We are unfortunately greeted this morning with rather unfortunate news. Pioneering film critic Roger Ebert, has passed away at age 70.
Ebert has been writing as a critic for the Chicago Sun-Times for nearly half a century, winning himself the Pullitzer prize in the process (the first to ever do so for film criticism), but it was his work with fellow critic Gene Siskel – who passed away in 1999 – on celebrated US TV show “Ebert and Siskel At the Movies” that turned him and Siskel into national treasures. Their thumbs-up/thumbs-down verdict became internationally renowned, with their popularity garnering them a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and even having a street named after them in Chicago.
Ebert paved the way for many who now find themselves writing about the movies they love (and sometimes hate) as a profession. And that’s what truly marked Ebert apart from the crowd, as he had a love of all good films; whether they be brain dead popcorn munching affairs, or deep soul searching indie numbers. He wrote reviews of movies for the people who wanted to see those particular type of movie.
In 2000, Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer which he has been battling with ever since. But even after losing his ability to speak without the use of a special machine after his lower jaw had to be removed as a result of the cancer, he still remained a prolific writer, penning numerous novels on top of his film writing obligations, which saw him doing 300 reviews last year alone.
On Tuesday though, Ebert issued a statement via his blog that due to returned complications from the disease that he would be “taking a leave of presence” and dialling back his workload. He still remained extremely positive, jokingly adding that now he could at last review “only the movies I want to review”. He spoke of plans to relaunch his website, to work on a new biography of his life, and even pen a film adaptation of an unnamed video game. Most importantly he said that “I’ll see you at the movies.”
Alas, it was not to be. That blog post was his last, as he passed away last night. A day after celebrating his 46th anniversary as a film critic.
His wife and longtime partner, Chaz, issued this heartfelt statement on his blog about his last few moments.
“I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger — my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I’ve lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.
“Roger was a beloved husband, stepfather to Sonia and Jay, and grandfather to Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph. Just yesterday he was saying how his grandchildren were “the best things in my life.” He was happy and radiating satisfaction over the outpouring of responses to his blog about his 46th year as a film critic. But he was also getting tired of his fight with cancer, and said if this takes him, he has lived a great and full life.
“We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition.
“We are touched by all the kindness and the outpouring of love we’ve received. And I want to echo what Roger said in his last blog, thank you for going on this journey with us.”
Since Ebert’s passing, there has been an outpouring of sentiment from fans and peers from around the world, saddened by the passing of a true champion of this profession. There are simply to many devotionals to recount in entirety, but Film School Rejects have done a superb job of rounding up some of the best.
Rest in peace, Roger Ebert.
You were an inspiration to many.
Last Updated: April 5, 2013