Book review: Life Itself

By , July 18, 2014

Life itself: a memoir
by Roger Ebert

In 2011 Roger Ebert, the everyman half of Siskel & Ebert penned the memoir, Life Itself.  The book gives readers behind the scenes access into the life of the man who shaped the way we  look at movies for 4o years.

From his childhood years in Urbana to the heady days of covering international film festivals, Ebert shares the nuances that made his life itself rich. Roger Ebert was raised a Catholic, but he later lapsed. He fought the temptations of drink, professional jealousy and the wiley ways of buxom, wonton women. Sure, there must have been editing in the telling, but what a masterfully crafted final product.

Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize (the first awarded for movie criticism) and notably co-wrote the screen play of Beyond Valley of the Dolls. He was the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His television movie review programs, beginning with Sneak Previews in 1975, hosting with Gene Siskel in various incarnations for 15 years and ending with Ebert & Roeper, changed the way we look at movies and movie going.

It was his talent for conveying the details, atmosphere and mutations in mood that gave his work a distinct voice no matter the medium.  Over the years he moved from print (linotype presses, no less) to television and finally electronic communications when he lost the physical ability to speak.

Filmmaker Steve James has produced a film version of the biography, loosely based on the book. Filming began after Ebert could no longer speak, but was still in relatively good enough health to be a vital part of the process.  Over the course of filming, Roger Ebert endured return visits to rehab and moments of restored health only to repeat the process over and over again with his (late in life) wife, Chaz at his side. Roger Ebert, the surgically devoured, papillary thyroid  and salivary glands  cancer patient died in April 2013, eleven years after his initial diagnosis. The film version, Life Itself was released earlier this month.  To rave reviews.

We don’t pretend to disagree.  Gene Siskel

-laurie

One Response to “Book review: Life Itself”

  1. Phil K. says:

    Great review Laurie! Two thumbs up (sorry, had to). I will check this out and look for the movie at some point (missed it at the Belcourt; Bryan probably saw it, Bill too – please chime in if so…).

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