Steve Reeves, 1990
January 21, 1926|
Glasgow, Montana, USA
|Died||May 1, 2000
Escondido, California, USA
|Occupation||Athlete, actor, philanthropist, bodybuilder|
(1955 – 1956; divorced)
Aline Czartjarwicz (1963 – 1989; her death)
Deborah Ann Engelhorn (1994 - 2000; his death)
Born in Glasgow, Montana, Steve Reeves moved to California at age 10 with his mother Goldie Reeves, after his father Lester Dell Reeves died in a farming accident. Reeves developed an interest in bodybuilding in high school and trained at Ed Yarick's gym in Oakland. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army during World War II, and served in the Philippines.
After his military service and winning the 1947 AAU Mr. America, Reeves became interested in pursuing an acting career. He studied acting under Stella Adler but after arguments was refunded his tuition. He was selected by Cecil B. DeMille for the lead role in his Samson and Delilah, where he received extensive training. In order to look convincing on-camera, he was told to lose 15 pounds as the camera added weight, but turned the movie offer down because he could not compete in bodybuilding with the diminshed weight.
In 1949 he filmed a Tarzan type television pilot called Kimbar of the Jungle and in 1950 became Mr. Universe. In 1954 he had a small role in his first major motion picture, the musical Athena playing the boyfriend of Jane Powell's character. The same year Reeves had a small role as a cop in the Ed Wood film Jail Bait. These two films are the only ones Reeves made where his own voice was used — for the remainder of his career, Reeves acted in Italian-made films where all dialogue and sound effects were added in post-production.
On December 17, 1954, Reeves guest-starred in the ABC sitcom with a variety show theme, The Ray Bolger Show. Ray Bolger portrayed Raymond Wallace, a song-and-dance man repeatedly barely on time for his performances. Reeves played a well-built office employee whom Wallace sees in the company of Wallace's girlfriend, Susan, played by Marjie Millar. Others in the series were Richard Erdman, Allyn Joslyn, Betty Lynn, Sylvia Lewis, Gloria Winters, and Verna Felton.
In 1957, Reeves went to Italy and played the lead character in Pietro Francisci's Hercules, a relatively low-budget epic based loosely on the tales of Jason and the Argonauts, though inserting Hercules into the lead role. The film was a major box-office success, grossing $5m in the United States alone in 1959. Its commercial success led to a 1959 sequel Hercules Unchained.
From 1959 through 1964, Reeves went on to appear in a string of sword and sandal movies shot on relatively small budgets, and although he is best known for his portrayal of Hercules, he played the character only twice: in the 1957 film (released in the USA in 1959) and its 1959 sequel Hercules Unchained (released in the US in 1960). He played a number of other characters on-screen, including Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Glaucus of Pompeii; Goliath, the bane of the barbarians (actually called "Emiliano" in the Italian version); Tatar hero Hadji Murad; Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome (opposite Gordon Scott as his twin brother Remus); Pheidippides, the famous wartime messenger of the Battle of Marathon; pirate and self-proclaimed governor of Jamaica, Captain Henry Morgan; and Karim, the fabled Thief of Baghdad. Twice he played Aeneas of Troy and twice he played Emilio Salgari's Malaysian hero, Sandokan.
After the box office success of Hercules, Reeves turned down the role that finally went to Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) because he could not believe that "Italians could make a western". He also claimed to have turned down the James Bond role in Dr. No (1962). Reeves mentioned in an interview that he was offered only $100,000 to play Secret Agent 007, whereas he was earning $250,000 per film in Italy, and as such was tied with Sophia Loren as the highest paid actor in Europe at the time; thus he turned down the role of James Bond to continue making films in Italy.
During the filming of The Last Days of Pompeii, Reeves dislocated his shoulder when his chariot slammed into a tree. Swimming in a subsequent underwater escape scene, he re-injured his shoulder. The injury would be aggravated by his stunt work in each successive film, ultimately leading to his retirement from film making.
In 1968 Reeves appeared in his final film, a spaghetti western that imitated the Sergio Leone epics, which he also co-wrote, titled I Live For Your Death! (later released as A Long Ride From Hell). His last screen appearance was in 2000 when he appeared as himself in the made-for-television A&E Biography: Arnold Schwarzenegger - Flex Appeal.
In 1994 Steve and business partner George Helmer started the Steve Reeves International Society then in 1996 incorporated to become Steve Reeves International Inc. The company is still active promoting his film legacy and a natural fitness lifestyle which was so important to Reeves. Steve invented Powerwalking and wrote a book of that name in 1982. Steve went on and write two other books published by S.R.I.
Later in his life, Reeves promoted drug-free bodybuilding and bred horses. The last two decades of his life were spent in Valley Center, California, near Escondido. He bought a ranch with his savings and lived there with his second wife Aline until her death in 1989. On June 28, 1994 he married Deborah Ann Engelhorn in Moose, Montana. On May 1, 2000, Reeves died from a blood clot after having surgery two days earlier. He died in Escondido Hospital, where his second wife had also died.
Filmography in chronological order
Films are listed in order of production, by their American theatrical release titles; translation of the original Italian titles are in parentheses following the date....
- Athena (1954) Hollywood film directed by Richard Thorpe
- Jail Bait (1954) Hollywood film directed by Ed Wood
- Hercules (1957) (Le fatiche di Ercole / The Labors of Hercules) released in Italy in 1958, released in U.S.A. in 1959
- Hercules Unchained (1959) (Ercole e la regina di Lidia / Hercules and the Queen of Lydia) released in USA 1960
- Goliath and the Barbarians (1959) (Il terrore dei barbari / Terror of the Barbarians)
- The Giant of Marathon (1959) (La battaglia di Maratona / The Battle of Marathon)
- The Last Days of Pompeii (1959) (Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei / The Last Days of Pompeii)
- The White Warrior (1959) (Hadji Murad il Diavolo Bianco / Hadji Murad, The White Devil) directed by Riccardo Freda
- Morgan, the Pirate (1960) (Morgan, il pirata)
- The Thief of Baghdad (1960) (Il Ladro di Bagdad / The Thief of Baghdad)
- The Trojan Horse (1961) (The Trojan War)
- Duel of the Titans (1961) (Romolo e Remo / Romulus And Remus)
- The Slave (1962) (Il Figlio di Spartaco / Son of Spartacus)
- The Avenger (1962) (La leggenda di Enea / The Legend Of Aeneas) this was a sequel to The Trojan Horse (a.k.a. The Last Glory of Troy or War of the Trojans)
- Sandokan the Great (1964) (Sandokan, the Tiger of Mompracem) directed by Umberto Lenzi
- Pirates of Malaysia (1964) a.k.a. Sandokan, the Pirate of Malaysia , a.k.a. Pirates of the Seven Seas; this was a sequel to Sandokan the Great, directed by Umberto Lenzi
- A Long Ride from Hell (1967) (I Live for Your Death!) spaghetti western directed by Camillo Brazzoni, produced and co-written by Steve Reeves
Reference in other Films
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Lyrics to "Sweet Transvestite" performed by Tim Curry.
- Lyman, Rick (2000-05-05). "Steve Reeves, 74, Whose 'Hercules' Began a Genre". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- Lane, John Francis (2000-06-05). "Steve Reeves: Putting muscle and myth in the movies". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- The Last Interview Iron Game History December 2000 Vol 6 No 4
- An Interview with Steeve Reeves The Perfect Vision Magazine Volume 6 Issue #22 July 1994
- "Where's Raymond?/ The Ray Bolger Show". ctva.biz. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
- IMDB: Business
- Chapman, David. "On The Cover: Steve Reeves", Hardgainer, November 1992.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Steve Reeves.|
- An Interview with Steve Reeves by Roy Frumkes, from The Perfect Vision Magazine, Volume 6, Issue #22, July 1994
- How Steve Reeves Trained by John Grimek, Muscular Development November 1964, account of how Reeves trained to prepare for the 1950 Mr. Universe competition at the York Barbell Club gym
- The Many Faces of Hercules at Brien's Drive-In Theater
- Steve Reeves at the Internet Movie Database
- Steve Reeves at the Internet Broadway Database
- Steve Reeves at Find a Grave
- Feature Films: Hercules
- Feature Films: Hercules Unchained
- Steve Reeves Gallery