Roger Ebert, the most famous US film critic of the last 40 years, has died after a long battle with cancer. The first journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for film reviews, he was known for his popular column and TV show.
Ebert died Thursday at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, his longtime employer, the Chicago Sun-Times said. A day earlier, he had announced on his blog that he was undergoing radiation treatment following a reoccurrence of cancer and was taking a "leave of presence."
Known for his humorous, thoughtful, and sometimes sarcastic reviews, Ebert was one of the most widely read movie critics in the US. In 2007, Forbes magazine dubbed him the most powerful pundit in America.
Ebert's most visible job was as host of a long-running television show with Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper. He and his partner would give the famous "two thumbs up" to movies they approved, a phrase the two later trademarked.
The legendary film critic "wrote with passion through a real knowledge of film and film history, and in doing so, helped many movies find their audiences," director Steven Spielberg said, calling Ebert's death the "end of an era."
In 1967 Ebert began working for the Sun-Times and his popular column gained national syndication. He won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1975, the first ever given to a film reviewer. Thirty years later, he became the first critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ebert's reviews were compiled into several books. He also wrote a novel and a cookbook, in addition to co-authoring the screenplay for the 1970 cult film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
He eventually stopped his TV work due to health issues and he lost the ability to speak, eat and drink after cancer surgeries in 2006. He recovered enough to resume writing full time, and gained a popular following with his blog and readership interaction through social media.
"For a generation of Americans – and especially Chicagoans – Roger was the movies," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive – capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical."
dr/lw (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)