6 of the Biggest Unsolved Celebrity Deaths, From Biggie to the Black Dahlia
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2. George Reeves
The death of the original Superman from the 1950s television program “The Adventures of Superman” remains one of the most scrutinized in Hollywood history. In 1959, depressed from financial woes and the difficulties of finding work after having been typecast in an iconic character, George Reeves became drunk with a few friends, including his fiance, Leonore Lemmon. After an argument about the noise, he allegedly went up to his room and committed suicide with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Or did he? Friends believe Reeves would never have committed suicide, and to this day there’s debate as to whether he died by his own hand or whether Lemmon or one of the other people present might have been responsible. The lack of gunpowder residue on his hands, or fingerprints on the gun, have been cited as definitive evidence of his murder rather than suicide, though the LAPD didn’t check for gunpowder in ‘59 and apparently stated the gun had been oiled too recently for it to retain a fingerprint. (The controversy was the topic of the 2006 Ben Affleck movie, Hollywoodland, and a song by Don MacLean, “Superman’s Ghost.”)
There was speculation that Reeves’ married former lover, Toni Mannix, had him killed as revenge for ending their relationship—and supposedly confessed to it on her deathbed, though that account, by an LA publicist, has been refuted. But whether murder was the cause of his death or not, a major part of the public’s unwillingness to accept that he would kill himself certainly resides in the unwillingness to shatter our concept of an infallible American hero, particularly in the more innocent 1950s. That Superman could fall on hard times—and that booze and debt could be his kryptonite—was something a pre-cynical society was simply not ready to accept.
3. Natalie Wood
The death of the beautiful and talented Natalie Wood at 43 has always been tragic: terrified of boats, she perished from accidental drowning and hypothermia after mysteriously falling off a boat during a vacation on Santa Catalina Island. Yet her body was covered in bruises, and her system was tainted with alcohol and the prescription painkiller Darvon. No one on the boat—her husband Robert Wagner, actor Christopher Walken (who was her alleged lover), or captain Dennis Davern—knew how she fell off the ship. The circumstances surrounding her death have been a mystery since 1981. The LAPD shelved it as a cold case.
However, late last year, new evidence emerged: Davern, the boat captain, made comments that encouraged the LAPD to reopen the investigation. As detailed on “ Good Morning America,” Davern said he had initially lied and that now, 30 years after her death, he wanted to come clean. "I made some terrible decisions and mistakes," he said. “I did lie on a report several years ago." It was known that Wood and Wagner had fought before her death, but this was the first testimony that definitively pointed the finger at the deceased actress’ husband. By January, however, LAPD had once again ruled out foul play, classifying Wood’s death as an accident. But the ongoing public fixation on the case in a way parallels that of Reeves’: it was hard to accept that such a beloved figure could die at such an untimely age.
4. Marilyn Monroe
Is there any bigger trap for conspiracy theorists than the tangle of deaths related to Jack and Bobby Kennedy? Oliver Stone deftly put his own thoughts forward in his 1991 film JFK, but distinctly omitted was the figure of America’s most enduring sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, who died on Aug. 5, 1962, from an overdose of prescription pills.