BIOGRAPHY OF ROGER EBERT


Roger Ebert Roger Ebert
(1942 - )
Biography from Baseline

Occupation: Critic
Also: Author
Born: June 18, 1942, Illinois
Education: University of Illinois

Film critic for the Chicago Sun Times since 1967, Ebert was the first-ever recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism (in 1975) and is best known for his TV work opposite critic-colleague Gene Siskel on "Siskel and Ebert" (they were formerly hosts of PBS's "At the Movies"). He is the author of several books on the cinema, including A Kiss Is Still A Kiss (1984), and has also written screenplays, most notably for Russ Meyer's cult classic, Beyond The Valley of the Dolls, (1970).

Note from Roger Ebert:

In 1996 I observed the 20th anniversary of my association on television with Gene Siskel, my co-host on the "Siskel & Ebert" program, and the anniversary forced me to note the passage of time. I am aware of no other American newspaper film critic who has been continuously at his job longer than I have, and among active American film critics in general I can think only of Stanley Kauffmann and Andrew Sarris, who I continue to read with great attention and respect. I have been at this awhile. When I mentioned Bonnie and Clyde during a talk at the University of Virginia, a student referred to it as an "ancient movie." To me, it seems contemporary. Yet a little math revealed that Bonnie and Clyde is now older than Casablanca was when I began reviewing in 1967.

Although many moviegoers know me primarily through the "Siskel & Ebert" program, I spend perhaps three quarters of my time working for the print media. Both kinds of journalism have their advantages. On television, we are able to show actual scenes from the new movies, which work better than any description to give a sense of the work. And there are two of us, so there is always one ready to question a judgment, disagree with an analysis, or second an opinion. When Siskel and I agree strongly on the worth of a film, as we have recently with such films as Pulp Fiction, Hoop Dreams, Leaving Las Vegas, Crumb, Red, Dead Man Walking and Fargo, I believe we can help them to find wider audiences. Do we have "too much influence," as some have said? Given the influence of national advertising campaigns, media junkets, fast-food and T-shirt tie-ins, and mass bookings into 2,000 theaters at a time, I don't think we have nearly influence enough.

In print, the breadth of the influence is harder to measure, but I think it may run a little deeper, because a written review holds the attention longer and more stubbornly. If I value television because it allows me to exchange views with a colleague I respect, I value print because it allows me to be uninterrupted. My newspaper reviews are written in exactly the words I want to use; on TV, where we do a lot of ad-libbing, I sometimes don't express myself as well as I would like. Print punishes cliches; TV rewards them. I see myself quoted in the ads for The Truth About Cats and Dogs as saying I "liked the movie a whole lot." And so I did. But I would never write in that idiom.

I had my first professional newspaper job by the time I was 15, as a sports writer for The News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. The following summer I was moved over to the city desk, where under the instruction of patient veterans like Bill Schmelzle, Jari Jackson, Harold Holmes, and Ed Borman, I learned the newspaper business as an apprentice. (Bill Lyon, now a gifted Philadelphia columnist, was my exact contemporary on the same paper; I covered Urbana High School and he covered Champaign.) In those days stories were written on flimsy newsprint on old manual typewriters, assembled with paste-pots, copy-read with soft lead pencils (without erasers), set into type on Linotype machines, cast into hot-metal page forms, and printed on presses that made the building shake. Today it is all done with computers, in city rooms as quiet as a bank. But the soul of the job is exactly the same.

Occasionally I am asked if I will quit writing print reviews someday, and "just do the television show." Such a day will never come. I appreciate the opportunity to do both jobs, and the freedom that each gives me to do the other on its own terms. - Roger Ebert


Information courtesy of Cinemania
1996 Microsoft Corporation and/or its suppliers. All rights reserved.