Roger Ebert (June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013)
When I am writing, my problems become invisible, and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be. [Esquire]
A film critic for the Chicago Sun Times from 1967 until his death, Roger Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Ebert and Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel helped popularize nationally televised film reviewing when they co-hosted the PBS show Sneak Previews, followed by several variously named At the Movies programs. The two verbally sparred and traded humorous barbs while discussing films. They created and trademarked the phrase "Two Thumbs Up," used when both hosts gave the same film a positive review. After Siskel died in 1999, Ebert continued hosting the show with Richard Roeper. Ebert wrote more books than any TV personality since Steve Allen — 17 in all. Not only collections of reviews, both good and bad, and critiques of great movies, but humorous glossaries and even a novel, Behind the Phantom’s Mask, that was serialized in the Sun-Times. In 2011, his autobiography, Life Itself, won rave reviews. “This is the best thing Mr. Ebert has ever written,” Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times. It is, fittingly enough, being made into a documentary, produced by his longtime friend, Martin Scorsese.
Neil Steinberg of the Sun-Times wrote, “Ebert plunged into what turned out to be a mini-golden age of Chicago journalism. He found himself befriended by Mike Royko — with whom he wrote an unproduced screenplay. He drank with Royko, and with Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel. He wrote a trashy Hollywood movie, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, for Russ Meyer, having met the king of the buxom B-movie after writing an appreciation of his work.”
Ebert was born in Urbana, where he eventually learned journalism at the University of Illinois. Always loyal to his hometown school, Ebert began a film festival there that for 15 years has been showcasing movies that he considered to have been overlooked by most moviegoers and the press.
As of 2010, Ebert’s reviews were syndicated to more than 200 newspapers in the United States and abroad.
In 2005, Ebert became the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tom Van Riper of Forbes described him as "the most powerful pundit in America,” and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called him "the best known film critic in America."
Ebert lived with cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands from 2002. He continued to publish frequently both online and in print until shortly before his death. Two days before his death, Ebert ended his final blog post by saying, "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies.” His death prompted wide reaction from celebrities both in and out of the entertainment industry. President Barack Obama wrote, "Roger was the movies ... [he could capture] the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical ... The movies won't be the same without Roger." Robert Redford called Ebert "one of the great champions of freedom of artistic expression" and said, "His personal passion for cinema was boundless, and that is sure to be his legacy for generations to come."