Saturday Review: Hollywoodland

Released in 2006, this film has fared better as a rental. Is this account of the Death of Superman– that, is, George Reeves– worth watching?

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Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Allen Coulter.

Writer: Paul Bernbaum


Adrien Brody as Louis Simo
Ben Affleck as George Reeves
Diane Lane as Toni Mannix
Bob Hoskins as Eddie Mannix
Robert Tunney as Leonore Lemmon
Lois Smith as Helen Bessolo


The film traces the latter half of George Reeves’ career, which ended tragically, and the efforts by a private investigator to determine the truth behind the death of tv’s Superman.

High Point:

The encounter between a slightly inebriated “Superman” and a somewhat unbalanced young fan ranks among the film’s most riveting and revealing moments. It’s a great scene, even if the oft-repeated story seems to be an invention of Reeves’.

Low Point:

Despite an excellent performance by Adrien Brody, the detective’s life isn’t nearly as interesting as Reeves’, and the film devotes too much time to this plot at the expense of the other.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The film does nothing really original, but it’s an interesting take on a notorious Hollywood mystery.

Story: 4/6. The plot moves a bit too slowly through its twists. We see a few recreations of how Reeves might have died. Rather than proffer a fictional solution, Hollywoodland leaves the key questions unanswered. Tellingly, the final version of his death that we see, after our investigator (a fictional character possibly inspired by real-life P.I. Milo Sperilgio) has learned much about Reeves’ life, is the suicide. In all probability, Reeves ended his life in this manner.

Effects: 4/6 The only effects are quick recreations of those used in Superman’s television and real-life appearances. These serve their purpose.

Acting. 6/6. The actors turn in excellent, realistic performances as people who are neither noble enough to be heroes nor dark enough to be villains. Real life ain’t comix.

Production: 5/6 Hollywoodland does an excellent job of recreating a Hollywood that has reached the end of its Golden Age.

Emotional Response: 4/6.

Overall: 4/6 This film has some fine moments, but it is uneven.

In total, Hollywoodland receives a score of 30/42.

Books have been written about Reeves’ life and death. The Straight Dope has this brief account of the incident and the evidence. This piece at ChasingtheFrog examines the film’s facts and fictionalizations.