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R.I.P., Stanley Kauffman, 1916-2013

First Published      Last Updated Oct 09 2013 11:33 am

Sad news today for anyone who loves movies, or appreciates the art of film criticism: Stanley Kauffman, who was sort of the dean of movie critics, died this morning in a New York hospital. He was 97.

Kauffman started at The New Republic as film critic in 1958, and he never left the magazine's staff. (His last original review was in August, of the documentary "Our Nixon.") He was enthusiastic, sharp, and very humanist in his approach.

Others will write more lucid tributes to Kauffman's writing, but The Cricket wanted to get in one personal remembrance.

It was the 1998 Telluride Film Festival, and the first tribute of the Labor Day weekend went to Meryl Streep. The tribute started with a long selection of clips, followed by an onstage interview of Streep by Roger Ebert. (This was before Ebert's health problems, which robbed him of speech.)

Ebert launched the audience Q-and-A, but reserved the first question for Kauffman, who was a friend and mentor to Ebert.

But Streep had a question for Kauffman first: "When you were teaching at Yale, and I got suspended, how did you vote?"

Kauffman, clearly flummoxed, responded that as a guest teacher, he didn't have a vote. Then he smiled, as we all did, at the idea that this great actress would resurrect a memory from her college days and use it for some playful ribbing of a critic.