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pictures and words by paul mccall
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September 2006
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09/11/06
Hollywoodland
Filed under: Movies
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 8:35 pm

Two movies in two weeks and both of them good films! That’s unusual for us.
“Hollywoodland” is the examination of the mystery surrounding the death of George Reeves, Superman to millions of kids, like me, who grew up watching “The Adventures of Superman.”
No solution is presented to the mystery but the film is structured in such a way as to present three plausible scenarios for Reeves’ death. Each theory is presented to the movie audience in alternate scenes while the fictional detective, Louis Simo, played by Adrien Brody, visits the scene of the crime.
I found the film satisfying which is saying something for me. I’ve been a fan of George Reeves since I was a kid. When I was in college I met another Reeves fan who introduced me to aspects of the actor’s death that, at that time, were not commonly known. This other fan had made some personal inquires into the case. Helen Bessolo, Reeves’ mother, had hired a private detective when the police seemed less than eager to fully investigate the situation. Certain facts came to light that made the suicide theory hard to accept. Some if those facts made it into the movie, some didn’t.
I didn’t go into the theater expecting to like the film for two reasons. One, I didn’t expect them to present the non-suicide options in any meaningful fashion. The order in which they showed the three versions does lend more weight to the suicide only because it is shown at the end of the film and thus it will be the freshest explanation in the minds of average movie goers. (That is assuming this movie will have any interest to the run-of-the-mill film fan.) Two, Ben Affleck as George Reeves.
Before this appearance, I didn’t like Ben Affleck. I didn’t think he was an actor. He was a movie star, a tabloid personality. I’ve seen several films with him and I’d never seen him act. Until the first scenes in “Hollywoodland.” He becomes George Reeves in voice and mannerisms. He gave a subtle performance that matched what I’ve read about the actor who missed the boat of major stardom and barely kept himself afloat on a kid show dinghy. I’ve read several books on Reeves, the movie and Affleck did a good job presenting the character of the man who became Superman against his wishes. Some things they missed or decided for filmic reasons to ignore. George Reeves would burn his Superman costume after every season not just at the end of the series run as seen in the film, but beforehand he would cut off the S and send it to some lucky fan. Before the initial run of “The Adventures of Superman” ended his hair had gone completely gray. In the movie they chose to only touch Affleck’s temples with the barest hint of gray by the end. I wish they had mentioned that Reeves was not depressed, that just before his death plans were underway to start up Superman again. The costumes were being made or cleaned, contracts were signed. He did have work, he was slated to direct ore episodes of the coming series.
I think it’s an enjoyable film even if it has no clear cut solution to the nearly fifty year old mystery. I recommend it.

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