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Roger Ebert

Film Reviewer / TV Personality

Born: 19 June 1942
Died: 4 April 2013 (cancer)
Birthplace: Urbana, Illinois
Best known as:

The "two thumbs up" movie critic and TV personality

Roger Ebert was the film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. He is better known for his long run on TV, reviewing films opposite his friend and fellow film critic Gene Siskel for nearly a quarter century. Roger Ebert attended the University of Illinois and landed a job as a reporter at the Sun Times in 1966. The next year he became the paper's film reviewer and quickly established himself as one of the nation's leading critics. Ebert won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975, becoming the first film critic ever so honored; the same year, he began a local TV show called Opening Soon at a Theater Near You, in which he and Gene Siskel, critic for the Chicago Tribune, reviewed (and argued about) new movies. The show, retitled Sneak Previews, became a nationwide hit on PBS and then (under other names) on commercial networks. Siskel and Ebert's habit of giving good films "two thumbs up" became a popular shorthand for critical approval.

Gene Siskel died in 1999; Ebert continued the show with other reviewers until a series of surgeries forced him to give up the show for good. Ebert had surgery in 2002 to remove a cancerous thyroid gland, followed by extensive radiation. The cancer returned in 2006, and Ebert nearly died when his radiation-weakened carotid artery burst after surgery to remove part of his jaw. He had a tracheostomy and lost the ability to speak, and his face became somewhat disfigured; however, with TV out of the picture he became one of the Internet's most active and popular film reviewers. He also wrote a 2011 memoir, Life Itself, along with many other books, including A Kiss Is Still a Kiss (1984), Roger Ebert's Book of Film (1996), and the 2007 compendium of negative reviews titled Your Movie Sucks.

On April 2nd of 2013, Roger Ebert announced in his blog that he again had cancer (he did not disclose a specific variety) and said that he would take a "leave of presence" -- meaning that he would "continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me." However, two days later he suddenly died.

Extra credit:

Roger Ebert married his wife, the former Chaz Hammelsmith, in 1992... Starting in 1999 he hosted "Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival," also known as Ebertfest, in his hometown of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois... Roger Ebert wrote the script for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the 1970 film directed by Russ Meyer, while taking a sabbatical from the Sun-Times... Roger Ebert was born on the very same day as Beatle Paul McCartney.

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