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HOLLYWOOD KRYPTONITE by Sam Kashner

HOLLYWOOD KRYPTONITE

The Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman

By Sam Kashner (Author) , Nancy Schoenberger (Author)

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14616-7
Publisher: St. Martin's

 A muddled look at the mysterious death of George Reeves, the first Superman, by poets and Hollywood buffs Kashner and Schoenberger (coauthors of A Talent For Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant, 1994). The strong-jawed Reeves's real superpower seems to have been a capacity for alcohol. He also carried on a long affair with Toni Mannix, an older woman married to studio exec Eddie ``Bulldog'' Mannix, who approved of the affair. Reeves and Toni set up house in Benedict Canyon and generally lived a contented, suburban life, except for the 13 weeks in which Reeves was required to wear a blue and yellow padded suit and perform wonders on television. Reeves was a quiet fellow, well-liked on the set, though at times he was irritated by his brand of fame (he once greeted a young female fan, ``Hello, you little ovary clanker!''). But ten years into his affair with Toni, which the authors evoke with real tenderness, Reeves met Leonore Lemmon, a blonde party girl with an appetite for aging stars and gin. Toni was devastated by the breakup--by some accounts, she even had Reeves's beloved schnauzer put to sleep--and her incessant phone calls disturbed the new lovers day and night. Within a short time, Reeves was dead, apparently committing suicide in his room during a cocktail party on June 16, 1959. But rumors of a gunman persist--though just when the plot gets interesting (for Reeves comes off as little more than a cardboard figure, greatly overshadowed by his two lovers), the book becomes unhinged. The various accounts of Reeves's death are poorly presented--who was at the party? whose gun was it?--and characters flit in and out. The authors conclude it was murder, but they never assemble the pieces of the mess into a full and coherent picture. A sad life and death in Hollywood, but the gossip isn't much and the promising title turns to leaden prose.