Film critic, longtime LGBT community supporter Roger Ebert dies

CHICAGO, — Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, who was known for his “thumbs up, thumbs down” critiques of films, died Thursday. He was 70, and had battled cancer in recent years.

Last month, the famed critic and columnist had written a column entitled, “How I Am a Roman Catholic,” in which he said he still considers himself a practicing Catholic, but disagreed with the official church stance on LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

“My feeling is that love between consenting adults is admirable,” he wrote.

Roger Ebert, in January 2009.AP
Roger Ebert in 2004.AP

Ebert who started as a movie reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, gained national recognition and prominence in his syndicated TV programs on which he reviewed films, first in partnership with the late Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel, then later with Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper.

He and Siskel were known for their trademark practice of giving “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to the movies they reviewed.

“I have seen untold numbers of movies and forgotten most of them, I hope, but I remember those worth remembering, and they are all on the same shelf in my mind,” Ebert wrote in his 2011 memoir, “Life Itself.”

Ebert was teased for years about his weight, but the jokes stopped abruptly when he lost portions of his jaw and the ability to speak, eat and drink after cancer surgeries in 2006. He overcame his health problems to resume writing full-time and eventually even returned to television.

In addition to his work for the Sun-Times, Ebert became a prolific user of social media, connecting with fans on Facebook and Twitter.

Ebert wrote in 2010 that he did not fear death because he didn’t believe there was anything “on the other side of death to fear.”

“I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state,” he wrote. “I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”

On Wednesday, Ebert posted a blog entry that said he was taking a “leave of presence” and allocating some of his duties to others because of the return of his cancer. He had been unable to speak since 2006 when he suffered complications after surgery for thyroid cancer.

Survivors include his wife, Chaz.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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