The Superman Curse has long been talked about in the film industry. The idea is that people who play or partake in the film and television adaptations of Superman are hit with tragedy more than what is seen as normal. The idea of the Superman Curse first rose to prominence after the death of George Reeves in 1959. After the curious details of his death were revealed, there began to be whispers about a curse related to his role. People then started drawing connections between Reeves and the people who played in other Superman adaptations and the legend was born. Is there any truth to such a curse? Does Santa Claus exist? These are both questions that we can’t answer for you. But, if you’re prone to believing in curses, this is going to be right up your alley.
There are plenty of Hollywood curses. There’s the curse of certain films like Poltergeist, The Exorcist and The Omen. The curses on these films almost make sense because of the horror and demonic content of the films. Then there’s the 27 Club, which features rockers who died in their 27th year, the curse of famous TV show, The Little Rascals, and the Centerfold Curse, which involves women who pose for Playboy centerfolds. All these curses have made their rounds throughout Hollywood without ever completely going away. Could a Superman curse exist? Yeah. Is it likely that a character who’s been around for as long as Superman has is going to have some tragedy around it? Yeah. Do we know which scenario is more possible? Well, kind of. But that’s not what this is about. We’re here to look at those who were supposedly affected by the Superman curse, not debate the validity of the claims. Since it’s impossible to rank tragedy, this list is in no real order. This is The Superman Curse: 15 People Affected by the Legendary Jinx.
15. George Reeves
We might as well kick it off with the guy who got the curse talk started. George Reeves’ journey with Superman began in 1951. He was offered the superhero’s role in the TV show, Adventures of Superman, but it was a role that Reeves didn’t even really want because TV was considered lesser than film. Though it was meant to be the pilot episode of the TV series, the first time Reeves dressed up as Superman was in the feature-length film, Superman and the Mole Men. As the show’s popularity grew, Reeves became so associated with the character that he found it more and more difficult to get other roles outside of it. By 1959, his non-Superman roles had all but dried up and Reeves was doing sketch Superman bits on the road. One night, after an altercation and some drinks with friends, Reeves was found dead by gunshot to the head. It was ruled suicide though there are theories that he was killed by someone else, possibly Eddie Mannix, a GM at MGM whose wife, Toni Mannix, was personally involved with Reeves. Since the suicide was blamed on Reeves’ failed career and subsequent depression, the curse of the Superman role began to take flight.
14. Superman Returns DVD Makers
While they were putting together the DVD for Bryan Singer‘s Superman Returns, there was a series of unrelated accidents to several members of the production team, accidents which Singer himself attributed to the Superman Curse (though it was almost certainly a joke). One of the team members fell down a flight of stairs and another smashed into and through a window. A third member was mugged while he was leaving the studio. Sure, these are things that could happen to anyone, but the proximity in time and place that each of these separate events took place led some to believe that they were connected with the Superman curse.
13. Dana Reeve
The wife of the most well-known Superman, Christopher Reeve, Dana Reeve is the only member of this list who did not play any direct role associated with the character. She is, however, connected to the curse because of her closeness with her husband and her untimely and unlucky death in 2006. In 2005, a year after the death of her husband, Dana Reeve announced that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, despite the fact that she had never smoked in her life. Leading up to her death, she announced that her illness was being treated and her cancerous tumor appeared to be shrinking. Yet, in 2006, at the age of 44, Reeve passed away. Call it a stroke of bad luck in their family or a curse, it is horribly sad that Dana and her husband died within such a short period and at such young ages.
12. Margot Kidder
Best known for her role as Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, Margot Kidder is connected to the curse largely because of her highly publicized nervous breakdown in 1996. Leading up to Superman: The Movie, Kidder was in Black Christmas and Amityville Horror, forever leaving her mark on the horror genre. But it was her part as Lois Lane which would give her the vast majority of her fame and, if you believe in the curse, the vast majority of her problems. It’s said that in the mid-80s, sometime between Superman III and Superman IV, Kidder suffered a mental breakdown. Then, in 1996, the big event happened. Kidder lost three years worth of writing for her autobiography and went into a manic state. She disappeared for four days and was found in a random backyard, dishevelled and in rough condition. Since she was never able to reignite her career to the level it was at, people look to the Superman curse for an explanation.
11. Tom Welling
Though he is rarely associated with the Superman curse, maybe it’s about time Tom Welling was. When Welling first started in the TV hit show, Smallville, he was touted as the next thing. He was seen as the one to usher in the comic book and the comic book hero for a new generation of fans and the show was a romping success. Welling stayed on and did a whopping 10 seasons as Clark Kent, completing the run in 2011. In the past five years, however, Welling has done next to nothing. He’s done a few movies like Draft Day and The Choice, but nothing very successful. Only time will tell if he will be able to break out from under the shadow of Superman, but it appears that curse may have another victim.
10. Bud Collyer
In 1940, Bud Collyer became the voice of Superman on the radio in The Adventures of Superman. He would also voice Superman in the first cartoon of the superhero which ran from 1941 to 1943. After that Collyer would go on to host the successful game shows, Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth. But it was his return to the character of Superman that gets our attention here. His association with the curse seems strange because he enjoyed great success after his connection with Superman post-1943, but, in 1966, three years before his death, Collyer returned to voice Superman in The New Adventures of Superman, an animated series. It was here that the curse is said to have got him because it would be his last major performance.
9. Max and Dave Fleischer
Mac and Dave Fleischer were the guys who first brought the cartoon world Superman. Voiced by Bud Collyer, Superman the cartoon would go on to enjoy some great success in its run. The cartoon would create much of what we know about Superman, including the line, “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!” Yet, even with this success, the Fleischer studios suffered many financial difficulties. After a period of time of barely staying afloat, Paramount came in and bought the Fleischer studios and pushed out the brothers, leading them into poverty.
8. Marlon Brando
In 2004, three months before Christopher Reeves would die, the amazing Marlon Brando passed away. Brando, often considered to be one of the greatest actors to ever live, played the character of Jor-El in the 1978 film, Superman: The Movie. Soon after this role (and his role of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now in 1979), Brando announced his retirement from acting. He left film and wouldn’t return until 1989. The collapse of his health, his wealth and his social standing is often blamed on the Superman curse. Prior to this role, Brando was thought to be one of the true legends of the industry, after it, he was more often ridiculed for his weight and his ramblings than ever discussed with seriousness.
7. Lee Quigley
Lee Quigley, the little baby that Marlon Brando holds in Superman: The Movie, was not too young to escape the clutches of the Superman curse. After playing Superman as the baby Kal-El, Quigley never made any other film or TV appearances. This is actually pretty normal for baby actors, since the decision to act was the parents or guardians, but the little lad did die extremely young at the age of 14 by inhaling solvents. Obviously, since the young actor played Superman, he is connected to the curse, but this sad story probably has much more to it that we aren’t aware of.
6. Kate Bosworth
It feels strange to write about a young, healthy, living and fairly successful woman and connect her to the Superman curse, but here we are. When Kate Bosworth was first cast as Lois Lane in the 2006 film, Superman Returns, it seemed that she was destined for greatness. Her career was blowing up and this role was going to be the one to finally put her over the top. Well, her performance wasn’t all it was hoped to be. She was nominated for a few Razzies, critics slaughtered her and her stock plummeted. Yeah, she’s still acting, but her name isn’t spoken about nearly as much and her career may never get back to those early heights. Oh, and during filming, her and Orlando Bloom broke up, which she apparently blamed on the curse.
5. Richard Pryor
Many of the problems that the great comedian, Richard Pryor, encountered were faced before his role in Superman III in 1980, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is connected to the Superman curse. Pryor was a drug addict for many years, all culminating into one event in 1977 in which he was freebasing cocaine for an extended period of time. For whatever reason, some point to drug-induced psychosis, Pryor poured rum all over his body and then lit himself on fire and ran down the street. When he was finally taken down by authorities and brought to the hospital, he had suffered second and third degree burns over much of his body. Three years later he did Superman III. Three years after that, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Four years after that, he died of a heart attack. This sad decline is why he’s on this list.
4. Dean Cain
From 1993 to 1997, Dean Cain was one of the biggest names on TV. For four seasons, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman dominated the airwaves and Cain was one of the biggest reasons. The following of the show was huge and it appeared that Cain would become a megastar, but it was never to be. While the actor has carved out a nice career for himself, it turns out that he wasn’t destined for greatness like many thought. Is it fair to put expectations on someone and then call them a failure if they don’t reach them? Probably. But that’s what people do when it comes to the Superman curse, and that’s why he made the cut.
3. Kirk Alyn
In 1948, Hollywood felt it was ready to bring the first ever live-action Superman to the big screen and Kirk Alyn was the guy they chose. The 15-episode serial, Superman, would be Alyn’s big role and would end up being his only big role. Over the years he struggled to land other roles outside of Superman, and, like George Reeves after him, this failure was blamed on being typecast as Superman. In the 1978 film, Superman: The Movie, Alyn got the chance to play Lois Lane’s father as a little homage to his early depiction, which was a nice touch, but the man seems to have deserved more. Similar to how Bud Collyer, who dropped his voice an octave lower when he turned into Superman, Alyn would noticeably act and speak differently as Superman than he did as Clark Kent, a tradition that has stuck with the character ever since.
2. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
The story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster is a sad one but also a common one for the artists and writers in the old days of film and TV. After creating Superman, the two artists sold the character rights for next to nothing. When Superman became a very wealthy creation, the two tried to recover some of those profits, unsuccessfully. Living in near poverty, the two men struggled in menial jobs for much of their later lives. But this is one of the happier stories on this list. In 1975, after the Superman movie was announced, Siegel and Shuster protested the film and the treatment they had received at the hands of DC Comics. Warner Communications, the parent company, heard this call (or possibly just wanted to shut them up) and gave them both a suitable pension to live out their days.
1. Christopher Reeve
Finally, we get to the most famous Superman, Christopher Reeve. In 1978, Reeve took the character to heights no one thought possible. Over the next nine years, Reeve would act in four Superman films—some good, some bad—reminding everyone in the world who Superman was. Despite his great fame, after 1983, Reeve found it very difficult to land starring roles because he was so closely linked with Superman. Then in 1995, tragedy struck and Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident. He would be wheelchair bound for the next nine years until his death on October 10th, 2004. While he did manage to make a wonderfully impactful life after his accident, many fans feel that the Superman curse stripped him of everything he had going for him. Believe in the curse or not, all Superman fans were shattered by the accident and his death.
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