Steve Reeves

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the bodybuilder and actor. For the computer scientist, see Steve Reeves (computer scientist).
Steve Reeves
Stevereeves1990 CROP.jpg
Steve Reeves, 1990
Born (1926-01-21)January 21, 1926[1]
Glasgow, Montana, USA
Died May 1, 2000(2000-05-01) (aged 74)
Escondido, California, USA[1]
Occupation Athlete, actor, philanthropist, bodybuilder
Spouse(s) Sandra Smith
(1955 – 1956; divorced)
Aline Czartjarwicz[1] (1963 – 1989; her death)
Deborah Ann Engelhorn (1994 - 2000; his death)

Stephen L. Reeves (January 21, 1926 – May 1, 2000[1]) was an American bodybuilder and actor. At the peak of his career, he was the highest-paid actor in Europe.[2]


Born in Glasgow, Montana,[2] Reeves moved to California at age 10 with his mother Goldie Reeves, after his father Lester Dell Reeves died in a farming accident.[1] Reeves developed an interest in bodybuilding in Castlemont High School and trained at Ed Yarick's gym in Oakland. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States 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.[3] 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 diminished weight.[4]

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[1] 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.

Reeves guest starred on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show as the owner of a gym.[5] 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.[6]

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.[1] The film was a major box-office success, grossing $5m in the United States in 1959.[7] 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,[1] 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). By 1960, Reeves was ranked as the number-one, box-office draw in twenty-five countries around the world.[8] 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; Randus, the son of Spartacus; and Karim, the fabled Thief of Baghdad. Twice he played Aeneas of Troy and twice he played Emilio Salgari's Malaysian hero, Sandokan.

Reeves turned down the James Bond role in Dr. No (1962)[2] because of the low salary the producers offered.[9] Reeves also 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".[2]

During the filming of The Last Days of Pompeii, Reeves dislocated his shoulder when his chariot slammed into a tree.[1][2] 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.[1]

In 1968 Reeves appeared in his final film, a spaghetti Western he co-wrote, titled I Live For Your Death! (later released as A Long Ride From Hell).[1] His last screen appearance was in 2000 when he appeared as himself in the made-for-television A&E Biography: Arnold Schwarzenegger — Flex Appeal.

George Pal contacted Reeves for the role of Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze the first of what was meant to be a film series but when filming was about to begin a Hollywood writers strike put the film on hold with Reeves and the original director replaced.[10]

Steve Reeves International Inc.[edit]

In 1994, Reeves and business partner George Helmer started the Steve Reeves International Society; in 1996, it incorporated to become Steve Reeves International Inc.[citation needed]

Reeves wrote the book Powerwalking,[11] and two self-published books, Building the Classic Physique - The Natural Way,[12] and Dynamic Muscle Building.[13]

Freelance writer Rod Labbe interviewed Reeves, and the article appeared in Films of the Golden Age magazine, summer 2011.[14] It was the last extensive interview Steve Reeves did.

Later years[edit]

Later in his life, Reeves bred horses and promoted drug-free bodybuilding.[1][2] The last two decades of his life were spent in Valley Center, California, near Escondido. He bought a ranch with savings from his film career and lived there with his second wife Aline until her death in 1989.[1][2] On May 1, 2000, Reeves died from a blood clot after having surgery two days earlier. He died in Palomar Hospital, where his second wife had also died.

Filmography in chronological order[edit]

Pirates of Malaysia European release poster

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....

See also[edit]


Mentioned in the lyrics of "Sweet Transvestite" ("If you want something visual, that's not too abysmal, we could take in an old Steve Reeves movie") from Richard O 'Brien's "Rocky Horror Picture Show"

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Lyman, Rick (2000-05-05). "Steve Reeves, 74, Whose 'Hercules' Began a Genre". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lane, John Francis (2000-06-05). "Steve Reeves: Putting muscle and myth in the movies". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  3. ^ The Last Interview Iron Game History December 2000 Vol 6 No 4
  4. ^ An Interview with Steeve Reeves The Perfect Vision Magazine Volume 6 Issue #22 July 1994
  5. ^ "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show". 
  6. ^ "Where's Raymond?/ The Ray Bolger Show". Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  7. ^ IMDB: Business
  8. ^ Rutledge, Leigh W. (1989). The Gay Fireside Companion. Alyson Publications, Inc. p. 146. 
  9. ^ Labbe, Rod Steve Reeves: Demi-God on Horseback Films of the Golden Age
  10. ^ "Cult Movies 1996: Steve Reeves - The World's Favorite Hercules". Retrieved 2011-04-05. 
  11. ^ Reeves, Steve; Peterson, James (1982). Powerwalking. Bobbs-Merrill. p. 196. ISBN 978-0672527135. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
  12. ^ Reeves, Steve; Little, John; Tanny, Armand (December 1, 1995). Building the Classic Physique - The Natural Way. Little Wolf Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-1885096104. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
  13. ^ Reeves, Steve; Helmer, George (2003). Dynamic Muscle Building. John Little. p. 171. ASIN B000ME9BIQ. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
  14. ^
  • Reeves, Steve; LeClaire, Chris (1999). WORLDS TO CONQUER - An Authorized Biography Of Steve Reeves.[1] Monomoy Press. p. 256.[2]

Further reading[edit]

  • Chapman, David. "On The Cover: Steve Reeves", Hardgainer, November 1992.
  • LeClaire, Christopher. "WORLDS TO CONQUER - An Authorized Biography Of Steve Reeves",[1] December, 1999.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ ISBN 0-9676754-1-3