We regret to inform you that Legendary Film Critic Roger Ebert passed away today. When I was a kid living in Chicago Siskel and Ebert were the Film Critic version of the Dynamic Duo. Their series “Siskel and Ebert and the The Movies” was very entertaining and the bickering those two did never got old! The title was changed the year after launch to just “Siskel and Ebert”.
But seriously… I grew up with them. When I was just 19, dumb, drunk and bowling with a group of my friends (late night) at Marina City Bowling I met Gene Siskel. He was with his friends bowling next to us and he congratulated my ability to consistently roll a strike while barely able to stand up. I sobered almost instantly when I saw who it was and it made my week to have discussed the ability to control a bowling ball under the influence of alcohol. I explained to him that I was celebrating my birthday and I must have gotten into the wrong punch… he laughed without a bit of judgment in his eyes and I was instantly a bigger fan.
When Gene Siskel passed, Roger Ebert continued on. He was no longer part of that magical dynamic duo, but he held his own very well and continued to do his show now renamed to “Roger Ebert & the Movies” Ebert had a number of Critics guest on his show, but Richard Roeper was eventually selected and co-hosted with Roger for a number of years. In 2002 just after being diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer Roger Ebert’s show was renamed to Ebert & Roeper until 2006 when complications led to an emergency operation that kept Ebert from appearing on his show for quite awhile. Ebert’s doctors attempted several surgeries to reconstruct his jaw bone, however his face and neck became increasingly malformed with each surgery. The producers were concerned that Roger’s appearance would cause a decline in the viewership and so… it didn’t air anymore.
In the summer of 2007 the show kind of came back, but Ebert wasn’t appearing very often and many guest critics played opposite Roeper. Ebert had his column in the Chicago Sun-Times, and that was incredibly popular. In fact in 1975 he won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, and was one of the most gifted movie critics of our age. He was the author of some 15 books, a contributor to a gaggle of magazines, an avid blogger, and an inspiring teacher at the University of Chicago.
I’ll always remember Siskel & Ebert with fondness. I’m so very sad they are gone, and I feel old. Roger Ebert is survived by his extraordinary wife Charlie “Chaz” Hammelsmith. She is an accomplished lawyer and loved Roger Ebert very much. You can see her in the image we provided above.