Hollywood came to Chicago on Thursday as actors, directors, film critics and studio presidents honored late movie reviewer Roger Ebert in his hometown.
All of those who shared memories at the Chicago Theatre cheered Ebert as a champion of movies and a critic who used his influence to help filmmakers find audiences. He died last week at age 70 after a years-long battle with cancer.
Chaz Ebert says her late husband Roger Ebert was "one of the finest men" she's ever met.
Ebert spoke Thursday night at the memorial service for the famed film critic. Roger Ebert died last week at age 70 after a long battle with cancer.
Ebert told the memorial crowd that when Roger Ebert first became ill she "refused to let him die" because there was more for him to do.
But she said when the cancer returned recently he told her he was tired.
She said the couple loved each other deeply. Chaz Ebert was surrounded by family members as she made her remarks.
"He was always supportive of artists. He always gave you a fair shake," said Chicago native John Cusack, who appeared with his sister and fellow actor, Joan Cusack.
Ebert worked at the Chicago Sun-Times for more than 40 years. The day before his April 4 death, he wrote in a post on his blog that he was taking a break from his schedule of almost-daily movie reviewing because the cancer had recurred.
"He was simply one of the finest men I ever met," Chaz Ebert said of her late husband during Thursday night's memorial.
Roger Ebert won national fame when he teamed with fellow film critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune in 1975 for a television show that had them each give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down rating to the latest releases.
John Cusack said he and his sister enjoyed watching Ebert and Siskel growing up. "Chicago's lost a great icon but he'll always be with us," he said of Ebert.
Joan Cusack read a letter from President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The Obamas remembered Ebert as a "cultural leader."
Earlier, Todd McCarthy, film critic for publications like Variety, said a key to Ebert's success was that he was "a populist without prejudice."
"He was neither highbrow nor lowbrow," McCarthy said. "In the world of film criticism for 46 years there was Roger Ebert and then there was the rest of us."
Ebert continued the movie review TV show with Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper after Siskel's death in 1999.
"I felt that as long as Roger was alive a little bit of Gene was, too," said Siskel's widow, Marlene Iglitzen Siskel, at the memorial.
Ebert was the first journalist to win the Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism and was the first critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.