(1) Steve Reeves
Steve joined the Army in his
late teens where his job was loading boxcars and trucks. He also
worked out loyally at the gym during his free time and the combination
helped develop his body quite rapidly. Following Army service
(he served for a time in the Pacific), he decided to pursue bodybuilding
professionally. In 1946, at the age of 20, he won "Mr. Pacific
Coast" in Oregon, which led to his titles of "Mr. Western
America" (1947), Mr. America" (1947), "Mr. World"
(1948) and, ultimately, "Mr. Universe" (1950).
Down on his luck, Steve's fortunes change when Italian film director Pietro Francisci saw him play Jane Powell's boyfriend in the feature film Athena (1954) and persuaded him to go overseas to star in Fatiche di Ercole, Le (1958) (US title: "Hercules"). Though critics dismissed the film as "muddled mythology" while denigrating its cheapjack production values (including a poorly-dubbed sound track), the public went crazy over the sword-and-sandal epic and, in particular, Steve's marvelous beefcake heroics. He became an "overnight" star. Sequels followed, none any better or worse, with him going through the paces as a number absurdly-muscled biblical and mythological figures. An able horseman, he also performed many of his own stunts. Moreover, he paved the way for other pumped-up acting hopefuls (Ed Fury, Mark Forest, Reg Park) to seek their
(2) Samson, Ursus or Colossus. Nobody, however, came close to topping Steve in popularity.
A shoulder injury forced Steve's retirement, spending the remainder of his life promoting steroid-free bodybuilding while living on a ranch and breeding horses. The more recent bodybuilders of fame such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, both Hercules impersonators of yore, have given Steve significant credit for their respective acting successes. Married twice, Steve died in Southern California of lymphoma on May 1, 2000, at age 74.
His wife, Aline, died of complications from a stroke in 1989. He wrote "Building the Classical Physique -- The Natural Way". Through his Steve Reeves International Society Web site, he promoted supplements and powders with natural ingredients. He moved to Oakland with his family as a child and began lifting weights when he was 16 years old.
Mr. Universe 1950
Mentioned in the song "Sweet
Transvestite" from the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Such bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and David Prowse have credited Reeves as a role model for the bodybuilding world.
Often confused with, and is not related to, George Reeves, who played Superman on TV in the 1950s. While working on a studio next to the set where the Superman series was filmed, producers once threatened to fire George after an argument and replace him with Steve.
In 1949 director Cecil B. DeMille considered (and came very close) casting Reeves as Samson in Samson and Delilah (1949) after Burt Lancaster proved unavailable. Although DeMille liked Reeves and thought he was perfect for the role, a dispute between Reeves and the studio over his physique forced DeMille to recast the role of Samson with Victor Mature. After becoming popular in the late 1950s and 1960s, Reeves turned down the roles of James Bond in Dr. No (1962) and the Man With No Name in Per un pugno di dollari (1964).
He loved horses and was a great rider himself. Italian producers later found that to be an advantage, since Reeves usually did his own stunts in his films and they didn't have to hire a horse riding double for him. After retiring from films due to a shoulder injury, Reeves bought a ranch and took up breeding horses professionally.
He was a friend of "Tarzan" actor Gordon Scott, and recommended him for the role of Remus in Romolo e Remo (1961). The producers originally wanted Reeves to play both Romulus and Remus through some doubling, but Reeves convinced them that it would be more effective to have another actor playing Remus.
(3) His voice was dubbed in his Italian epics. The only films where his real voice is heard are Jail Bait (1954) and Athena (1954).
His entire bodybuilding career consisted of 6 contests.
His mother was a nutritionist.
He survived numerous life-threatening
experiences as a child, including being hit by a car and dragged,
being thrown from a horse and sleeping through an earthquake
as a child in Montana. When he couldn't be accounted for, family
members found him sound asleep, his bedroom teetering on the
brink of a three-story fall.
Was of Welsh, Irish, English and German descent
Served in the Philippines during WWII, contracted malaria, and served his remaining time under Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the occupation of Japan.
Prior to its release, Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000) was being referred to by some writers as the first "Steve Reeves type" movie in decades. It had also been written that Scott was amiss in not getting Reeves to at least do a cameo. Sadly, Reeves died on the very day that "Gladiator" premiered..
While filming Ultimi giorni di Pompei, Gli (1959) (a remake of The Last Days of Pompeii (1935)), the chariot he was driving struck a tree and he dislocated his shoulder. This put an end to his more intense exercise routines and caused problems in the following years.
He was reportedly diagnosed with lymphoma only six weeks prior to this death.
He was played by Michael J. Nelson in the episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (1988) that showed his film Ercole e la regina di Lidia (1959).
He often criticized the use of steroids in bodybuilding because he felt that it undermined the health value and the challenge of bodybuilding as a sport. He once remarked, "Body builders used to come in all shapes and sizes. Now they all look like Arnold [Schwarzenegger]."
Almost paradoxically, Reeves' impressive physique prompted filmmakers to put him into a variety of "bondage" situations. Two such situations are cited in the book: "Lash! The Hundred Greatest Scenes of Men Being Whipped in the Movies." Ranking 7th is Reeves' flogging in Romolo e Remo (1961) and ranking 24th is his flogging in Agi Murad il diavolo bianco (1959).
Though proud of his work as Hercules, he was always disappointed that his other films did not receive much recognition. He once remarked "I only did two Hercules films, but everyone seems to think I did ten."
Took up power walking (which combined swinging hand held weights in both hands while walking) in order to compensate for the damage done to him by his shoulder injury.
He was the undisputed king of the European produced sword and sandal/mythological muscleman epics. Although he became an international sensation, the core of his film career lasted only 5 years (1958-1963)and a staggering 15 epic productions during that period. Afterward, he made another "Sandokan" feature and attempted a film in the next big Italian film craze, the spaghetti western, before retiring from the screen.
Is credited by Sylvester Stallone for inspiring Stallone to work out and build up his body and later became friends with Reeves after he became famous.
Lou Ferrigno said, "After seeing Goliath and the Barbarians, I decided to start bodybuilding and look like Steve".
Sylvester Stallone walked out of the theater after seeing Hercules and couldn't believe what he had just seen. He said to himself," Sly do want to be a bum or be like Steve Reeves". He decided to follow Steve doing action films.
Bo Derek the beautiful actress wrote to Steve, "On a scale of 1 to 10 Steve, you destroyed the meter! You still do".