Margot Kidder passed away on Sunday, and the world learned of this sad news the following day. Many of us are still in shock.
To most of the known universe, Margot Kidder will always be known best for her dynamic performance as Lois Lane in Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) and its subsequent sequels. For me personally, she will always be my Lois Lane. No one else comes close. While I very much adored Erica Durance’s Lois in Smallville, she still ranks second to Kidder. Lois at her best in comics was always fiercely competitive, but also kind and compassionate. Kidder brought that version of Lois—the version I consider the truest interpretation—to life better than anyone.
Much of my generation feels the same about Margot Kidder: she was our Lois. Always will be. The moment when Superman (Christopher Reeve) arrives on Lois’s patio in the first film, and the conversation they have, followed by Superman whisking Lois away for an impromptu flight around Metropolis, will always be one of cinema’s truly magical moments for people of my generation. It showed us that a man could truly fly, yes, but it was Kidder’s magnificent expression of Lois’s wide-eyed wonder that hit closest to home for us. In that moment, with her defenses down, her cynicism out to lunch, she simply allowed herself to be awed by Superman—just like we kids were, and still are.
Beyond the indelible mark she left behind as Lois, Kidder was an outright horror star, with memorable performances in Sisters (1972), Black Christmas (1974), and The Amityville Horror (1979). It’s in Black Christmas, in fact, that she delivered what has become my favorite performance of hers. Her Lois will always have my heart, but as an adult I came to fully appreciate her deliciously foul-mouthed and eternally schnockered Barb, the only sorority house sister willing to get on the phone and tell off the prank caller who’s been bothering them. When she barks at him, “Oh, why don’t you go find a wall socket and stick your tongue in it. That’ll give you a charge,” Barb immediately elevates into the pantheon of fierce women in horror. We know she and her sisters are likely headed for gruesome fates, but dammit she’s the most fun to have around and we don’t want to see her go.
Black Christmas ranks high in the horror cannon for the way it so masterfully builds tension throughout, as well its reputation for being the first slasher film. Kidder is integral to the film’s success, and she provides some of the movie’s funniest moments, which slash through the tension like the killer’s knife through a co-ed’s body. Who can ever forget the infamous “F-E-L-L–A-T-I-O” scene? Every line that comes spilling out of Kidder’s mouth is pure gold.
Kidder, like her fellow female film superstar from that era, Carrie Fisher, was a wonderful mental health advocate. Both women lived with bipolar disorders. That the two biggest female movie stars of my youth would come to help so many people later in life by being open and honest when it came to their struggles, and by offering compassion and empathy to those facing similar troubles, is nothing short of inspirational. That they’re both gone now—within about a year and a half of each other and each only in their 60s—is absolutely heartbreaking. Kidder and Fisher (as Princess Leia in Star Wars), were the first actresses I could identify by name as a kid. That’s an important distinction, one that only deepens my heartache over their deaths.
Margot Kidder, gone at only 69 years old, far too soon. Thankfully we’ll always have her work in the Superman films and various horror favorites to remember just how electric a performer she could be. The term gets overused, but Kidder truly was a one-of-a-kind actress. There was no one like her in her prime, and there’s no one quite like her today. Hopefully, she and Chris Reeve are flying together again now, somewhere off in the Great Beyond.