The world renowned critic died on Thursday [Apr 4] in Chicago following a long battle with cancer. He was 70.
Throughout a career in which he gained fame both in print and as a broadcaster, Ebert was never afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, championing both commercial and erudite films.
The Illinois native was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize – in 1975 – and became a household name in the US through his review show, Sneak Previews. He reviewed films for the Chicago Sun-Times for 47 years and eventually became the first film critic to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Ebert’s health declined in the last 10 years and he suffered from cancers of the thyroid and salivary glands.
When he lost part of his lower jaw in 2006 he refused to become a recluse and embarked upon a candid chronicle of his health that reached a new audience.
In what would be his final blog earlier this week as he prepared to embark on radiation treatment following a recurrence of cancer, Ebert wrote: “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 hand-picked and greatly admired by me.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert started his reporting career at the age of 15 as a high school sportswriter at the News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana. As well as writing books on film, he wrote several screenplays including Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls for B-movie maestro Russ Meyer.
The Toronto International Film Festival issued a statement on Thursday evening that read: “We are terribly saddened by the news of the passing of our friend Roger Ebert. More than a friend, Roger was family. He knew us from our humble beginnings, stuck by us, and helped us grow, as only family can do.
“It is no exaggeration to say that Roger, through his championing, had a large hand in making us who we are today on the world stage. He was a pioneer, a true lover of film. His passing is a huge loss for cinema. He inspired us and will continue to inspire generations. We are taking this opportunity to remember and celebrate our beloved friend, Roger Ebert. Our hearts go out to Chaz and to their family and friends.”
Ebert is survived by his wife Chaz Hammelsmith, step-daughter and two step-grandchildren.