Lots of people have mused why Christopher Reeve, born September 25, 1952, was the perfect Superman. Part of it is that perfect early scene:
Supes: Easy miss, I’ve got you
Lois Lane states: You–you’ve got me? Who’s got you?
And it’s that little chuckle that I loved.
But also, he was my favorite Clark Kent. If you don’t accept Clark as distinct, it’s difficult to buy the secret identity of the superhero. I saw the first two films, and even though the second film is a lesser effort, it was not the failure of the actor in the lead. Here was his workout regimen.
I didn’t see him in much else. Remains of the Day (1993) and Noises Off (1992) I liked. Also Somewhere in Time (1980), during which Jane Seymour says she and Christopher Reeve were “falling in love.”
Then, “on May 27, 1995, the actor injured his spinal cord after falling off his horse in an equestrian competition… The blow left him paralyzed from the neck down and forever in a wheelchair. Reeve was only 42 years old. The doctors took away any hope of improvement, assuring him that it was ‘impossible’ to recover movement…
“As The New York Times revealed, if the actor had fallen one centimeter further to the left, he would have died on the spot. If he had done so to the right, he would most likely walk out with less than a concussion.
“Reeve reappeared in public at the 1996 Oscar Awards, a surprise remembered as one of the most exciting moments in the history of the awards.” I’m very sure I got a lot verklempt at that moment. Christopher quipped, “What you may not know is that I left New York in September and just arrived in Los Angeles this morning [March 25, 1996].”
The above paragraphs were from a piece on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1999.
Even before then, both Christopher and Dana were involved with activism. “In the years following his injury, Christopher did more to promote research on spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders than any other person before or since.”
As the AmeriDisability page notes: “Originally created in 1982 in response to the injury of Henry Stifel, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation – first conceived as the Stifel Paralysis Research Foundation, a community-driven nonprofit dedicated to curing spinal cord injury (SCI) – marks its 40th anniversary (2022). Over the last four decades, the Reeve Foundation has evolved to become the premier national, paralysis-focused nonprofit organization working to address a dual care-cure mission – providing free, comprehensive resources to help those impacted by SCI and paralysis as it advances the most promising scientific advances toward cures.”
Check out the Give.org page.
The most recent Charity Navigator listing for the Foundation gives it a “score is 87.31, earning it a 3-Star rating. Donors can ‘Give with Confidence’ to this charity.” Note that “this score represents Form 990 data from 2019, the latest year published by the IRS,” because the agency “is significantly delayed in processing nonprofits’ annual tax filings.”
In 1998, Reeve produced and starred in Rear Window. It is, of course, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s great 1954 film. “He was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance.” Of course, it doesn’t compare with the original. But one scene actually terrified me. When the villain disconnected the Reeve character’s breathing tube, it was impossible for me to separate the role from the guy playing it.
On October 9, 2004, Reeve went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for an infection. He fell into a coma and was taken to a hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. He died on October 10 at the age of 52, quite possibly as the result of an adverse reaction to a drug, something he had experienced in the past.
Dana Reeve married Christopher in 1992. Less than a year after his death, Dana announced that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. “She had never smoked but in her early career often sang in smoky bars and hotel lobbies.” She died on March 6, 2006, at the age of 44, at NYC’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
But their work lives on.