Film critic Roger Ebert passed away today in Chicago after a decade-long battle with cancer. Ebert wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years, celebrating his anniversary at the paper with his last column on Tuesday. He also reviewed movies on TV for 31 years, most notably with fellow critic Gene Siskel.
The same year Ebert won the Pulitzer — 1975 — he also launched a new kind of television program: “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You” with Chicago Tribune movie critic Gene Siskel on WTTW-Channel 11. At first it ran monthly.
The combination worked. The trim, balding Siskel, perfectly balanced the bespectacled, portly Ebert. In 1978, the show, retitled “Sneak Previews,” moved to PBS for national distribution, and the duo was on their way to becoming a fixture in American culture.
“Tall and thin, short and fat. Laurel and Hardy,” Ebert once wrote. “We were parodied on ‘SNL’ and by Bob Hope and Danny Thomas and, the ultimate honor, in the pages of Mad magazine.”
His colleagues admired him as a workhorse. Ebert reviewed as many as 306 movies a year, after he grew ill scheduling his cancer surgeries around the release of important pictures. He eagerly contributed to other sections of the papers — interviews with and obituaries of movie stars, even political columns on issues he cared strongly about on the editorial pages.
Ebert wrote 17 books and one movie (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). In 2006, his lower jaw was removed, leaving him unable to speak or eat, but he kept writing for the newspaper and online. Ebert was 70. Link
(Image credit: Eileen Ryan)