In the annals of criticism it is often the case that a writer is cursed in life and forgotten in death. For Roger Ebert, voluminous historian of the cinema and its most astute critic, neither of these was the case.
Ebert, along with his counterpoint, Gene Siskel, defined the modern movie review and brought the figurative Cahiers du Cinéma down from their lofty perch and into our living rooms. He was affable, honest, and as a longtime columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, so prolific – 306 reviews in the last year alone and over 200 a year prior to that – as to make many journalists look like withering failures.
His kindness and blunt judgements made his writing a treat and I can only imagine how it felt to be the recipient of his attention. A person’s work is their child and he was a strong scold and virtuous champion.
Ebert, who suffered from thyroid and salivary gland cancer, died today at age 70. He recently announced a sort of retirement after finding that his cancer had returned. He is survived by his wife, Chaz Hammel-Smith Ebert.