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.
"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," his wife, Chaz Ebert, said in a statement Thursday.
"I'll see you at the movies," were the last words Ebert wrote to his readers. They were 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.'"
Ebert: The critical critic with an open mind
Ebert, who won a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 1975, had a way with words and a sharp wit that is not easily matched.
-- 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."
Two years later, flowers showed up at Ebert's door with a card, signed "Your Least Favorite Movie Star, Rob Schneider."
"The bouquet didn't change my opinion of his movie, but I don't think he intended that," Ebert wrote. "It was a way of stepping back. It was a reminder that in the great scheme of things, a review doesn't mean very much. Sometimes when I write a negative review, people will say, 'I'll bet you can't wait to hammer his next film.' Not true. I would far rather praise the next film to show that I maintained an open mind."
-- A good example of Ebert's willingness to keep an open mind comes from his review of Tom Green's 2001 comedy "Freddy Got Fingered" of which he wrote one of his most scathing reviews ever:
"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."
But after watching Green in "Stealing Harvard" a year later, Ebert revisited the film that he had awarded a rare zero stars:
"But the thing is, I remember 'Freddy Got Fingered' more than a year later. I refer to it sometimes. It is a milestone. And for all its sins, it was at least an ambitious movie, a go-for-broke attempt to accomplish something. It failed, but it has not left me convinced that Tom Green doesn't have good work in him. Anyone with his nerve and total lack of taste is sooner or later going to make a movie worth seeing."
-- 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."