As one of the most noted critics in film history, Roger Ebert was above all a believer in the magic of movies. He was best known for his long-standing film review column in the "Chicago Sun-Times," which he wrote since 1967, as well as for his television programs with fellow critic Gene Siskel. Ebert lost his ability to speak after surgical complications for his thyroid cancer in 2006, but remained an active and powerful force in the industry through his blog reviews.
Siskel and Ebert's often conflicting opinions on the movies of the day became the basis of 24 years of television, until Siskel's death in 1999. The pair appeared together in the programs "Sneak Previews," "At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert" and "Siskel and Ebert and The Movies." They started as rivals at competing papers who didn't see eye-to-eye, and eventually became close friends and creative colleagues who constantly challenged each other. Together, Siskel and Ebert even coined their trademark phrase "two thumbs up" - one from each of them, for only the best of the best.
Until the end of his life, Ebert remained a loyal native of Urbana, Illinois - the town where he was born in 1942 and later attended college. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning an undergraduate degree in 1964. It was there where he discovered his passion for film and journalism. In fact, one of the first movie reviews Ebert ever wrote, for the Italian comedy "La Dolce Vita," was published in the University's still-printing "Daily Illini" in 1961. Following Siskel's death in 1999, Ebert partnered with his alma mater to host an annual film festival in the campus town that became known as "Ebertfest." He was present at Ebertfest every April to give a few comments at the festival's home at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign.
Roger Ebert was the first film critic in history to be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and also the first film critic ever to win a Pultizer Prize for Criticism.
Here's a 2010 CBS video featuring Esquire writer Chris Jones talks about film critic Roger Ebert's public battle with cancer.