Today marks the birthday of film critic legend Gene Siskel. Born in Chicago, both of Siskel’s parents died when he was ten, and he was subsequently raised by his aunt and uncle. After graduating in philosophy at Yale University, Siskel teamed up with Roger Ebert, who was a movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and the two of them began to host a PBS show which eventually changed its name to Sneak Previews. Later, Siskel and Ebert moved to another station and started a new show called At the Movies, which in turn became Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, and by this point the two reviewers had become incredibly famous. With their trademark “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” rating system, they had become part of the popular consciousness, and were being referenced eveywhere – even in Calvin and Hobbes! They cameo’d as themselves on the cartoon The Critic, and Siskel appeared as himself on The Larry Sanders Show.
In 1998, Siskel underwent surgery for a brain tumor, but even while he was in the hospital, he still phoned in to the show to review movies with Ebert. In 1999, Gene Siskel died from complications due to another surgery. He was 53. But even though he’s gone, he’s far from forgotten, and I don’t think there’s a movie reviewer out there worth his salt who doesn’t revere critics like Gene. Thumbs up!