I remember one thing about the 2001 Oscar broadcast. The show did its typically splendid and moving "In Memoriam" for all the Hollywoodites who had died the previous year. The crowd applauded as the faces of the recently deceased--Alec Guinness, Hedy Lamarr, Walter Matthau--appeared and then dissolved on the screen, with some sentimental tune sweeping up the background. Then came Steve Reeves ... and the applause died. Silence.
Frankly, I was offended. Sure, Reeves might not have been the usual sort of star the Academy paid attention to, but for some of us, for me, he had been a huge and important star. Why the sudden silence? Was his life and death of so little importance to a crowd about to award its highest honor to Gladiator, an upscale version of the kind of film Steve had built his reputation on? Or was the Kodak Theatre packed that night, as I meanly suspected at the time, with a bunch of closet cases who didn't want to let on that they even knew who Reeves was?
Steve Reeves, the most dashing and beautiful of all the movie Herculeses, died on this day twelve years ago. His biggest legacy was wearing togas and flexing while wrestling humongous bad guys, but he also played Jane Powell's boyfriend in Athena and acted (well, "acted") in the movie Jail Bait directed (well, "directed") by Ed Wood. At one point in his career, according to Wikipedia, he was the highest paid movie star in Europe.
If he had done nothing but pose for the posters of peplum films, the posters I used to stand outside and discreetly drool over as a kid, he would have earned a place of high esteem in my mind. He has served as a model for my idea of American masculinity to this day. No doubt it's because of him that I now look up to Mike Bennett and Austin Cooper and other sturdily built "all-American" types. What a beauty! What a man!