Roger Ebert dies at 70 after decade-long battle with cancer

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LOS ANGELES (CNN) — The last hand in the “two thumbs up” film critic team, Roger Ebert, died Thursday, two days after revealing cancer returned to his body.

Ebert and Gene Siskel co-hosted the iconic review show “Siskel and Ebert At The Movies” until Siskel’s death in 1999 after a battle with a brain tumor.

The Chicago Sun-Times, the base of operations for Ebert’s syndicated reviews, announced his death at age 70.

“I’ll see you at the movies,” were the last word’s Ebert wrote to his readers. It was published in an essay titled “Leave of Presence” on his blog Tuesday, in which he explained he was planning to slow down and reduce the number of movie reviews he wrote.

“My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me,” Ebert wrote. “What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.”

Ebert had already lost his voice and much of his jaw after battling thyroid and salivary gland cancer.

He suffered a hip fracture in December, and it recently led to the revelations about cancer, he said.

Ebert started as the Sun-Times film critic on April 3, 1967, writing about 200 reviews each of those 46 years, he said. The last year however, was his most prolific.

“Last year, I wrote the most of my career, including 306 movie reviews, a blog post or two a week, and assorted other articles,” he said. “I must slow down now, which is why I’m taking what I like to call ‘a leave of presence.'”

The reviews would continue, but by “a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me,” Ebert wrote.

But Ebert, who won a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 2003, had a way with words and a sharp wit that is not easily matched.

Ebert: The critical critic

— About Rob Schneider’s “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” in 2005: “If he’s going to persist in making bad movies, he’s going to –have to grow accustomed to reading bad reviews.”

— Concerning Schneider’s reaction to another critic who panned the film: “But Schneider is correct, and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain that Columbia financed “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” while passing on the opportunity to participate in “Million Dollar Baby,” “Ray,” “The Aviator,” “Sideways” and “Finding Neverland.” As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.”

— Reviewing “Crocodile Dundee II”: “I’ve seen audits that were more thrilling.”

— Giving no love to “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”: “To say that George Lucas cannot write a love scene is an understatement; greeting cards have expressed more passion.”

Ebert: The film philosopher

— “Every great film should seem new every time you see it.”

— “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.”

— “If you have to ask what it symbolizes, it didn’t.”

— “If a movie isn’t a hit right out of the gate, they drop it. Which means that the whole mainstream Hollywood product has been skewed toward violence and vulgar teen comedy.”

— “I am utterly bored by celebrity interviews. Most celebrities are devoid of interest.”

On April 2, Ebert wrote a “leave of presence” on his website.

“Thank you. Forty-six years ago on April 3, 1967, I became the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Some of you have read my reviews and columns and even written to me since that time. Others were introduced to my film criticism through the television show, my books, the website, the film festival, or the Ebert Club and newsletter.  However you came to know me, I’m glad you did and thank you for being the best readers any film critic could ask for.”