Christopher Reeve, Hollywood's "Superman," Who Never Abandoned Theatre, Dead at 52

Obituaries   Christopher Reeve, Hollywood's "Superman," Who Never Abandoned Theatre, Dead at 52
Christopher Reeve, the actor whose work on soaps and on stage was eclipsed when he played the Man of Steel in the motion picture "Superman," and its sequels, died of heart failure Oct. 10 in a Mount Kisco, NY, hospital. He was 52.
Christopher Reeve in the 1980 Broadway production of Fifth of July
Christopher Reeve in the 1980 Broadway production of Fifth of July

Once seen as a robust picture of matinee idol success, Mr. Reeve suffered a spinal cord injury in a riding accident almost a decade ago. Since that time, he used a wheelchair and a breathing apparatus, but didn't shrink from the public. He became a powerful spokesman for spinal cord research.

According to CNN, Mr. Reeve went into cardiac arrest Oct. 9 while at his home in Pound Ridge, NY, and slipped into a coma and died Oct. 10. His family, including his wife, actress Dana Reeve, was reportedly with him.

In recent days, Mr. Reeve developed "a serious systemic infection from a pressure wound, a common complication for people living with paralysis," CNN reported.

As a young actor, Mr. Reeve played Off-Broadway and Broadway, starring as Kenneth Talley Jr. in the Broadway transfer of Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July. Also on Broadway, as early as 1976, he appeared in the Katharine Hepburn vehicle, A Matter of Gravity. For Circle in the Square on Broadway, he played Count Almaviva in the revival of Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Fiagro.

Off-Broadway, he played Polixenes, King of Bohemia, in The Public Theater's The Winter's Tale in 1989, read A.R. Gurney's Love Letters at the Promenade Theatre and appeared in My Life for Circle Repertory Company in 1977. In London, he appeared in The Aspern Papers with Vanessa Redgrave and Dame Wendy Hiller. He was a Williamstown Theatre Festival regular for a time, appearing in The Royal Family, Richard Corey, Holiday, Galileo, Camino Real and The Greeks.

The Williamstown Theatre Festival today issued the following statement in response to the death of Christopher Reeve: "The Williamstown Theatre Festival is devastated by the untimely loss of Christopher Reeve. Chris first came to Williamstown, Massachusetts at the age of 15 to be a member of our Apprentice company, a training program for young actors. In subsequent years, he was a regular member of our professional company, and later met his wife, then Dana Morosini, at the Festival's late-night cabaret. Each summer Chris was in Williamstown he leant his inimitable sparkle and infinite passion to the roles he played on stage as well as to the softball team. More recently, for the past nine years Chris was an invaluable member of the board of trustees, lending his compassion and wisdom toward the furtherance of the organization. Chris was always giving back to the Festival, as a performer, board member, and also in recent talks to students at the Festival, where he was a source of inspiration to always pursue your dream. The town and the Festival are forever changed because of his contributions and his generous and wise spirit. Our warmest thoughts and deepest affections go to Dana, Will, Matthew, and Alexandra."

The New York City native graduated from Cornell University in 1974. He appeared in the TV soap "Love of Life" before earning wider fame as Clark Kent and his alter-ego, Superman.

In addition to his Hollywood triumph in "Superman" (1978), "Superman II," "Superman III" and "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace," Mr. Reeve starred in "Deathtrap," the film version of the smash play, and the popular romantic film, "Somewhere in Time."

Mr. Reeve broke his neck when he was thrown from a horse in May 1995 during an equestrian competition. He has lobbied for more research on spinal cord injuries, and asked for federal funding of stem cell research, which may lead to curing disease. In the recent second presidential debate, candidate John Kerry evoked Mr. Reeve's name and supported stem cell research, a hot-button issue because it calls for the destruction of embryos in the effort to possibly cure other diseases.

In addition to playing a wheelchair-user in a 1998 TV remake of "Rear Window," Mr. Reeve appeared as a wealthy researcher who discovers the secret of a young Clark Kent in the TV series, "Smallville," about the adventures of a Kansas teenager whose birth home was planet Krypton.

Mr. Reeve is survived by his mother, Barbara Johnson; his father, Franklin Reeve; his brother, Benjamin Reeve; son Will, and his two children from his relationship with Gae Exton, Matthew, 25, and Alexandra, 21.

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