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Reeve, Christopher 1952-2004

REEVE, Christopher 1952-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born September 25, 1952, in New York, NY; died of heart failure October 10, 2004, in Mount Kisco, NY. Actor, activist, and author. Best remembered for playing the part of Superman in a series of films, Reeve later became a champion of stem cell research and other causes to help the disabled after a horseback-riding accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. A child of divorce, the young Reeve found stability and joy in the theater, and he was performing at Princeton's McCarter Theater before he was ten years old. At age fifteen, he was a member of Actors Equity and was working at the Williamstown Theater Festival. His formal education came from Cornell University, where he earned a B.A. in 1974, and the Juilliard School, where he was a student under John Houseman. Reeve's early professional acting was on the stage. He appeared at the San Diego Shakespeare Festival, the Loeb Drama Center, and in a supporting role with Katherine Hepburn in a Broadway production of A Matter of Gravity. Reeve was chosen to play the part of the comic-book hero Superman in the 1978 film Superman: The Movie after the studio could not agree on a major star for the part. Reeve not only looked the part of the handsome superhero; he also interpreted the dual personalities of Clark Kent and Superman to a tee. The movie was a blockbuster hit and was followed by three sequels in which Reeve reprised his character. Aware that he could be typecast as Superman the rest of his life, the actor tried to shake off that persona by taking other types of roles, such as in the time-travel romance Somewhere in Time (1980), the mystery Deathtrap (1982), and the acclaimed drama The Remains of the Day (1993). His greatest role, however, would come in real life. Leading a very active lifestyle in his private life, which included SCUBA diving, sailing, and skiing, Reeve was also a competitive equestrian. During a competition in May 1995, his horse balked before jumping a fence and Reeve tumbled forward into the fence, breaking his neck. The injury left him a quadriplegic, unable to even breathe without the help of a respirator. In despair, Reeve was close to committing suicide, but decided instead to live for the sake of his wife and children. This desire became an incredible drive that would stun his doctors when, after years of physical therapy and determination, Reeve was able to make some small movements in his fingers. He even had an implant put into his body that allowed him to breathe without the respirator. At the same time, Reeve continued to act and direct, wrote two autobiographies, and was a prominent activist for the disabled. As an actor, he won a Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award as the star of the television remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. He also continued to direct, most recently finishing work on the television movie The Brooke Ellison Story (2005). His books, Still Me (1998) and Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life (2002), were best sellers which he also narrated on audiotape. The former won a Grammy Award, and the latter received a Grammy nomination. Despite all these accomplishments, however, Reeve will likely be best remembered as an activist who campaigned diligently for the disabled. He called for better medical care, insurance reform, and, most notably, for stem cell research that could potentially reverse the damage caused by spinal-cord injuries. Stem cell research was opposed by the President George W. Bush administration on ethical grounds, but Reeve testified repeatedly before Congress to convince lawmakers otherwise. In addition, he and his wife founded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center to help paralyzed patients, and the actor was co-chair of the National Organization on Disability. Despite all that he accomplished, Reeve finally succumbed to his injuries, developing an infection that spread through his body and led to heart failure. His unflagging optimism and enthusiasm nevertheless served as an inspiration to doctors, patients, and their families.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

books

Reeve, Christopher, Still Me, Random House, 1998.

Reeve, Christopher, Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life, Random House, 2002.

periodicals

Chicago Tribune, October 12, 2004, section 1, pp. 1, 6.

Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2004, p. A16.

New York Times, October 12, 2004, pp. A1, A29.

Times (London, England), October 12, 2004, p. 52.

Washington Post, October 12, 2004, pp. A1, A16.

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