Monday, May 14, 2018

RIP MARGOT KIDDER, AN UNDERRATED ACTRESS WHO FLEW HIGH AS LOIS LANE


Margot Kidder, who achieved worldwide fame playing reporter Lois Lane in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, has died at 69. She was an underrated actress, one who could do comedy as easily as drama. Kidder defined the word "spunk" and brought intelligence and wit to almost every role the actress played. Some of the best parts of her career may have been sidelined by addiction issues, as well as unfortunate bouts with mental illness, but she nonetheless leaves behind some truly incredible film work. And for most Man of Steel fans, she will always be Lois. 



In the late 60's and early 70's, she was one of the up and coming ingenues, often popping up on television series like HARRY O and BARNABY JONES. I remember her as a sassy foil to George Peppard's cool sleuth in an episode of BANACEK. She was always sassy, even way back then. Of course, not long after that, Kidder got her big break when she was cast as Lois for Warner Bros' big-budget tentpole that carried the tagline "You will believe a man can fly." It was a ginormous critical and commercial hit, and suddenly, Kidder was everywhere. 

There were many outstanding attributes to Richard Donner's comic book adaptation, including one of John Williams' best scores, and Gene Hackman's cheekiest villains, but it was Christopher Reeve and Kidder who propelled that movie into classic status. She had palpable romantic chemistry with Reeve in his Man of Steel garb, and the scene where they fly together on their date is one of the most exhilarating and poignant love scenes ever captured on film. 



During it, Kidder's voice-over narrated the song "Can You Read My Mind" playing as they soared over Manhattan. As lovely as that song was, it probably wouldn't have become such a romantic ballad hit for songstress Maureen McGovern if Kidder hadn't made it so intimate and sexy while ogling her new 'boyfriend' amongst the clouds. 

Of course, where she really shone in that film, and the sequels she participated in, was in the comic interactions with all of those around her. Not only did she and Reeve conjure up the feeling of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in their schtick, but she batted banter with Jackie Cooper as crusty editor Perry White and Marc McClure as the naive Jimmy Olsen as well. Yet, even though Lois could be selfish and crude, Kidder kept us in love with her. She was a tough cookie, albeit one with a soft, gooey middle. 



There were other acclaimed films or starring roles, mostly in indies after that, though she did help make THE AMITYVILLE HORROR a hit, as well as HALLOWEEN II. Her best work, outside of the SUPERMAN franchise, was probably her starring turn in the Canadian sleeper HEARTACHES. She even won the Genie award in 1982 for Best Actress for that one.

Then her career got sidelined by personal problems that took her off the big screen and plopped her down on the gossip pages. She came back a few times after that, doing a lot of TV work, but her star never rose quite so high again. Hollywood is tough on actresses, especially those that develop a reputation for being "problematic." But Kidder persevered and has quite the lengthy IMDB biography.


My original caricature of Margot Kidder in SISTERS (copyright 2011).
Among those listings are some other films that have stood the test of time and became classics in addition to her SUPERMAN work. She was incredibly scary in the 1972 horror movie SISTERS written and directed by Brian De Palma. There, she played conjoined twins who are separated and have a great deal of difficulty letting go of their, ahem, singular relationship. It became a cult classic when first released, and its reputation has only grown since. 

I had a celebrity encounter with her in 2009 when she appeared at the Wizard World comic convention out in Rosemont. Kidder was signing 8" x 10" glossies for fans, as many celebs do at such things. After a quick lunch break, she returned, and I found myself the first one in line. I did not choose a pic of her as Lois to sign, but rather one of her as the twins Danielle and Dominique from SISTERS. As I approached her with that photo, she remarked that I was the first fan to choose something from that movie for her to sign. 


My autograph of Margot Kidder on the 8" x 10" glossy from SISTERS. 
"That's a shame," I commented. "I suppose it's because some of your fans aren't aware of the film." She nodded, but then added, "Or maybe they found me too scary in it." I laughed and told her that her scene in that film where she stabbed her date with a cake knife still gave me nightmares. Kidder confessed, "Brian (De Palma) wrote that script for me when we were dating. He said he wrote the two sides of me." I asked her if he wrote it for her before or after celebrating his birthday. She laughed in that hearty, distinctive way of hers and signed my picture. It remains a cherished memento of mine as Margot was one of my earliest crushes. 



My interaction with her was small but perfect, capturing all that I loved about her. Both sweet and coarse, sentimental and dark, sensitive and resilient, Kidder was an actress who could juxtapose those disparate emotions right up against each other. She made over 135 appearances on the big and small screen in her vast, 49-year career. And if she could have read the minds of her fans, she'd have known the permanent place she would always have in our hearts. 


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