Famed movie critic Roger Ebert, who wielded one of the nation’s most influential thumbs, has died at age 70.
Ebert first started writing movie reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. His simple method for rating a film—thumbs up or thumbs down—became the standard for all his reviews. Movies that earned the coveted “two thumbs up!” proudly proclaimed Ebert’s pronouncement on their posters and promotional material. He was the first journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism.
In 2006, Ebert lost a portion of his jaw during several cancer surgeries. Although he was unable to speak, eat, or drink, he overcame his health problems to return to full-time writing. He also became a prolific Facebook and Twitter user. When he launched his own television show in 2011, he used voice-over guests to read his reviews.
On Wednesday, he posted on his blog he was undergoing radiation treatment for a resurgence of his cancer.
Many fans described Ebert as an inspiration for triumphing over so many physical challenges, but in 2011, the critic told The Associated Press bravery and courage had nothing to do with it.
“You play the cards you’re dealt,” Ebert wrote in an email. “What’s your choice? I have no pain, I enjoy life, and why should I complain?”
Ebert’s Sun-Times reviews eventually became syndicated columns in several hundred other newspapers. He also profiled actors and directors, scoring interviews with legends like Alfred Hitchcock, John Wayne, and Robert Mitchum. In 1969, he took a leave of absence from the Sun-Times to write the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The movie received an “X’’ rating and became somewhat of a cult film.
For many years he nationally recognized for his television show with Gene Siskel, a reviewer from the rival Chicago Tribune. Although the two men sparred on screen, they were close friends. After Siskel died in 1999, Ebert continued the show with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper.
Although Ebert was a model of perseverance, he did not claim faith. In 2010, he wrote that he did not fear death because he didn’t believe there was anything “on the other side of death to fear.”
“I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state,” he wrote. “I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”