Film critic Roger Ebert passed away on April 4 at the age of 70. The long-time film critic reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first movie critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize in 1975. Ebert lost his lower jaw in 2006 to cancer and has been battling the disease ever since. He revealed the week before he died that the cancer had returned, and he finally lost his life to it. Here is a look at the defining moments of the illustrious career of Roger Ebert, the greatest film critic of his era.
He Wasn’t Just a Critic
Many film critics do nothing but critique movies, some scholars and others just fans. Roger Ebert was both, but at the same time he also worked on making his own movie early in his career. In 1970, Russ Meyer released the film “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” which Ebert co-wrote. The movie, ironically, received very poor reviews despite becoming a cult classic over time. Regardless, Ebert could always see what it was like being on the other side of poor reviews and could hang his hat on the fact that he at least tried to work in the business he spent his life discussing.
A Pulitzer Prize
In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. That year was also the first time a cartoonist won a Pulitzer, as Garry Trudeau won for “Doonesbury.” Ebert’s award was for his film criticism during the calendar year of 1974. In that year, Ebert reviewed movies like “Chinatown,” “The Last Detail,” “Mean Streets,” and “The Conversation.” A film critic did not win a Pulitzer Prize again until 2003 when Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post won the award, and only four have won the award in its existence.
Siskel and Ebert: At the Movies
The same year that Roger Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize, he took his reviews to television in a partnership with cross-town rival critic Gene Siskel. The two men began a long standing relationship and invented the iconic “thumbs up” ratings system when discussing their favorite and least favorite movies. The reason for the new ratings system was to change from the “yes” and “no” system they used on PBS for their new network. Two Thumbs Up was a system never used, so the two trademarked it and it lives on.
Cancer and Moving On
Roger Ebert outlived his co-star when Gene Siskel died suddenly at the age of 53 from complications in surgery while undergoing cancer treatments for a brain tumor. Ebert moved on with a new partner on television, but in 2006 cancer hit Ebert as well and cost him his lower jaw and his ability to talk. Luckily for Ebert, you don’t need a voice to have a voice and he continued writing and reviewing movies until he died. His last review went out the week before his passing when he gave “The Host” his final thumbs down.
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