Roger Ebert, possibly the most influential film critic in the country, if not the world, has passed away today, a day after announcing the return of the cancer that ravaged his body in 2002.
Growing up, At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert was always a welcome way for me to pass the time, never realizing how much of an influence he actually had on my perception of film criticism and entertainment. I may not have always agreed with his reviews, but it was always known that his was a position of authority and amazing perception.
He began his professional career in 1967 writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, a gig he retained until his passing today, and was also the screenwriter for the Russ Meyer’s camp classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. But it was his presence on TV that had the greatest impact on myself and others over the years.
After Gene Siskel’s death in 1999, he teamed up with Richard Roeper in 2000 to begin At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper until he was no longer able to speak after multiple surgeries combatting his thyroid cancer diagnosis in 2002. I can’t say I watched much of the show after this point, but I was always eager to read his reviews.
Ebert was the first critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, as well as the first to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. These are simply two highlights in an extraordinary career that earned him accolades and honors previously unknown for film criticism.
He may have lost his literal voice after his battle with cancer, but he still wielded a pen like no other, and his opinions and observations will be missed by many… myself included.
RIP Mr. Ebert,
Cornelius J. Blahg