In 1969, Ebert took a leave of absence from the Sun-Times to write the screenplay for ‘‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.’’ The movie got an ‘‘X'’ rating and became somewhat of a cult film.
Ebert’s television career began the year he won the Pulitzer, first on WTTW-TV, the Chicago PBS station, then nationwide on PBS and later on several commercial syndication services.
And while Siskel and Ebert may have sparred on air, they were close off camera. Siskel’s daughters were flower girls when Ebert married his wife, Chaz, in 1992.
‘‘He’s in my mind almost every day,’’ Ebert wrote in his autobiography. ‘‘He became less like a friend than like a brother.’’
Ebert found a professional and personal partner in Chaz, who acted as his co-producer. During television interviews, he often used his computer voice to tell her ‘‘I love you.’’
She returned the sentiment, telling Ebert during the final dress rehearsal for ‘‘Ebert Presents at the Movies’’ that he had an ‘‘indomitable spirit.’’
‘‘And you know that’s right,’’ Chaz Ebert told her husband. ‘‘Because people would have understood totally if you decided never to do any of this again.’’
‘‘I've lost the love of my life,’’ Chaz Ebert said in her statement Thursday, ‘‘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.’’
Ebert was also an author, writing more than 20 books that included two volumes of essays on classic movies and the popular ‘‘I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie,’’ a collection of some of his most scathing reviews.
The son of a union electrician who worked at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus, Ebert was born in Urbana on June 18, 1942. The love of journalism, as well as of movies, came early. Ebert covered high school sports for a local paper at age 15 while also writing and editing his own science fiction fan magazine.
He attended the university and was editor of the student newspaper. After graduating in 1964, he spent a year on scholarship at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and then began work toward a doctorate in English at the University of Chicago.
Ebert’s hometown embraced the film critic, hosting the annual Ebertfest film festival and placing a plaque at his childhood home.
In the years after he lost his physical voice, Ebert was embraced online. He kept up a Facebook page, a Twitter account with more than 800,000 followers and a blog, Roger Ebert’s Journal.
He posted links to stories he found interesting, wrote long pieces on varied topics, not just film criticism, and wittily interacted with readers in the comments sections. He liked to post old black-and-white photos of Hollywood stars and ask readers to guess who they were.
‘‘My blog became my voice, my outlet, my ‘social media’ in a way I couldn’t have dreamed of,’’ Ebert wrote in his memoir. ‘‘Most people choose to write a blog. I needed to.’’
Writing in 2010, he said he did not fear death because he didn’t believe there was anything ‘‘on the other side of death to fear.’’
‘‘I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state,’’ he wrote. ‘‘I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.’’
Follow Caryn Rousseau at http://www.twitter.com/carynrousseau .