If you were a moviegoer of a certain age, you just might have had a huge crush on Margot Kidder. I know I’m not just speaking for myself, but make no mistake, I am speaking for myself.
The obvious reason of course, is because she was Lois Lane. With all due respect to Amy Adams, who is probably a better actor and certainly has a better overall resume, Margot Kidder is the one and only.
From the moment she stepped onscreen in Richard Donner’s definitive Superman from 1978, she was everything the role required and more. Spunky, smart, funny, tough, and using the parlance of the times, quite foxy. Kidder was remarkably adept at both physical and verbal comedy. The finesse of her pratfalls was matched perfectly by her pointed wit. Sure, the part was written really well, but Kidder was so good, you could scarcely imagine her being any different away from the camera.
Hell, as great as she was in the Superman films, I would argue she was born at the wrong time. Can you imagine how wonderful she would have been in Preston Sturges’ screwball comedies of the 40’s? The mind practically reels.
While Kidder’s CV beyond the Superman films is pretty slight in quality there are some notable exceptions. Before Jamie Lee Curtis became known as the “Scream Queen”, Kidder was excellent in DePalma’s Sisters from 1972, and the cult horror classic Black Christmas which arrived just two years later. She even parried Curtis and Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978 with a massive success of her own just one year later with The Amityville Horror.
She also sported solid turns in The Great Waldo Pepper across from Redford and Sarandon, and I rather enjoyed Some Kind Of Hero, a forgettable (except to me) comedy she made with former paramour Richard Pryor.
It could be argued that Kidder’s offscreen life was even more interesting. She figures prominently in Peter Biskind’s seminal tome on the auteur era of the 70’s, Easy Riders and Raging Bulls. She comes off forceful and wild in the book. She had romantic dalliances with Spielberg, DePalma, and former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. She married three times. Once each to author Thomas McGuane, actor John Heard (for a grand total of 6 days), and French director Phillipe de Broca.
She was hardly defined by the men in her life. A staunch liberal activist, she supported the campaigns of Jesse Jackson and Bernie Sanders, protested the keystone pipeline, and took on a great deal of criticism for her stance against the first Gulf War.
After 1987’s poorly regarded final installment of the Superman series, The Quest For Peace, she had a rough go of it. In 1996 she was found wandering in a Los Angeles backyard, manic, and missing teeth she lost from fending off a rape attempt. It was later divulged that she suffered from Bipolar disorder and was briefly committed to a psychiatric institution.
Her remaining twenty plus years were more stable. She worked steadily in largely unmemorable indie films and did a number of guest spots on television. She was awarded a daytime Emmy for performance in a children’s series with R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour in 2010.
Yesterday, Margot Kidder died at the age of 69 in her Montana home. She was a good actor. A fascinating person. She lead a life that could not be referred to as anything less than colorful. While her career did not offer her all that she was capable of, there was at least one moment where the stars lined up, the universe turned its favor in her direction, and made her Lois Lane.
The one and only.