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Beloved Film Critic Roger Ebert Dead At 70

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Film critic Roger Ebert has died at the age of 70, his agent and the Chicago Sun-Times confirmed Thursday.

Ebert announced Tuesday on his blog that his cancer had returned and he would be attending fewer movie screenings.

“It means I am not going away,” Ebert wrote. “I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.”

Wednesday marked Ebert’s 46th year as the film critic for the Sun-Times. He was the first movie reviewer to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

@Suntimes tweeted at 12:29 p.m.: “It is with a heavy heart we report that legendary film critic Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) has passed away.”

Ebert hosted television programs including “Sneak Previews”, “At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert”, and “Siskel and Ebert and The Movies” with Gene Siskel for 23 years until Siskel died in 1999. The duo were well known for their thumbs-up, thumbs-down film reviews.

Ebert was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in 2002 and cancer in his salivary gland in 2003. In June of 2006, he underwent additional surgery to remove part of his jaw.

President Obama, who lived in Chicago, issued a statement Thursday upon hearing of Ebert’s death. “Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Roger Ebert. For a generation of Americans — and especially Chicagoans — Roger was the movies. When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive — capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical. Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient — continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. The movies won’t be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family.”

Ebert is survived by his wife, Charlie “Chaz” Hammel-Smith. She issued a statement that read as follows:

“I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger — my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I’ve lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.

“Roger was a beloved husband, stepfather to Sonia and Jay, and grandfather to Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph. Just yesterday he was saying how his grandchildren were ‘the best things in my life.’ He was happy and radiating satisfaction over the outpouring of responses to his blog about his 46th year as a film critic. But he was also getting tired of his fight with cancer, and said if this takes him, he has lived a great and full life.

“We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition. We are touched by all the kindness and the outpouring of love we’ve received. And I want to echo what Roger said in his last blog, thank you for going on this journey with us.”

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