He went out fighting, and writing. Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times and a TV star for his series of critics’ klatches with Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper, had been battling cancer for more than a decade. In several early operations, he lost most of his jaw to throat cancer, robbing him of his vocal cords but not his assured authorial voice, which, since his 2006–07 surgeries, has rung out in at least a thousand reviews and a poignant, clear-eyed blog about his illness. On April 2, he announced “a leave of presence”; the disease had metastasized, forcing him to scale back his output. Two days later, he was dead at 70.
In his 46 years as a critic, Ebert streamed millions of words, by voice and print, by digital and social media. He shared his thoughts on the Internet long before friend was a verb; rare for a critic, he was as interested in other people’s opinions as his own. More famous than most of the actors and directors he wrote about, he was at ease with his celebrity, always amiable to strangers who approached him at film festivals.
And in his last seven years, when he endured more outrages of fate than Job, he demonstrated with grace and grit — and with his beloved wife Chaz at his side — how a man’s spirit could flourish as he tried to outthink Death.
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