After being diagnosed with cancer more than a decade ago, Ebert became known for his determined fight against the disease, even when it horribly maimed him.
The critic had portions of his jaw removed in a series of surgeries in 2006 to treat cancer of his thyroid and salivary glands. They left him unable to speak, eat or drink. But he rebounded and continued to write reviews and attended film festivals until his death.
The Pulitzer Prize winner announced earlier this week that the cancer had returned last year after he fractured his hip.
He revealed he was undergoing further chemotherapy treatments that would force him to dramatically scale back his work schedule.
But he vowed to continue writing when he could.
“It means I am not going away,” Ebert wrote on his blog Tuesday (Apr. 2). “I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.”
But it was not to be. His 46-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times was cut short by complications and overall poor health. His death marks the end of a storied career.
Ebert pioneered the transition to television by print journalists more than 30 years ago, when he and Gene Siskel, then the film critic for The Chicago Tribune, launched their syndicated show. Siskel and Ebert became household names across the nation.
The format was simple. They sat in what looked like a movie house balcony and simply talked about films. Then they would give a characteristic thumbs up, or thumbs down. The phrase “Two thumbs up,” was music to moviemakers’ ears.
Ebert began writing film criticism at the Sun-Times in 1967 and became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1975.
Siskel underwent surgery for a cancerous brain tumor in 1998, and was expected to make a recovery. But he died Feb. 20, 1999 after suffering complications from another cancer surgery. He was 53.