Christopher Reeve, ‘Superman’ Star, Dies at 52
Christopher Reeve, the star of the “Superman” movies whose near-fatal riding accident nine years ago turned him into a worldwide advocate for spinal cord research, died Sunday of heart failure, his publicist said. He was 52.
Reeve fell into a coma Saturday after going into cardiac arrest while at his New York home, his publicist, Wesley Combs told The Associated Press by phone from Washington, D.C., on Sunday night. His family was at his side at the time of death. Reeve was being treated at Northern Westchester Hospital for a pressure wound, a common complication for people living with paralysis. In the past week, the wound had become severely infected, resulting in a serious systemic infection.
“On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank Northern Westchester Hospital for the excellent care they provided to my husband,” Dana Reeve, Christopher’s wife, said in a statement. “I also want to thank his personal staff of nurses and aides, as well as the millions of fans from around the world who have supported and loved my husband over the years.”
Enduring months of therapy to allow him to breathe for longer and longer periods without a respirator, Reeve emerged to lobby Congress for better insurance protection against catastrophic injury and to move an Academy Award audience to tears with a call for more films about social issues. “Hollywood needs to do more,” he said in the March 1996 Oscar awards appearance. “Let’s continue to take risks. Let’s tackle the issues. In many ways our film community can do it better than anyone else. There is no challenge, artistic or otherwise, that we can’t meet.”
Reeve was born Sept. 25, 1952, in New York City, son of a novelist and a newspaper reporter. About the age of 10, he made his first stage appearance — in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeoman of the Guard” at McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J. After graduating from Cornell University in 1974, he landed a part as coldhearted bigamist Ben Harper on the television soap opera “Love of Life.” He also performed frequently on stage, winning his first Broadway role as the grandson of a character played by Katharine Hepburn in “A Matter of Gravity.” Reeve’s first movie role was a minor one in the submarine disaster movie “Gray Lady Down,” released in 1978. “Superman” soon followed. Reeve was selected for the title role from among about 200 aspirants.
Sad and unexpected news.