Roger Ebert, the film critic who guided American movie selections for decades, has died, a family friend revealed to newspapers today. He was 70 years old. This sad news comes just days after Ebert wrote a column in the Chicago Sun-Times, celebrating the 46th anniversary of his column and announcing a “leave of presence.”
“On April 3, 1967, I became the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Some of you have read my reviews and columns and even written to me since that time. Others were introduced to my film criticism through the television show, my books, the website, the film festival, or the Ebert Club and newsletter. However you came to know me, I’m glad you did and thank you for being the best readers any film critic could ask for,” he wrote. “I must slow down now, which is why I’m taking what I like to call ‘a leave of presence.’ What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me.”
The reason: he once again had cancer.
“It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital,” he wrote in this post. “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.”
Over the past decade, Ebert had battled both cancer of the thyroid and cancer of the salivary gland. In 2006, he had part of his jaw removed — which left him unable to talk or eat. He told the incredible story of learning to speak again at TED2011. Watch his beautiful talk, “Remaking my voice,” above.
Ebert’s written reviews were syndicated in more than 200 newspapers nationally, and he appeared on television in the shows Sneak Preview, At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and Ebert & Roeper & the Movies. The first film critic to get his name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ebert will be greatly missed.
Below, some of our favorite photos of this tremendous writer and person.