An e-mail from Ross Kaminsky informed me that film critic Roger Ebert had passed away today after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.
I had read that Ebert’s cancer had returned the other day but did not realize he was nearing the end. He had planned to scale back his movie reviews somewhat characterizing it as “a leave of presence.”
Ebert was an aspiring screenwriter but these aspirations were pretty much snuffed out after he co-wrote Beyond The Valley of the Dolls with Russ Meyer.
Like many people, when I think of Ebert I also think of his longtime partner Gene Siskel who co-hosted Sneak Previews on PBS and later the syndicated program Siskel & Ebert at The Movies. Ebert wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times while Siskel wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Siskel passed away of a brain tumor in 1999.
After Siskel’s death, Ebert went through a rotating set of guest co-hosts before tapping his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper as his full-time successor. Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 but it was successfully treated. However, when the cancer returned in 2006 complications arose resulting in the removal of his jaw and throat losing the ability to speak and to eat on his own.
Despite this, Ebert was able to continue writing both in print and online in the last years of his life.
In recent years, Ebert had become far more overtly political. A decade ago, he encouraged Michael Moore to give “a real rabble-rousing speech” at the Oscars. During the 2008 campaign when he began a column with the sentence, “I do not like you, John McCain.”
Ebert has the distinction of being the first film critic to win a Pullitzer Prize and earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
I leave you with Siskel and Ebert doing what they did best – arguing about movies. In this case, they clash over Crash.