Movie fans, journalists, Chicagoans, and, truly, all Americans lost a hero Thursday when they learned that Roger Ebert had died following his lengthy battle with cancer. As the evening continued and we woke up to a world without that famous thumb, tributes from colleagues, rivals, and admirers have emerged, many with delightful and poignant stories about the newspaperman who loved movies. We've collected some of the words—and images—from those remembrances.
Scott Stanis, The Chicago Tribune
Stanis's beautiful image of two friends and adversaries meeting in heaven needs no introduction:
An addendum, according to Douglas Martin's obituary in the New York Times: Ebert was once asked "what movie he thought was shown over and over again in heaven, and what snack would be free of charge and calories there." He answered: "'Citizen Kane' and vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream."
Ebert's wife gave a statement on her beloved husband:
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.
This morning she posted the following on Facebook:
Richard Roeper, The Chicago Sun-Times
There are a lot of wonderful memories in this piece by Ebert's other cohost and Sun-Times colleague, Richard Roeper. But it's Ebert as the man, not the icon, that resonates:
He was corny. For years, Roger and Chaz would host massive Fourth of July parties at his home in Michigan, and Roger would always wear his wonderfully tacky American flag shirt while presiding over the karaoke contest and the barbecue and the dancing on the temporary floor installed in the backyard. You never saw him happier than when he was surrounded by family and friends.
Roger Simon, The Chicago Sun-Times
Simon paints a portrait of Ebert as a fun-loving, once hard-drinking man who believed not just in film, but in the newspaper business:
Even though I didn’t really know him, Ebert began clipping out my columns from the paper and putting them on the desk of the editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, Jim Hoge. When I was a senior, I got a call from Hoge asking me to come to Chicago, where he offered me a job. I politely turned him down, saying I wanted to work for magazines.
That night, when I was back in Champaign-Urbana, I got this roaring call from Ebert, telling me that nobody in his right mind would turn down the offer of a job from a newspaper! Newspapers were where the most important writing in America was done!
Mark Caro, The Chicago Tribune
In making the case for Ebert as the "quintessential Chicagoan" Caro explains what it was like to go to see Austin Powers with him:
Ebert also was a collegial presence in the downtown Chicago screening room where movies were previewed for critics, though you knew not to take his back-corner seat by the door, or either of the two in front of it. He'd banter before, after and on rare occasions during movies. In 1997's “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” after Mike Myers' spoofy spy declared, “It's my happening, baby, and it freaks me out!” Ebert erupted in the screening room, “I wrote that!” Myers had lifted the line from Ebert's “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (1970) script for director Russ Meyer.
Dana Stevens, Slate
Stevens suspects she wrote to Ebert when she was between 11 and 13 to ask how to become a film critic. Ebert not only wrote back, but did so in detail, with advice and suggestions for which colleges she might attend. Stevens shared the letter upon his death.
Chris Jones, Esquire
Even the home of satire's "obituary" for Ebert—"Roger Ebert Hails Human Existence As 'A Triumph'"—was understated and moving:
“At times brutally sad, yet surprisingly funny, and always completely honest, I wholeheartedly recommend existence. If you haven’t experienced it yet, then what are you waiting for? It is not to be missed.” Ebert later said that while human existence’s running time was “a little on the long side,” it could have gone on much, much longer and he would have been perfectly happy.
The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana
Ebert's hometown paper dedicated most of their front page to him (via @HuffPostMedia):
In an article for the paper Melissa Merli interviews members of the community, including administrators at Ebert's alma mater.