Roger Ebert dies: 9 facts about the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic
When news broke of the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, celebrities mourned the loss of the writer and President Barack Obama issued a statement about his passing.
Ebert died at the age of 70 on April 4, two days after he announced he was taking a "leave of presence" because of a recurrence of cancer.
Although he strived to make his opinion on films clear, few might know about Ebert's personal life, health struggles and career development. Below are nine facts about Roger Ebert.
1. He was an only child.
Born on June 18, 1942, Ebert was the only child of Annabel and Walter Ebert. He was born in Urbana, Illinois, and his father worked as an electrician. It was his mother's sister, Martha, who shared Ebert's love for movies and took him to see many, as he revealed in a February 2013 post on his blog.
2. He was an early investor in Google.
Ebert, a noted tech fan, invested early in Google and spoke about it in a May 2010 (Warning: Link contains expletives) post on his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times.
"I liked Google when it was first introduced, and bought shares the day it went public. I had absolutely no investment advice except Siskel's. "
While it is unclear exactly how much Ebert made off the investment, the Chicago Sun-Times article about Ebert's death said the film critic made "several million dollars" from it.
3. Ebert became the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times on April 3, 1967.
Ebert was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times in September of 1966 and he worked part-time as a features writer, according to the newspaper. A few months after being hired, the newspaper's film critic at the time, Eleanor Keen, retired. Bob Zonka, who was the features editor during Ebert's early years, told him plainly, "We're gonna make you the movie critic."
4. He went on two dates with Oprah and convinced her to take her talk show into syndication.
On their first date, Ebert took Winfrey, who was hosting a local TV show at the time called "AM Chicago," to the Hamburger Hamlet. At the time, Winfrey told Ebert she was mulling two syndication deals but was unsure of what to do.
Ebert then did some quick math on a restaurant napkin of Winfrey's potential earnings from doing a syndicated program, which he had learned after "At the Movies" became a hit.
"Yes, it is true, I persuaded Oprah to become the most successful and famous woman in the world. I was also the person who suggested that Jerry Springer not go into syndication, for which I have received too little credit," Ebert wrote in November 2005.
5. He was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize and to be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. His entry for the prize included 10 columns, one of which a criticism of the 1974 adaptation of "The Great Gatsby," according to a 1975 article in The Daily Illini, the student newspaper of the University of Illinois, where Ebert once served as an editor.In June 2005, he became the first film critic to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His star is located on 6834 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles.
6. He hated movies like "The Waterboy," "Spiceworld," "Tommy Boy," "Armageddon," "Flashdance," "Staying Alive," "The Usual Suspects" and ... "North."
Ebert had a complete list of movies he hated called "Ebert's Most Hated," which was posted on his website in 2005. While he hated a lot of popular comedies like "The Waterboy" and big budget thrillers like "Armageddon," he really, really hated the 1994 film "North," with a young Elijah Wood.
In the film, Wood plays North, a child who becomes tired of being ignored by his parents, played by "Seinfeld" actors Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. North later decides to emancipate himself from them.
"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it," Ebert wrote about the film.
A line from his review of "North" later served as the title of his 2000 book "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie," which featured a collection of his reviews of films that recieved two stars or fewer.
7. At age 50, he wed Charlie "Chaz" Hammelsmith, who later became Chaz Ebert.
Hammelsmith was a trial attorney at the time she wed Ebert and had two children from a previous marriage.
Of his wife, Ebert wrote in his memoir "Life Itself," "She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading."
After her husband's death, Chaz Ebert said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times:
"I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger -- my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I've lost the love of my life, and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other."
When the couple appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2010, Chaz Ebert said of her husband's health problems, "It's hard to find someone like him. And I didn't want to lose him. And I felt almost like I was going a little insane. I was so intense; I just refused to give up on him. If there was anything in my power to help him live, that's what I was going to do."
8. Ebert was a recovering alcoholic and stopped drinking in 1979.
Ebert wrote openly about his struggles with alcohol earlier in his life and admitted he often worked while he was drinking. He was able to get sober through Alcoholics Anonymous.
In an August 2009 blog post (Warning: Link contains expletives), Ebert wrote, "I came to love the program and the friends I was making through meetings, some of whom are close friends to this day. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. "
9. Ebert lost his voice and lower jaw as a result of surgeries from his cancer battle.
Ebert's health woes were chronicled in a 2010 Esquire article. Ebert was first diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in 2002. In 2003 he had his salivary glands partially removed.
In 2006, doctors found cancer in his jaw and a section of his lower jaw was removed. Two weeks after the surgery, his carotid artery burst. After more surgery to save his life and stop the bleeding, according to Esquire, he was "left without much of his mandible."
He had several surgeries to reconstruct his jaw and throat but after a few weeks, according to the magazine, "the reconstructive work fell apart and had to be stripped out." After that, he was unable to speak, eat or drink.
He commissioned a Scottish company called Cereproc to develop a text-to-speech voice that sounded like his own from tapes of his show "At The Movies" as well as DVD commentaries he did. He first debuted the voice on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in March 2010. Video of Ebert and his wife hearing the computerized voice for the first time can be seen here.
However, during a 2011 TED Talk, he revealed that the voice was still being worked on and in the meantime, he chose to use Apple's "Alex" voice. During his March 2010 appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Ebert revealed that after he lost the ability to speak, he often dreamed of himself talking.
"I'm talking all the time," he said of his dreams. "That's just like I was in life. You could never shut me up."