, when he was found dead in his home with a gunshot wound to the head. The circumstances surrounding his death have long been the subject of speculation and controversy. The coroner’s report listed suicide as his death and many assumed that it was because he felt trapped in the role of Superman. Even though it’s certainly true that he felt trapped in the role, others have suggested that he was murdered. Even though he was found moments after the gun went off, his fingerprints were not on the gun and his hands had no reside from the firing of the gun.

What is the book about the death of George Reeves, the TV Superman?

It’s titled Hollywood Kryptonite and investigates Reeves’s death in 1959.

What’s the movie dedicated to George Reeve’s life and death?

In 2006, the movie Hollywoodland was released which suggested that his death was not suicide, but a murder instead. Ben Affleck portrays Reeves.

Did the town of Woolstock try to restore his childhood home?

Yes, in 2006 the Des Moines Register reported that locals Robin Hamer and Veronica Guyader were hoping to restore his childhood home in Woolstock, Iowa. In fact, they also had plans for a George Reeves Memorial Festival with food, music, and panel discussions.

From what I can tell, they might have had one festival in his honor – but it doesn’t appear that the festival ever happened again or that the house was ever turned into a museum.

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What are other interesting facts there about George Reeves who played Superman on TV?

  • They made just over 100 episodes of the TV show Adventures of Superman. Reeves earned $2,500 per show, and its was told that they even recorded as many as 5 shows in one day.
  • After excepting the role of Superman, he first graced the movie theatre as Superman in 1951, then production of the TV show started.
  • 1953 he landed a small role on “From Here to Eternity” – which of course, also starred the Iowa native Donna Reed. She got an Oscar for her role, and George Reeves wasn’t even listed in the credits of the movie.
  • In 1995, NBC featured the circumstances on Reeve’s death on “Unsolved Mysteries” which suggested it may not have been a suicide.
  • In 2000, ABC offered another version on 20/20, suggesting that Toni Mannix was looking for revenge and killed Reeves.
  • In 1989, a costume worn by George Reeves on TVs Adventures with Superman was auctioned – and they believed it would go for $50,000. An interesting note on the outfit was a large amount of chest and shoulder padding used to make Superman look as muscular as possible.
  • Young George Reeves got his big break when he was cast as Stuart Tarlton in Gone With The Wind in 1939. As small a part as it was, Reeves had the distinction of having a speaking role in the opening scene. However, he was incorrectly listed in the opening credits as playing the other twin, Brent Tarlton.

YouTube video
This short clip shows George Reeves as Superman, making a guest appearance on I Love Lucy in 1957

Despite the mystery surrounding his death, George Reeves will always be remembered as the iconic Superman, a role that he embodied with strength, grace, and dignity. His legacy continues to live on through his work and the enduring popularity of the “Superman” franchise.

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