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Legendary Movie Critic Roger Ebert Dies at the Age of 70

Roger Ebert
Ethan Miller

Just days after announcing a leave of absence from writing to deal with a recurrence of cancer, the Chicago Sun-Times reported this afternoon that legendary movie critic Roger Ebert has died.

Most of us know Roger Ebert from his days hosting the classic series ‘Siskel & Ebert’ where the “thumbs up/thumbs down” gimmick changed the way we thought about, and processed, film criticism as a culture. He and Gene Siskel launched the show (then titled ‘Sneak Previews’) in 1975 and in 1982 went nationwide with ‘At the Movies With Siskel & Ebert.’ In addition to his work as a television personality, he was first and foremost a writer; a Pulitzer Prize winner at the Chicago Sun-Times, his longtime writing home, which announced the news of his passing this afternoon.

On Tuesday, April 2, he announced on his website that he would be taking a leave of absence saying:

The immediate reason for my “leave of presence” is my health. The “painful fracture” that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer. It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to. I have been watching more of them on screener copies that the studios have been kind enough to send to me. My friend and colleague Richard Roeper and other critics have stepped up and kept the newspaper and website current with reviews of all the major releases. So we have and will continue to go on.

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. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.

In 2002, Ebert was first diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer and would undergo surgery that would alter his voice, though he continued to work on his show with Richard Roeper. In 2006, his cancer returned and doctors were forced to remove a part of his jaw and perform a tracheotomy that would prevent him from speaking, eating or drinking. As a result he was forced to permanently step down as host of ‘At the Movies’ (the show would continue without him, but was never quite the same and was eventually cancelled).

Despite no longer appearing on TV, Ebert continued to work extensively online, reviewing movies, writing essays, and taking to Twitter to discuss and debate a variety of topics.

After suffering a hip fracture in December, doctors discovered that Ebert’s cancer had returned and he would need radiation treatment. But despite all that, Ebert was still working tirelessly. Ebertfest, his annual film festival in Chicago, was planned for April 17-21 (and is expected to continue). He was planning a Kickstarter campaign to relaunch ‘At the Movies’ with a new batch of hosts. And he was planning a massive relaunch of RogerEbert.com that would’ve launched on April 9.

Ebert was 70 years old and leaves behind his wife of 21 years, Chaz.

We leave you with Ebert’s last written words, the last sentence in the article announcing his leave of presence:

“I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”

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