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Margot Kidder, star of ‘Superman,’ dead at 69
Joey Newcombe / CCL
Margot Kidder, who summoned her quick wit and husky voice to bring to life characters in more than 130 film and television performances, passed away Sunday at the age of 69. Best known for her unforgettable performance as Lois Lane, played opposite Christopher Reeve in the comic book classic “Superman,” Kidder would go on to reprise the role three more times in blockbuster sequels appearing throughout the 1980s.
According to her manager, Camilla Fluxman Pine, the retired actress died in her Livingston, Montana home, although the cause of her death remains undisclosed. She is survived by her daughter, Maggie McGuane, a sister and two grandchildren.
The daughter of a teacher and an explosives expert in the ore industry, Kidder was born in 1948 in Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s remote Northwest Territories. “I read books,” she remembered in a 2016 interview with The Montana Standard, “and hung out with friends in the woods or at the hockey rink. We’d get Montreal on the shortwave radio once a week. That was about it for entertainment.”
Kidder’s love for acting began after her parents sent her to a boarding school, where she took part in school plays. The young thespian nurtured her craft all the way through college at the University of British Columbia.
It didn’t take long for Kidder, a stunning beauty, to catch the attention of talent recruiters. Throughout the 1960s, she landed her first television roles in the Canadian series “Wojeck,” “McQueen” and “Corwin.” In 1969, Kidder made her big-screen debut in the Norman Jewison comedy “Gaily, Gaily.”
Director Richard Donner took notice of Kidder after watching her regular appearances on “Nichols,” an American Western series that aired in the 1970s. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Donner recalled his casting call with Ms. Kidder for the first “Superman” movie: “When I met her in the casting office,” he said, “she tripped coming in, and I just fell in love with her. It was perfect.”
Kidder stayed with the “Superman” franchise for the filming of “Superman II” (1980), “Superman III” (1983) and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (1987). Despite a lukewarm reception from critics, audiences couldn’t get enough of the superhero saga which helped launch Kidder’s career.
One year after playing Clark Kent’s leading lady in the original box office hit, Kidder tried her hand at acting in a horror movie. The acclaimed actress co-starred in “The Amityville Horror,” battling a possessed house alongside actor James Brolin, who played her brooding husband in the instant cult classic.
Kidder appeared in dozens of films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, capitalizing on the success that followed “Superman.” She appeared with the iconic Robert Redford at the height of his career in “The Great Waldo Pepper” (1975), rounding out her filmography in 1982 by starring opposite the late Richard Pryor in “Some Kind of Hero.”
Kidder would come to mimic her on-screen performance as an investigative journalist in “Superman” when she began questioning her country’s nuclear proliferation, lobbying on behalf of the anti-nuclear movement and numerous other liberal causes. In 2011, she was even arrested at the White House while protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Perhaps Kidder caught the bug for politics while dating Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau while he was serving in the executive post from 1980 to 1984. Trudeau’s biographer recalled a state visit to Washington where the statesman was accompanied by a rebellious young actress who “argued vehemently with senior Reagan administration officials while he urged her on by squeezing her thigh each time she scored a point.”
Trudeau even credits his girlfriend with convincing him to launch a peace initiative in the waning months of his administration.
Kidder’s romantic relationship with the Canadian socialist followed three unsuccessful marriages, including to director Philippe de Broca in 1983 and actor John Heard in 1979.
Kidder’s first marriage was to director and novelist Thomas McGuane in 1976, whom she divorced just one year later. The pair met on the set of the 1975 film “92 in the Shade”, starring Peter Fonda and written and directed by McGuane.
Fans will never forget the sultry starlet who took Hollywood by storm in 1978 and never looked back. Her life was colored by political activism, a highly publicized mental breakdown, and a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder. As she faced these challenges, though, there is no doubt that Kidder left an indelible mark on society — one that will not soon be forgotten.
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