Roger Ebert, the ardent, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who put his indelible thumbprint on the history of film criticism forged from spending a lifetime at the movies, has died, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported. He was 70.
In early December, the most famous movie critic of all time described his latest ailment, "a slight and nearly invisible hairline fracture involving my left femur" that immobilized him. "I didn't fall. I didn't break it. It just sort of ... happened to itself," he said. In April, he revealed that the fracture was cancer and that he was undergoing radiation treatment and cutting back on his work.
Since 1967, Ebert served as the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times (his final review, in which he described Stephenie Meyer's The Host as having a one-note structure that "robs it of possibilities for dramatic tension," ran online March 27.)
He gained nationwide fame when he and Gene Siskel -- the film critic for the Sun-Times' crosstown rival Chicago Tribune -- were paired on the Tribune Entertainment syndicated show At the Movies, which debuted in 1982. (The two had created and starred on a similar show, Sneak Previews, for the Chicago PBS station in 1975.) In 1986, they left to create Siskel & Ebert & the Movies for Disney's Buena Vista Entertainment.
The show, airing on Saturday nights around dinnertime in most major markets, demystified and popularized film criticism as the two chatted and traded opinions after clips of movies were shown. For the Buena Vista edition, Siskel and Ebert came up with their signature "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" appraisals; two thumbs-up (and later two big thumbs-up) was as good as a movie could get.
"Two thumbs-up would appear in a lot of movie ads, so Gene and I trademarked that phrase -- we didn't trademark our thumbs; I've read that a lot," Ebert recalled in a 2005 interview with the Archive of American Television. "If you go through all sorts of databases, you find that the concept of ‘two thumbs-up' did not exist until we did it. Before that, things got a thumbs-up, but they didn't get two thumbs-up."