Reeves won the following bodybuilding titles:
1946 - Mr. Pacific Coast
1947 - Mr. Western America
1947 - Mr. America
1948 - Mr. World
1950 - Mr. Universe
By his own account, his best cold (unpumped) measurements at the peak of his bodybuilding activity were:
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Neck: 18 1/4"
Biceps: 18 1/4"
Calves: 18 1/4"
Reeves was known for his "V-taper" and for the great width of his shoulders, which Armand Tanny once measured at 23 1/2" using outside calipers.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding states:
By [the 1940s] the distinction between lifting weights purely for strength and training with weights to shape and proportion the body had been clearly made. ... However, bodybuilding still remained an obscure sport. No champion was known to the general public--that is, until Steve Reeves came along. Reeves was the right man in the right place at the right time. He was handsome, personable, and had a magnificent physique. Survivors from the Muscle Beach era recall how crowds used to follow Reeves when he walked along the beach, and how people who knew nothing about him would simply stop and stare, awestruck.
After his military service, Reeves decided to try his hand at acting, having been told endlessly that he had the rugged good looks of a Hollywood star. After some intensive actor training, he came to the attention of film director Cecil B. De Mille, who considered him for the part of Samson in Samson and Delilah (1949). After a dispute over his physique in which De Mille and the studio wanted Reeves to lose 15 pounds of muscle, the part finally went to Victor Mature.
In 1954 he had a co-starring role in his first major motion picture, the musical Athena playing Jane Powell's boyfriend. The same year Reeves had a small role as a cop in the Ed Wood film Jail Bait. This is one of the few opportunities to hear Reeves' voice as most of his later films were dubbed. Reeves' appearance in Athena prompted Italian director Pietro Francisci's daughter to suggest him for the role of Hercules in her father's upcoming movie. In 1957, Reeves went to Italy and played the title character in Francisci's Hercules, which was released in Italy in February 1958 and in the U.S. in July 1959. The film's cinematographer Mario Bava claimed credit for suggesting that Reeves grow a beard for the role. Following the U.S. release, the film was an enormous hit and created a new sub-genre of the sword and sandal film (also known as the peplum film): the 'Hercules' or 'strong man' movie. The film is now in public domain and can be downloaded from the Internet Archive.
From 1959 through 1964, Reeves went on to appear in a string of sword and sandal movies, and although he is best known for his portrayal of the Greek hero Hercules, he played the character only twice - in the 1958 film Hercules and the sequel Hercules Unchained (released in the U.S. in 1960). He played a number of other characters on screen, including Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Glaucus of Pompeii; Goliath (also called Emiliano); Tatar hero Hadji Murad; Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome (opposite Gordon Scott as his twin brother Remus); the famous Olympian and war-time messenger of the Battle of Marathon, Pheidippides (The Giant of Marathon); pirate and self-proclaimed governor of Jamaica Captain Henry Morgan; and Karim, the Thief of Baghdad. Twice he played Aeneas of Troy and twice he played Emilio Salgari's Malaysian hero, Sandokan.
Paramount considered Reeves for the title role of their film version of the Broadway musical Li'l Abner in 1958, but the part eventually went to Peter Palmer. After the box office success of Hercules, Reeves turned down a number of parts that subsequently made the careers of other actors. He was asked to star as James Bond in Dr. No (1962), which he turned down. He also declined the role that finally went to Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars (1964).
During the filming of The Last Days of Pompeii, Reeves dislocated his shoulder when his chariot crashed into a tree. Reeves pulled the joint back into its socket by himself and chose to continue filming and performing his own stunts. Swimming in a subsequent underwater escape scene he reinjured his shoulder. The injury would be aggravated by his stunt work in each successive film, ultimately leading him to retire early.
In 1968 Reeves appeared in his final film, a spaghetti western which he also co-wrote, titled A Long Ride From Hell, fulfilling his wish to make a Western before he retired. George Pal had considered him for the title role of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze but delays in filming had the part eventually go to Ron Ely. At the peak of his career, he was the highest-paid actor in Europe. His last screen appearance was in 2000 when he appeared as himself in the made-for-television A&E Biography: Arnold Schwarzenegger - Flex Appeal.
Later in his life, Reeves promoted drug-free bodybuilding and bred horses. The last two decades of his life were spent in Valley Center (Escondido), California. He bought a ranch with his savings and lived there with his second wife Aline until her death in 1989. On May 1, 2000, Reeves died from complications of lymphoma.
Athena (1954) an MGM musical starring Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, and Edmund Purdom
Jail Bait (1954) directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.
Hercules (1958) aka The Labors of Hercules
Hercules Unchained (1959) aka Hercules and the Queen of Lydia
The Giant of Marathon (1959) aka The Battle of Marathon
Goliath and the Barbarians (1959) aka Terror of the Barbarians
The Last Days of Pompeii (1959)
The White Warrior (1959) directed by Riccardo Freda
Morgan, the Pirate (1960)
The Thief of Bagdad (1960)
Duel of the Titans (1961) aka Romulus and Remus
The Trojan Horse (1961) aka The Trojan War
The Avenger (1962) aka The Last Glory of Troy
The Slave (1962) aka Son of Spartacus
Sandokan The Great (1964) directed by Umberto Lenzi
Pirates of Malaysia (1964) aka Pirates of the Seven Seas
A Long Ride From Hell (1967) spaghetti western
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