Roger Ebert, who was an unlikely TV star while hosting a movie review show with fellow critic Gene Siskel, died today, two days after he disclosed his cancer had returned.
“It is with a heavy heart we report that legendary film critic Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) has passed away,” the Chicago Sun-Times, the newspaper where Ebert worked for decades, reported on Twitter.
“There is a hole that can’t be filled. One of the greats has left us,” the newspaper added.
A few days ago the critic revealed on his blog that his disclosed cancer had returned and that he would be reducing his professional activity at the Chicago Sun-Times.
He added that he would be taking a “leave of presence,” as the critic had earlier underwent radiation treatment, but it appears the cancer was not cured.
“It means I am not going away,” Ebert explained. “My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.”
The 70-year-old was diagnosed with thyroid cancer eleven years ago, and cancerous growths were found on his salivary glands a year later. Ebert undergone a few surgeries that left him without the ability to speak, The Huffington Post reports.
The critic, who was named by Forbes in 2007 as the most powerful pundit in the U.S., was one of the widely read movie critics, known for insightful, sometimes sarcastic and often humorous reviews.
“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.”
The 70-year-old began working as the Sun-Times film critic about 46 years ago, and soon became extra popular after winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and hosting several movie-review TV shows with Richard Roeper and the late Tribune film critic Gene Siskel.
News of Ebert’s death provoked an a series of tributes on the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“A great man. I miss him already,” wrote Roeper, his fellow Sun-Times film critic and TV co-host.
Millions of thumbs up for you,” tweeted documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, referring to his catchphrase. Comedian Steve Martin tweeted: “Goodbye Roger Ebert, we had fun. The balcony is closed.”
“Rest in Peace, Roger. You were simply the best,” wrote “Jaws” actor Richard Dreyfuss on Twitter.
Though cancer took Ebert’s ability to talk, eat or drink, that didn’t stop him from doing what he loved most of all – writing columns, reviewing movies and connecting with readers.
Moreover, the critic refused to be pitied after all he’d been through. Two years ago Esquire magazine writer Chris Jones noted the following scene:
“There is no need to pity me, he writes on a scrap of paper one afternoon after someone parting looks at him a little sadly. Look how happy I am.”