Film Critic Joel Siegel, Dead at 63

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ABC News has announced the death of “Good Morning America” entertainment editor and film critic Joel Siegel at the age of 63:

ABC News and WABC-TV are saddened to announce the passing of our beloved colleague and friend, Joel Siegel. Siegel, 63, died late this afternoon following a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was surrounded by family and friends, including his wife, Ena Swansea.

Mr. Siegel joined “Good Morning America” in 1981 and was a regular on the broadcast ever since. His weekly movie reviews on Fridays were eagerly anticipated by the “GMA” audience, the film industry and all of his colleagues. Siegel’s great sense of humor, warmth, and insight into the films he reviewed and the industry he covered made him one of the most influential and respected members of his profession.

“Joel was an important part of ABC News, and we will miss him,” said ABC News President David Westin. “He was a brilliant reviewer and a great reporter. But much more, he was our dear friend and colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joel’s family.”

“For 31 years, Joel Siegel has given Channel 7 viewers his honest opinion on entertainment,” said Dave Davis, President and General Manager of WABC-TV. “His reviews of movies and plays were written and delivered in Joel’s clever style — revealing, refreshing and always filled with his smart humor. No one had more fun writing about a bad movie than Joel. His dedication to work while he has battled cancer with strength and dignity has been an inspiration to all of us. His contributions to Eyewitness News will never be forgotten.”

In addition to his film reviews, Mr. Siegel interviewed countless actors and entertainers, as well as fellow critics throughout his remarkable career. His annual Oscar broadcast, “Joel Siegel’s Road to the Academy Awards,” aired for ten years on WABC-TV and was syndicated to more than 100 markets around the country. Mr. Siegel always led GMA’s coverage of the Academy Awards, traveling to Los Angeles each and every year to bring viewers firsthand reports from Hollywood’s biggest night.

As a young man, Mr. Siegel took up the fight for civil rights registering voters in Georgia in 1964. And for the rest of his life he remained committed to others. He was outspoken about his battle with cancer, reporting on his illness and testifying to Congress on behalf of others afflicted with cancer. In 1991, Siegel and actor Gene Wilder founded Gilda’s Club, a not-for-profit organization which operates facilities that offer emotional and social support for cancer patients and their families and friends. Ever since, Siegel continued to help raise funds for the organization, which now has branches around the country. He served as its president until his death.

Mr. Siegel was born in Los Angeles, California on July 7, 1943 and graduated cum laude from UCLA. He began his career working as a radio newscaster, a book reviewer for The Los Angeles Times, and a freelance writer for such publications as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. Mr. Siegel was also a joke writer for Sen. Robert Kennedy and worked as a copywriter and producer at an advertising agency, where his creative projects included, among other things, inventing ice cream flavors for Baskin-Robbins!

In 1972, Mr. Siegel arrived in New York and worked as a feature reporter for WCBS-TV. He also hosted “Joel Siegel’s New York” on WCBS Radio.

In 1976, he joined WABC-TV’s “Eyewitness News” as the station’s entertainment critic.

Throughout his career, Mr. Siegel was honored with five New York Emmy Awards; the Public Service Award for “distinguished news reporting and commitment to freedom of the press” from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; and the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award for “general excellence in individual reporting.”

Mr. Siegel was also an author. In 2003, he wrote “Lessons for Dylan: From Father to Son” — a book for his son — understanding that he might not beat his battle with cancer. Mr. Siegel also wrote the book for “The First,” a musical play produced on Broadway in the 1981-82 season that told the story of the legendary Jackie Robinson. He was honored for that work with a 1982 Tony Award nomination, making him the only drama critic ever to receive one.

Mr. Siegel is survived by his young son, Dylan, and wife, Ena Swansea, an artist.

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