Roger Ebert Career: A Look Back On Reviewer's Life and Work


Roger Ebert was, to put it simply, an extraordinary man who lived a difficult yet equally extraordinary life.

Roger Ebert was born in 1942 in Urbana, Ill., hardly the cultural center of the world. Ebert was a precocious young man and began winning awards for his writing in 1958, and became a sports-writer for the Urbana paper while he was still in high school, and even began to take classes at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaigne before his graduation from high school. Ebert did not start his career as a critic until 1967 after being hired by the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert's career quickly took off, reviewing classics like Night of the Living Dead and having his reviews receive national attention from Reader's Digest. In 1975, Roger Ebert teamed up with fellow critic, Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel, to host a weekly film review television show called Sneak Previews. The syndication of At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, brought the ideas and face of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel to the national level. Critics of At the Movies praised Ebert's reviews and presence on the show for its entire run. In 2000, after the death of Gene Siskel in 1999, Richard Roeper became Ebert's co-host and the rest is history for the man who started in the middle of nowhere (entertainment-wise) and became a national icon influencing young writers for generations to come.

Ebert revolutionized the style of writing used to review films by writing in a relative style as opposed to an absolute style. Meaning, that when writing a review he tried to write the review from the perspective of an average movie viewer instead of a film elitist, and the results were immensely well-received. Ebert had an innate ability to analyze a film and break it down into it's basic themes and motifs after a single viewing. Ebert rated movies on a four star scale, a film only receiving zero stars if it was: artistically inept or morally repugnant, which led to some controversial low ratings on classic movies such as Dirty Harry (which Ebert considered to have a pro-fascism theme) and Die Hard (which he thought was uninspired).

Roger Ebert considered movie reviews to be an art, and refused to give a movie that he considered "bad" a good review because every other critic gave it a good review. The inverse of this is also true: To this day Roger Ebert is the only critic to give Speed 2: Cruise Control a good review, accounting for its 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes instead of the 0% that so many believe that it deserves. Roger Ebert was a visionary writer and critic who is respected by all facets of Hollywood, and America as a whole.

Perhaps the most astonishing segment of Roger Ebert's incredible life was towards the end of it. Roger Ebert was first diagnosed in 2002 with Papillary Thyroid Cancer, which began his battle with cancer that he would fight until 2013. Roger Ebert quickly beat back the Papillary Thyroid Cancer in 2003 by undergoing throat surgery, which other than slightly altering his voice was a complete success. However, cancer returned with a vengeance in 2006 and his bottom jawbone had to be removed, which robbed Ebert of his ability to speak and forced him to quit the television show he had created and loved since its inception in 1975 nearly 30 years prior to his surgery.

Roger Ebert remained dedicated to films during his bouts with cancer and never missed an opening. Ebert returned in late 2006 to film review by posting reviews exclusively online and for print. He would never speak again. Ebert did make some television appearances later in his life, such as a 2010 appearance on Oprah Winfrey using a Stephen Hawking-esque electronic speaking device. Roger Ebert continued to be an avid film viewer and reviewer until his death on April 4, 2013. He is survived by his wife of 21 years, Charlie "Chaz" Hammelsmith.

Roger Ebert's unique voice and dry wit will be missed in the world of entertainment and the world was lucky to have an individual as extraordinary as he was to grace us with his ideas and writing.