Christopher Reeve

by Jordan Hillier // Images courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

His name is forever linked with the superhero he played. Christopher Reeve: Superman.

Born in New York City in 1952 and raised from the age of four in Princeton, Reeve’s love of acting was evident from the days when he and his brother Benjamin turned large cardboard boxes into pirate ships for their own action adventures. Chris was just nine when he took part in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, Yeoman of the Guard, at McCarter Theatre. By the time he was 16, the talented Princeton Day School student had his own agent. At Cornell, he majored in music theory and English. During his final year, he was offered advance standing at New York’s Juilliard School of Performing Arts. Ultimately Reeve’s professional career claimed so much of his time—playing Ben Harper on the television series Love of Life and starring in a Broadway play, A Matter of Gravity alongside Katharine Hepburn—that he had to forego his final year at Juilliard. Soon after, he was cast as Superman/Clark Kent in Superman: The Movie (1978). Devastatingly handsome at 6 ft. 4 and athletically slim, Reeve refused to wear fake muscles under his superhero costume. Instead, he bulked up for the role to which he brought gentleness and humor, basing his bespectacled Clark Kent on the character played by Cary Grant in Bringing up Baby. Reeve was the Man of Steel for three sequels: Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).

After Superman, Reeve became increasingly interested in politics and environmental issues. A licensed pilot who flew across the Atlantic twice, he was also an accomplished skier, scuba diver, sailor, and horseman. The latter passion resulted in tragedy in 1995 when Reeve was thrown from his horse. Paralyzed from the neck down, he required a wheelchair and breathing apparatus for the rest of his life. He worked tirelessly and with unfailing good humor to hold fundraisers for research and promote awareness of spinal injuries. With his wife, Dana Morosini, whom he married in 1992, he founded the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Sadly, the much-loved actor passed away in October, 2004. This June, Christopher Reeve will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in the Arts and Entertainment category.