Roger Ebert was one of the wittiest and most prolific movie critics ever. For over 40 years, he covered the film industry with his well-written and often amusing reviews. Whether you agreed with his opinions or not, you can’t deny his fun and breezy style of writing. He had worked for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. He won a Pulitzer for his film criticism and was also the first critic to get a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
In 1975, he and fellow movie critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune launched the TV program Coming Soon To a Theater Near You, which later become At the Movies and then Siskel & Ebert & The Movies. The pair became famous for their trademark “thumbs up, thumbs down” technique of reviewing films, and for their on-screen debates about movies. Their jibes at each other made the show extremely entertaining. They appeared together on many other programs, including Saturday Night Live. After Siskel died, he was replaced by critic Richard Roeper.
Ebert described himself as “a fan first”, even beyond being a critic. He loved to talk about movies at Film Festivals. He also wrote several books about the history of film, including “The 50 Greatest Films”, “Roger Ebert’s Bigger Little Movie Glossary”, “Questions for the Movie Answer Man”, “Awake in the Dark”, “I Hated-Hated-Hated This Movie!”, “Your Movie Sucks”, along with many others. He even wrote the screenplay for the film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
In recent years, Ebert had been battling recurring thyroid and salivary gland cancers. He lost the bottom half of his jaw in 2006 and had been unable to speak ever since. He still kept writing, however, and also won a new generation of followers on Facebook and Twitter, as well as with his blog. In his 2011 memoir “Life Itself”, he wrote, “My blog became my voice, my outlet, my ‘social media’ in a way I couldn’t have dreamed of. Most people choose to write a blog. I needed to.”
Ebert was philosophical and accepting about his mortality, knowing that the end was coming. He wrote, “I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”
His last published piece was his recent “Leave of Presence” article, where he announced that he was planning to cut back on reviewing movies. He signed off with his trademark phrase “I’ll see you at the movies,” with which he used to end his show At the Movies.
Ebert is survived by his wife Chaz, his step-daughter and his two step-granchildren.
Thumbs up to you Roger.