News of Ebert’s death came as a shock to many after his Tuesday column announced he would be taking a “leave of presence,” as he put it, due to the re-emergence of his cancer, initially suspected to be a fractured femur.
“Typically, I write over 200 reviews a year for the Sun-Times that are carried by Universal Press Syndicate in some 200 newspapers,” he explained. “Last year, I wrote the most of my career, including 306 movie reviews, a blog post or two a week, and assorted other articles. I must slow down now, which is why I’m taking what I like to call ‘a leave of presence.’”
That fracture in his femur, he revealed, turned out to be the reemergence of the cancer that claimed his lower jaw in 2006, and Ebert wrote that the radiation treatments were taking their toll. “It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital,” he wrote in the April 2 column. “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.”
In his 46 years as the Sun-Times film critic, Ebert reviewed thousands upon thousands of films, at times making or breaking a major release’s box office haul. He also hosted his own television show about movies and published 17 books about the industry he loved to chastise.
He and longtime colleague Gene Siskel, who died in 1999, are also credited with coining the phrase “two thumbs up,” which has appeared on numerous movie posters and television ads over the years.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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