Year
2013
Month Day
April 04

Movie critic Roger Ebert dies

On April 4, 2013, one of America’s best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after battling cancer. In 1975, Ebert started co-hosting a movie review program on TV with fellow critic Gene Siskel that eventually turned them both into household names and made their thumbs-up, thumbs-down rating system part of American pop culture.

Born on June 18, 1942, in Urbana, Illinois, Ebert was the only child of an electrician father and bookkeeper mother. At age 15, Ebert he began writing about high school sports for his local newspaper. In 1964, he graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in journalism and served as editor of the school’s newspaper. Two years later, he went to work for the Chicago Sun-Times. When the paper’s film critic retired in 1967, Ebert was named as her replacement.

Ebert reportedly watched 500 movies a year and penned reviews of at least half that many on an annual basis. (In 2012, when asked to name the 10 greatest films of all time, his list included such titles as Apocalypse Now, Citizen Kane, Raging Bull and Vertigo.) His work was syndicated in hundreds of newspapers around the world, and he was the author of more than 15 books, including the acclaimed 2011 memoir Life Itself. Ebert had a brief foray into movie making when he wrote the script for 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Upon its release, the film was trashed by critics, including Siskel.

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and salivary gland cancer the following year, Ebert lost the ability to speak, drink and eat in 2006 following surgery for jaw cancer. However, he continued to work, writing for the Sun-Times, blogging for his own website and developing a large following on Facebook and Twitter. On April 2, 2013, Ebert publicly announced he would be writing fewer reviews due to a recurrence of cancer. He died two days later. The Sun-Times published his final movie review on April 6, for To the Wonder. Ebert awarded it 3.5 out of 4 stars.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Radio host Don Imus makes offensive remarks about Rutgers' women's basketball team

On April 4, 2007, syndicated talk radio host Don Imus ignites a firestorm after making racially disparaging remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, insulting their appearance and tattoos and, most infamously, calling them “nappy-headed hos.” After a ...read more

Hank Aaron ties Babe Ruth's home run record

As the 1974 Major League Baseball season began, all eyes were on Hank Aaron. He had finished 1973 with 713 career home runs, one shy of the all-time record set by Babe Ruth. On April 4, Opening Day, a 39-year-old Aaron sent the very first pitch he saw over the wall, finally tying ...read more

World Trade Center, then the world's tallest building, opens in New York City

The “Twin Towers” of the World Trade Center officially open in New York City. The buildings replaced the Empire State Building as the world’s tallest building. Though they would only hold that title for a year, they remained a dominant feature of the city’s skyline and were ...read more

Microsoft founded

On April 4, 1975, at a time when most Americans used typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew ...read more

Second Battle of the Somme ends

During World War I, the Second Battle of the Somme, the first major German offensive in more than a year, ends on the western front. On March 21, 1918, a major offensive against Allied positions in the Somme River region of France began with five hours of bombardment from more ...read more

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way ...read more

Germans and Allies step up operations near Somme

On this day in 1918, German forces in the throes of a major spring offensive on the Western Front launch a renewed attack on Allied positions between the Somme and Avre Rivers. The first stage of the German offensive, dubbed “Operation Michael,” began March 21, 1918; by the ...read more

Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks out against the war

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, delivers a speech entitled “Beyond Vietnam” in front of 3,000 people at Riverside Church in New York City. In it, he says that there is a common link forming between the civil rights and ...read more

President Lincoln dreams about his assassination

According to the recollection of one of his friends, Ward Hill Lamon, President Abraham Lincoln dreams on this night in 1865 of “the subdued sobs of mourners” and a corpse lying on a catafalque in the White House East Room. In the dream, Lincoln asked a soldier standing guard ...read more

President Harrison dies—just 32 days into office

President William Henry Harrison dies after serving only 32 days in office on this day in 1841. Harrison holds the unfortunate presidential record of shortest term in office. Ironically, the man with the shortest White House tenure delivered the longest inaugural address in ...read more

Maya Angelou is born

Poet and novelist Maya Angelou—born Marguerite Johnson—is born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she and her brother went to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. When she was eight, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. When she ...read more

"Ben-Hur" wins 11 Academy Awards

Clocking in at three hours and 32 minutes, William Wyler’s Technicolor epic Ben-Hur is the behemoth entry at the 32nd annual Academy Awards ceremony, held on this day in 1960, at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Setting an Oscar record, the film swept 11 of the 12 ...read more

Dirigible crash kills 73 in New Jersey

On April 4, 1933, a dirigible crashes in New Jersey, killing 73 people in one of the first air disasters in history. The Akron was the largest airship built in the United States when it took its first flight in August 1931. In its short life of less than two years, it was ...read more

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pact signed

The United States and 11 other nations establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact aimed at containing possible Soviet aggression against Western Europe. NATO stood as the main U.S.-led military alliance against the Soviet Union throughout the ...read more

General George Washington begins march to New York

After the successful siege of Boston, General George Washington begins marching his unpaid soldiers from their headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, toward New York in anticipation of a British invasion, on April 4, 1776. In a letter to the president of Congress, General ...read more

Isoroku Yamamoto, Japan’s mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack, is born

Isoroku Yamamoto, perhaps Japan’s greatest strategist and the officer who would contrive the surprise air attack on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor, is born on April 4, 1884. A graduate of the Japanese naval academy in 1904, Yamamoto worked as a naval attaché for the Japanese ...read more