Chicago • Roger Ebert, the most famous and popular film reviewer of his time who became the first journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism and, on his long-running TV program, wielded the nation’s most influential thumb, died Thursday. He was 70.
Ebert, who had been a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, died Thursday in Chicago, his office said. Only a day earlier, he announced on his blog that he was undergoing radiation treatment after a recurrence of cancer.
He had no grand theories or special agendas, but millions recognized the chatty, heavy-set man with wavy hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Above all, they followed his thumb — pointing up or down. It was the main logo of the televised shows Ebert co-hosted, first with the late Gene Siskel of the rival Chicago Tribune and — after Siskel’s death in 1999 — with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper.
Although criticized as gimmicky and simplistic, a “two thumbs-up” accolade was sure to find its way into the advertising for the movie in question.
On the air, Ebert and Siskel bickered like an old married couple and openly needled each other. But off the air, they were “like brothers,” Ebert once said.
Despite his power with the moviegoing public, Ebert considered himself “beneath everything else a fan.”
He was teased for years about his weight, but the jokes stopped abruptly when Ebert lost portions of his jaw and the ability to speak, eat and drink after cancer surgeries in 2006.
His 1975 Pulitzer for distinguished criticism was the first, and one of only three, given to a film reviewer since the category was created in 1970. In 2005, he received another honor when he became the first critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ebert was also an author, writing more than 20 books, including the popular I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie,” a collection of some of his most scathing reviews.