April 4, 2013
Roger Ebert. (Sam Mircovich/Courtesy Reuters)

Roger Ebert. (Sam Mircovich/Courtesy Reuters)

Remembering Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic whose trademark thumbs-up or thumbs-down rating system influenced millions of movie-goers, died April 4, 2013. He was 70.

Just two days ago, Ebert wrote on his blog that he would be "taking a leave of presence" because of a recurrence of cancer. He also said that his blog would take on an additional focus.

"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," he said.

Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and cancer of the salivary gland a year later. Complications from subsequent surgeries and treatments left him unable to speak. He communicated through a computerized voice synthesizer.

"I certainly miss not being able to speak," he said in a 2009 interview, "but I still have the written word that has been my first love, and I continue at full speed."

Ebert began his career as a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, a job the Sun-Times offered him after its previous reviewer retired.

"I think I got the job because I was young, had long hair and had reviewed the underground films that played at Second City every Monday night," he said in his book "Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews: 1967-2007."

Ebert's career spanned more than four decades, though he originally thought he would review movies for five years.

In 1975, he and Gene Siskel, a film critic for the rival Chicago Tribune, co-hosted a local television program called "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You." The program, where the two critiqued the latest movies of all genres, was picked up in 1978 by PBS and renamed "Sneak Previews." In 1982, the Emmy-winning pair moved to commercial TV — all the while continuing their newspaper columns.

Their commercial program was called "At the Movies," and was later renamed "Siskel & Ebert at the Movies." From their balcony seats, the powerful duo gave a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to movies they liked or disliked. Although they disagreed on some movies, they frequently agreed, and "two thumbs up" became the equivalent of a four-star seal of approval.

When Siskel died in 1999, several guest hosts took his place. Richard Roeper of the Sun-Times became a permanent replacement in 2000. "At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper" lasted until 2008.

Ebert wrote more than 300 movie reviews a year. On his final blog posting, he said he would focus more on his website, rogerebert.com.

"I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."

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