Five Things to Know About Roger Ebert

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Five Things to Know About Roger Ebert
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Roger Ebert

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert passed away on April 4 after a battle with cancer, leaving behind more than 45 years worth of movie reviews as well as countless prestigious achievements. (Ebert was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize and to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- and that's just for starters!) Here are five things to know about the late Roger Ebert.

He Reviewed His First Movie in College

Of his review for the 1961 movie "La Dolce Vita," Ebert wrote on his website: "This is just about the first movie review I ever wrote, from The Daily Illini, October 4, 1961, during my sophomore year at the University of Illinois. I now consider 'La Dolce Vita' one of the greatest films I've seen, but obviously that was not my first impression." His three-star review started out with: "There is in 'La Dolce Vita' a great deal to be puzzled about, and a great deal to be impressed by, and perhaps a great deal which we as Americans will never completely understand." Ebert's last movie review -- posted one week before his death -- was for the 2013 Stephenie Meyer movie "The Host." He gave it 2.5 stars.

He Once Dated Oprah Winfrey

In the 1980s, Ebert briefly dated Oprah Winfrey. And while the relationship went nowhere, her career did after she took his advice. On her talk show's 20th anniversary special, Oprah revealed that during a date to burger joint, Roger convinced her to let her then-local talk show go into syndication. The film critic even crunched a few numbers on a Hamburger Hamlet napkin to prove his point! Once Oprah had her national talk show, the two went on one more date-to see the Count Basie Orchestra-and remained lifelong friends, despite the fact that she cut the night short because she had to get up early to host her new show.

He Hated One Movie in Particular

One of Ebert's most scathing reviews was for the 1994 Rob Reiner flick, "North," which he gave zero stars. "I hated this movie, "he wrote. "Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it." Ebert's favorite movie that year was "Hoop Dreams."

He Could Have Been a Sitcom Star

Ebert's friendship with rival movie reviewer Gene Siskel was legendary. Ten years after Siskel's death, Ebert paid a tribute to his friend in a Sun-Times blog post, and revealed that two nearly teamed up for a TV sitcom. He wrote: "We once spoke with Disney and CBS about a sitcom to be titled, 'Best Enemies.' It would be about two movie critics joined in a love/hate relationship. It never went anywhere, but we both believed it was a good idea. Maybe the problem was that no one else could possibly understand how meaningless was the hate, how deep was the love."

He Achieved a Lifelong Dream in 2011

In 2011, after 107 attempts, Ebert won the cartoon caption contest for The New Yorker. Before his win, he wrote that he had never even been a finalist in the contest, and added, "It's not that I think my cartoon captions are better than anyone else's, although some weeks, understandably, I do. It's that just once I want to see one of my damn captions in the magazine that publishes the best cartoons in the world. Is that too much to ask?" In 2011 the New Yorker posted Ebert's winning caption, as well as several of his losing attempts. You can see some of Roger Ebert's favorite entries here.

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