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The Last Word on Film: TOH! Remembers the Writers the Film Community Lost in 2013

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by TOH!
December 27, 2013 11:00 AM
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Roger Ebert

As the last installment in our "TOH! Remembers" series, our contributors look back at the writers the film community lost in 2013, from critic Roger Ebert, to novelists Elmore Leonard and Richard Matheson, and more.

Who: Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Born: June 18, 1942

Died: April 4, 2013

Known For: “Two Thumbs Up” or “Two Thumbs Down,” the signature moments on the television program he shared with film critic Gene Siskel for 23 years when the two critics agreed on the value of a movie.  If they disagreed, it was one thumb up and the other thumb down.

Career Breakout: The day in 1967 when the Chicago Sun-Times made him, at the age of 24, its movie critic.  He was until the end of his life a film critic for the ordinary moviegoer.  When he died, he had more than 800,000 followers on Twitter.

High Point: The first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize (in 1975) and the first to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (in 2005)

Low Point: His decade-long struggle with thyroid and facial cancer.  Despite being unable to eat, drink, or speak for the last several years, he continued to see and review movies, telling Esquire magazine in 2010:  “When I am writing, my problems become invisible.”

Yes, it’s True: According to Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, Ebert submitted captions to 107 New Yorker cartoon caption contests before finally winning the magazine’s 281st contest. --Aljean Harmetz

Fay Kanin

Who: Fay Kanin

Born: May 9, 1917

Died: March 27, 2013

Known for: Being the second woman to become president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Bette Davis lasted two months as president in 1941.  Becoming president in 1979, Kanin served the allowable four years and pushed the Academy into film preservation.

Career Breakout: Her first play, “Goodbye, My Fancy,” (1948) about a congresswoman trying to rekindle an old love affair.  The play lasted more than a year on Broadway and was then turned into a movie starring Joan Crawford.

High Point: Deciding to write for television when she got disenchanted with movies.  Her relationship dramas with a feminist twist won her numerous awards, including Emmys for “Tell Me Where It Hurts” (1974) about a housewife who wants more from life and “Friendly Fire” (1979) the true story of a soldier accidentally killed by his own troops which was watched by 60 million viewers.

Low Point: Being blacklisted along with her husband and co-screenwriter Michael Kanin by HUAC because they had taken some classes at the Actors’ Lab.

Yes, it’s True: The Kanins’ most successful movie and the only one that earned them an Academy Award nomination, “Teacher’s Pet” (1958) starring Clark Gable and Doris Day, was a movie that almost didn’t get made because the Kanins were not under contract to any studio. --Aljean Harmetz

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