Roger Ebert: Everyman's Movie Critic

By Christian, Rebecca | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), April 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

Roger Ebert: Everyman's Movie Critic


Christian, Rebecca, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


Can you stand another tribute to Roger Ebert, who died last week at 70? I am a movie buff, and he was my favorite critic.

I read his reviews (subtracting a half-star because he was often too kind) with particular interest. That was because I had the pleasure of interviewing him when, to paraphrase Billy Joel, I wore a younger woman's clothes.

I profiled him in 1984, two years after Ebert and Gene Siskel's "Sneak Previews," famous for its thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach from a dueling odd couple, had migrated from public television and morphed into "At the Movies," syndicated by WGN in Chicago.

I was then living in wee Creston, Iowa, and writing for Ozark Airlines magazine, where my prose - more breathless than deathless - was stashed alongside sick bags on seat backs. (At least I got to fly free.)

When I turned up at WGN, nervous and with a list of far too many questions, the two reviewers were taping a show. I was startled to see that the back of the movie seats they sat in on the set were crisscrossed with duct tape: So much for magic!

First I interviewed them together, then separately, which gave me a chance to observe their not-always-entirely-good-natured repartee. The kvetching between the two likable appearing guys who were physical opposites was charged with a kind of buoyant, faintly Stooge-ian

energy.

Siskel was the thin one in a sport coat whom Ebert dubbed "the world's baldest movie critic" and Ebert was the chubby one in a sweater whom Siskel likened to a landing pad at O'Hare.

Ebert's warmth put me at ease and demonstrated his approach to life, humor and the movies. He proudly told me it was his idea to use the gimmick of a barking dog, later replaced by a skunk, to introduce the dog or stinker of the week. It was exciting to me that two fellas from the flyover were achieving a national reputation when most important movie critics lived on either coast. …

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