Tragic news for the world of film and film criticism today as it’s being reported that veteran Chicago film critic Roger Ebert has passed away at the age of 70 from complications due to cancer.
This news comes just one day after Ebert announced a “Leave of Presence” due to the fact that the cancer he’d been fighting since 2002 had resurfaced following a fractured hip operation in 2012. This announcement came 46 years to the date that the beloved critic began writing film reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, winning the first and only Pulitzer Prize for film criticism eight years later. He had already started to undergo radiation treatment to fight the cancer.
Whether you agreed with his opinions on movies or not, there’s no denying that Ebert was one of the most ground-breaking film critics of the past few decades, breaking ground as long-time print critic for the Sun-Times, on television with his shows “Sneak Previews” and “At the Movies,” as well as with his foray onto the internet with his blog at RogerEbert.com.
Most people across the world came to know Ebert through the television program “At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert” which later became “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies,” where they made popular the “two thumbs up” approach to reviewing films. When Siskel passed away in 1999, Ebert was joined by Richard Roeper and they continued together until 2006 when he was no longer able to speak without using a voice machine. Ebert continued to herald independent films and filmmakers on his blog and with his annual “Ebertfest” that championed overlooked films from the past.
Ebert left us with these ominous words in what would be the last post of his life:
“At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it’s like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.”
“I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.”
He is survived by his wife of 11 years, Chaz Ebert née Hammelsmith, who had been producing the most recent incarnation of “At the Movies” with plans for a Kickstarter program to try to revive the show. She released the following statement about the passing of her husband:
“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.”