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April 4th, 2013
06:50 PM ET

Roger Ebert was 'Mayor of Movie Criticville'

It was only yesterday that Roger Ebert announced he was taking what he called a "leave of presence" because his cancer had returned. On Thursday, his longtime newspaper "The Chicago Sun-Times" reported that he has died at the age of 70.

The critic that so many of us joined "At the Movies" over the years was originally diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002. A year later, Ebert found out he had a tumor in his salivary gland. The Pulitzer Prize winner lost his jaw, and the disease also robbed him of his voice. But he continued to review movies right up until his last moments.

Ebert was a lovely writer with an almost religious belief in film, and a unique ability to turn a phrase. He could be whimsical, he could be angry, but he was always a must-read.

"Roger was kind of the 'Mayor of Movie Criticville,'" said David Edelstein, film critic for New York Magazine. "He really was very close to a politician insofar as he took his public role very seriously."

Ebert was the movie critic for "The Chicago Sun-Times" for more than 45 years, and for more than three decades the co-host of one of the most powerful programs in television history.

"On his television show, he could command the attention of large numbers of people the way no film critic had ever done before," said Edelstein.

Part of Ebert's legacy is his critical acclaim.

"He is the first film critic ever to win the Pulitzer Prize," said Tom O'Neil, film critic for GoldDreby.com.

Along the way, Ebert also did off beat things that made a huge difference for the film industry, said O'Neil.

"When he was at the Cannes Film Festival many years ago, he found this little movie called 'Chariots of Fire.' He knew it couldn't win the Palm d'Or, but he rallied the critics in the South of France together, he created this award called "The American Critics Award," [and] put that movie on the map."

"Chariots of Fire" went all the way to win the Academy Award for best picture that year.


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