Why Margot Kidder Was the Definitive Lois Lane

Actress portrayed a Daily Planet reporter in the 'Superman' film series from 1978 to 1987 — and, at 69, left us too soon

by Heather Hunter | Updated 16 May 2018 at 10:22 AM

“Thank you for being the Lois Lane so many of us grew up with. RIP, Margot Kidder,” the DC Comics official Twitter account posted Monday in tribute.

Margot Kidder, who passed away at age 69 on Sunday at her home in Livingston, Montana (the cause of death was not released), was the definitive Lois Lane for a generation. She embodied the ’70s career woman. She often was called feminist, but she showed the versatility of strong women. She could be aggressive, smart and adventurous in the workplace and sweet, vulnerable and unabashedly feminine with the man she loved.

Other portrayals of Lois Lane tried to riff on Kidder’s headstrong gutsy journalist persona, but they barely scratched the surface of the rest of her character.

Actress Teri Hatcher, who played Lois Lane in the TV series “Lois & Clark” from 1993 to 1997, admitted on Twitter that Kidder “led the way brilliantly.”

“Teri Hatcher upped Lois’ sex appeal in the mid-’90s series … she became a fanboy’s dream come true by posing in just a red cape. The image was the most downloaded photo on the nascent internet for six months,” wrote Amy Nicholson in the New York Daily News.

Actress Kate Bosworth gave Lois a try in 2006's "Superman Returns," as a single mom — and it was a disappointing, forgettable performance.

In the most recent Superman films, actress Amy Adams played Lois in the dark "Man of Steel" (2013) and "Batman vs Superman" (2016) with Henry Cavill. But she mostly played herself — typical tough gal with a sensitive side, but mostly humorless and boring.

Most were simply not as good as Margot Kidder's version of Lois Lane.

It was as film critic John Nolte wrote on Twitter: "Choosing her and Chris Reeves [sic] as Superman and Lois Lane were two of the all-time great casting choices in all of movie history. She was sexy, different, strong and accessible. Total original. Never be another."

The Christopher Reeve-Margot Kidder era of DC Comics' version of Superman in the late 1970s and 1980s brought a magical and powerful pairing that allowed DC Comics to dominate the superhero film scene and usher in the 1989 version of Batman.

Today, Marvel Comics dominates the film market, and DC Comics has lost momentum because of a lack of continuity among its actors, a turn toward socially conscious plot lines, and a drift into dark and humorless output. The Reeve-Kidder pairing was pure escapism and a little silly at times.

Kidder's depiction of Lois embodied what fans who grew up reading the comics loved about the character.

"Lois is Superman without the superpowers," wrote Tim Hanley in The Atlantic. "She's not faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive, but she's just as committed to truth and justice through her tireless reporting and just as willing to put herself in harm's way to help someone. Lois is reckless and passionate for all the right reasons, and while those qualities sometimes get her in trouble, they only further endear her to her legions of fans."

"Total original. Never be another."

Kidder — who was Canadian and publicly battled bipolar disorder — admitted to the "Superman Homepage" fan website in 2005 that she didn't know much about Superman when she did her first screen test.

"I read one comic before my screen test, and it was about the Daily Planet having a bowling tournament with those terrible women's libbers," Kidder said. "And I thought of myself as a feminist, so I read this and went, 'What is this?' So I based my interpretation on the script."

Despite Kidder's limited knowledge of the comic, she managed to represent Lois Lane's determination and romantic vulnerability in screen tests.

Numerous actresses were tested, including Anne Archer, Deborah Raffin, Stockard Channing and Leslie Anne Warren — but either they were too neurotic, too girlish, too needy, too intense, or just not the best fit with Reeve.

Kidder was able to represent the complicated nature of Lois Lane's personality. Lois was a woman of contradictions, as are most strong women. She was tough and determined by default, but with the man she loves her rigid exterior could melt away. She made being a damsel in distress momentarily but enchantingly romantic.

Related: Tom Wolfe, Groundbreaking Novelist and Nonfiction Pioneer, Is Gone at 88

Her humor and clumsy nature appealed to "Superman" director Richard Donner.

"She was charming and very funny. When I met her in the casting office, she tripped coming in, and I just fell in love with her. It was perfect, this clumsy [behavior]," Donner told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016.

Kidder represented in Lois an intellectual equal to Superman without the superpowers, which made her an endearing love interest. She would have been the first to punch a man who would have wanted to turn her into a #MeToo victim — but she was not opposed to falling in love with a colleague and subject of her own reporting.

What made Kidder's representation of Lois most endearing was that she represented women with their multifaceted personalities: strong, impatient, witty, silly, clumsy, determined, stubborn, fierce, adoring, affectionate, helpless and sentimental.

She also did what no other woman on the planet could do: She won the heart of literally the most powerful man in the world. That's an impressive feat for any woman.

Heather Hunter is a talk-radio show producer based in the Washington, D.C., area.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Warner Bros.)

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