GENE SISKEL Biography - People in the News and Media


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Name: Gene Siskel                                                                       
Birth name: Eugene Kal Siskel                                                           
Born: 26 January 1946 Chicago, IL                                                       
Died: 20 February 1999 Evanston, IL                                                     
Eugene "Gene" Kal Siskel (January 26, 1946 - February 20, 1999) was one of the           
world's most famous film critics. Along with on-screen partner Roger Ebert, they         
pioneered the popular weekly movie review TV show Siskel & Ebert until Siskel's         
death at age 53.                                                                         
Born in Chicago, Siskel attended Culver Academies, graduated from Yale                   
University in 1967 and began working for the Chicago Tribune in 1969. In 1975,           
Siskel teamed up with Roger Ebert, film reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times, to           
host a show on the local Chicago PBS station WTTW which eventually became Sneak         
Previews. Their "thumbs-up, thumbs-down" system soon became an easily                   
recognizable trademark, popular enough to be parodied on comedy shows such as In         
Living Color and in movies such as Hollywood Shuffle and Godzilla. Sneak                 
Previews gained a nationwide audience in 1978 when it was carried on PBS.               
Siskel and Ebert left WTTW and PBS in 1982 for syndication. Their new show, At           
the Movies was produced and distributed by Tribune Broadcasting, the parent             
company that owned the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV. Sneak Previews continued on           
PBS a few more years with other hosts.                                                   
In 1986, Siskel and Ebert left Tribune Broadcasting to have their show produced         
by the syndication arm of The Walt Disney Company. The new incarnation of the           
show was originally titled Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, but later shortened to           
simply Siskel & Ebert. At the Movies also continued a few more years with other         
In 1998, Siskel underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. He announced on               
February 3, 1999 that he was taking a leave of absence but that he expected to           
be back by the fall, writing "I'm in a hurry to get well because I don't want           
Roger to get more screen time than I." The last film he reviewed was the Sarah           
Michelle Gellar romantic comedy Simply Irresistible.                                     
He died from complications of the surgery two weeks later, at the age of 53.             
After Siskel's death, the producers of Siskel & Ebert hired other film critics           
and began using them on a rotating basis as an audition for a permanent                 
successor. Ultimately, Ebert's Chicago Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper was           
hired and the show was renamed Ebert & Roeper and the Movies.                           
The Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which presents             
world-class independent, international, and classic cinema was renamed The Gene         
Siskel Film Center in honor of him in 2000.                                             
Siskel championed the Film Center from its very inception, as did Ebert. When           
asked by a journalist to list his three favorite things about Chicago, Siskel           
named Michael Jordan, Mayor Daley, and the Film Center. Gene was a member of the         
Film Center's Advisory Committee and a strong supporter of the Film Center               
mission. Gene wrote hundreds of articles applauding the Film Center's                   
distinctive programming and he lent the power of his position as one of the             
world's most respected film critics to urge public funding and audience support.         
Siskel is survived by his wife, Marlene, and their children, Kate, Callie, and