Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic often recognized for popularizing film criticism, has died at the age of 70, the Chicago Sun-Times confirmed Thursday (April 4).
His death comes just two days after he announced on his blog that he once again had cancer and that he would be taking “a leave of presence” from his full-time reviewing duties. Ebert had suffered from several health concerns, starting in 2006 when complications related to thyroid cancer took away much of his lower jaw and his ability to speak.
Ebert began his career as a film critic in 1967, writing for the Sun-Times, the paper he would write for his entire career. It wasn’t until 1975, however, that Ebert began his work in television. With “Sneak Peek,” Ebert and his co-host, Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel, began a partnership that would continue until 1999, when Siskel died. The duo’s second series, “At the Movies,” made them into stars. Their passionate debates over a particular week’s releases became a signature of the program, despite the two being close friends off-camera, and their “two thumbs-up” reviews were coveted in Hollywood.
Throughout his career, Ebert made a habit of recognizing and championing early filmmakers with a potential for greatness. In Ebert’s first year as a critic for the Sun-Times, he wrote a rave review for an independent film that premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival and called out the film’s young director in particular. The movie was “I Call First,” later retitled “Who’s That Knocking On My Door,” and the director was an unknown Martin Scorsese.
When the loss of his speech took away the medium of television from Ebert, he embraced Twitter and his blog, becoming more productive than ever. In 2012, he wrote the most reviews of his entire career, 306 in all. Ebert published his memoir, “Life Itself,” in 2011.
He is survived by his wife, Chaz.
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