Film critic Roger Ebert, who died last week at the age of 70, has been laid to rest in his native Chicago.
“He didn’t just dominate his profession, he defined it,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel to mourners at Holy Name Cathedral on Monday.
Roger Ebert, who wrote reviews at the Chicago Sun-Times for 40 years, died of cancer on April 4.
“Roger spent a lot of time sitting through bad movies so we didn’t have to,” said Rahm Emanuel.
Roger Ebert’s widow, Chaz
In a 90-minute funeral Mass, speakers took turns talking about Roger Ebert’s career and the health problems that left him unable to speak.
He lost his voice and much of his lower jaw after suffering from thyroid cancer and complications from surgery.
“He realized that connecting to people was the main reason we’re all here and that’s what his life was all about,” said his stepdaughter Sonia Evans.
In his final blog entry, published just days before his death, Roger Ebert had addressed his illness saying: “It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital.
“So, on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that
accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.”
Following his death last week, Hollywood lined up to pay tribute to Roger Ebert. Director Martin Scorsese, who is producing a documentary on the film critic and writer, called his death “an incalculable loss”.
Steven Spielberg added it was “the end of an era”.
Speaking at the funeral, the Rev Jesse Jackson praised Roger Ebert’s early support for the films of Spike Lee and other black filmmakers.
“He respected what we had to say about ourselves. It was not his story but he understood the value of an important film was authenticity and not the fact that it depicted your interests.”
Roger Ebert’s widow, Chaz, who received a standing ovation added: “It didn’t matter to him your race, creed, color – he had a big enough heart to accept and love all.”
He began his career at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he spent the next five decades penning biting, often funny reviews for movies.
It was there, in 1975, that Roger Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, an award given to newspaper writers.
“Roger was 24-7 before anybody thought of that term,” said John Barron, Roger Ebert’s former boss at the Sun-Times, who said he was among the first reporters to use a computer or send emails.
Towards the end of the 1970s, Roger Ebert teamed up with fellow critic Gene Siskel for their TV review show, where they would give films a thumbs up or thumbs down gesture. They worked together until Gene Siskel’s death in 1999, following surgery for a brain tumor.
Roger Ebert also authored more than 15 books about the movies and co-wrote several movies with cult director Russ Meyer.
In 2007, Roger Ebert was named the most powerful critic in America by Forbes magazine.
Film critic Roger Ebert has died at 70 after a long battle with cancer, his newspaper the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.
Roger Ebert, known for his thumbs-up or down television reviews with partner and friend Gene Siskel, became a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967.
He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002, losing his jaw and his ability to speak in a subsequent surgery.
Roger Ebert later resumed writing full-time and also returned to television.
On Tuesday, Roger Ebert revealed on his popular blog that he faced a fresh bout with cancer and was taking a “leave of presence”, writing fewer reviews.
The film critic suffered a hip fracture in December that he said “had recently been revealed to be a cancer”.
Film critic Roger Ebert has died at 70 after a long battle with cancer
“It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to,” he wrote.
However, Roger Ebert vowed to continue his work.
President Barack Obama, who lived most of his adult life in Chicago, praised Roger Ebert’s honesty about films he disliked – and his effusiveness about those he enjoyed, as well as the critic’s ability to capture the “unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical”.
“For a generation of Americans – and especially Chicagoans – Roger was the movies,” Barack Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
“The movies won’t be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family.”
Roger Ebert’s columns were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide, and he won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975 – the first film critic to do so.
In the same year, a film review show starring Roger Ebert and cross-town rival Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune premiered on local television. Within a few years the programme – with its thumbs-up or down judgements – was broadcast nationally, making Siskel and Ebert household names in the US.
The programme, in various guises, continued until Gene Siskel’s death in 1999.
Roger Ebert was the author of more than 15 books about the movies. And he took time off from reviewing films to write one – 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. And he was an early investor in Google – a move that made him millions.
His TV career was curtailed in 2002 when he was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.
A portion of his lower jaw was removed in a 2006 cancer surgery, and he lost the ability to speak, eat or drink.
Roger Ebert turned to the internet, where his writings continued to garner enormous audiences. Wearing a prosthetic chin and with his reviews read by voice-over actors, he eventually returned to television.
Roger Joseph Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois on June 18, 1942. He began covering high school sports for a local newspaper at 15 and was editor of his university’s student newspaper.
He spent a year on scholarship at the University of Cape Town in South Africa before beginning work on a doctorate in English at the University of Chicago.
Shortly after that he joined the Chicago Sun-Times part-time and was named its movie critic in 1967.
In 1992 Roger Ebert married lawyer Chaz Hammelsmith, whom he once called “the great fact of my life”.
In his last blog, Roger Ebert wrote: “It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital.
“So, on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.”