Movie and television star Margot Kidder has passed away at the age of 69. She was found in her Livingston, Montana home on Sunday. The cause of death is not yet known.
Born in Yellowknife, Canada on October 17, 1948, Kidder had a 50-year career in the movies, sharing the screen with some of Hollywood’s top leading men, including Robert Redford, James Brolin and James Garner.
But it wasn’t until she starred in four Superman movies from 1978 to 1987 that her greatest success was realized in the character of a go-getter reporter for the Daily Planet, Lois Lane. Her performances with Christopher Reeve were reminiscent of Tracy and Hepburn with snappy patter and restrained attraction. Superman made her a star.
Growing up in remote areas of Canada, she recalled a youth filled with reading books and hanging out “with friends in the woods or hockey rink,” she said in an interview with The Montana Standard in 2016. She said they listened to a shortwave radio broadcast from Montreal once a week: “That was about it for entertainment.”
She started acting when her parents sent her to boarding school in Toronto and she continued her education at the University of British Columbia.
In the 1960s and 1970s, she was landing TV roles with appearances on The Mod Squad, McQueen, and many others as well as a regular role in the Jim Garner drama Nichols.
Her movie career also took off with four films in 1974, the highlight being The Great Waldo Pepper, in which she starred opposite Robert Redford. With more than 60 movies in her career, the Superman series and The Amityville Horror got her the most attention.
Kidder was married and divorced three times. Her daughter Maggie was born in 1976 from her marriage to her first husband, novelist Thomas McGuane. In 1979 she was married to John Heard for six days, and she later married Philippe de Broca, a French director, from 1983 to 1984.
At the height of her “Lois Lane” fame, Kidder was linked with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and legendary comedian Richard Pryor, her co-star in Some Kind of Hero and Superman III.
As a youth, Kidder suffered from mood swings. When she became a movie star she experienced paranoia and elation followed by severe bouts of depression. Showing seemingly endless energy on the set of Superman, she was described by director Richard Donner as “a whirling dervish.” She found that hiding the source of that energy was a burden. After the movie came out, Kidder had difficulty dealing with the public and putting on a phony face. She said, “I wasn’t very good at it, and it filled me with anxiety and panic.”
Then in April of 1996, Kidder was reported missing and was found living on the streets and hiding in the bushes in someone’s backyard in Glendale, California. She was taken to Olive View Medical Center for observation. She had been diagnosed eight years earlier for manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) but refused to take a prescription of lithium and further treatment. While working on a memoir she explained, “It’s very hard to convince a manic person that there is anything wrong with them. You have no desire to sleep. You are full of ideas.”
To help others with similar problems, Kidder became a champion for mental health awareness. In 2007, she credited her 11 years without a manic episode to her improved health achieved with nutritional supplements.
Kidder became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2005 and lived primarily in Montana. “I don’t act much anymore unless I’m broke,” she said in an interview with a Detroit radio station. But when she did act, she hadn’t lost a step and won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2015 as an outstanding performer in R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour.
Tributes to Margot Kidder from friends and fans have filled Facebook and Twitter. Her friend Mark Hamill tweeted of Kidder, “On-screen she was magic. Off-screen she was one of the kindest, sweetest, most caring women I’ve ever known. I’ll miss you. Your legacy will live on forever.”
Kidder is survived by her daughter and two grandchildren.