Sad news. Roger Ebert has died of complications of cancer. The legendary and indefatigable Pulitzer-prize-winning film critic had announced Tuesday that he was taking a "leave of presence," per his journal on the Chicago Sun-Times. Since December he had been recovering in a Chicago rehab facility from a hip fracture. It turned out that the cancer he had been fighting since 2002 had returned. He is survived by his loving wife Chaz.
Only Ebert would continue to insist that he was going to continue reviewing, even if in a limited capacity. I remember at a tete-a-tete Sundance dinner marveling at his competitive drive and intense devotion to sharing his love for movies. That's what kept him alive and kicking this long. Ebert was able to hang on tenaciously to Disney/ABC's "Ebert & Roeper" after the death of his best and most evenly matched sparring partner, rival Chicago critic Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune, until Ebert lost his voice after jaw cancer surgery in 2006. He followed that up by producing, with Chaz Ebert and voiceover, "Ebert Presents At The Movies." Ebert wrote in his blog post:
"What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.'"
The internet and media world responded with concern and good wishes for the beloved Ebert, who had been reviewing films since 1967 and published his must-read memoir "Life Itself" in 2011. The 70-year-old critic has also made a staggeringly impressive transition to the world of social media over the past few years -- his Twitter account is more than 800,000 followers strong -- while dealing with a string of health scares and setbacks.
Adam Vary of Buzzfeed wrote: "Cancer is just wrong. Roger Ebert is usually right. Wishing him good health."
Steve Snyder of TIME Magazine tweeted that he's "devastated" by the news, but "relieved he'll keep reviewing," in addition to keeping up his wonderful Great Movies installments.
Alas, this was not to be. Ebert was the new model critic and we should all follow in his giant footsteps.
--Beth Hanna contributed to this story.