Roger Ebert, the famed film critic whose career spanned decades in which his examinations of cinema and movies helped propel him to become one of the more prominent critics of the modern age, passed away today at the age of 70 from cancer, according to CNN.
For Ebert, it ended a long struggle with the disease, which had left him without a jaw in recent years and unable to speak. Of course the man still rang through loud and clear in his words and reviews, in which he dissected film and all its glories in an honest, erudite, literary manner as he had always done, putting him on par with like-careered colleagues like Pauline Kael and Vincent Canby. Getting his start in the late 1960s and writing right up until the present day at the Chicago Sun Times and in cyberspace as well on his own website (and even co-penning the cult classic Russ Meyer film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970), Ebert became a celebrity himself as the years went on, winning the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 1975 and even earning a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame, something that a film critic had never been able to attain.
Paired with the late critic Gene Siskel, who wrote for the Chicago Tribune, the two became a dynamo film criticism team on TV, first on a program called Sneak Previews and then on their own program At the Movies. They bounced off each other gracefully and sometimes not so gracefully, coming loggerheads with their opinions and sometimes even seeing eye to eye. Their “thumbs up or thumbs down” final analysis of a film became a trademark associated with the two men and the program. During the 1980s, the program and the pair were at their peak, becoming so successful that they would even make appearances on the Johnny Carson version of The Tonight Show from time to time.
Upon Siskel’s death in 1999, Siskel paired with critic Richard Roeper and the show went on, until Ebert’s illness forced him to leave the program in 2006. He remained as a print and on-line film critic exclusively at that point, up until his death. Ebert had only just mentioned in a press release yesterday that his cancer had returned and he was taking a break from writing, relegating himself to occasional columns here and there.
Ebert leaves behind a legacy of film criticism and a body of work in print, cyberspace and the many books he penned, all which were successful and taken seriously and sometimes, not so seriously. The passion and range and scope that Roger Ebert professed for film and cinema and his opinions and breadth of knowledge and intelligent vision for and against the multitudes of films that passed through his sights in his career, will not be forgotten.
RIP – Roger Ebert
June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013