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Roger Ebert on Love
Our send-off to the legend.
BY KATE HAKALA
Legendary film-critic and social media superstar, Roger Ebert, passed away today at 70. Though his 46-year-long career is institutional in itself, he will also be remembered more recently for his blog posts and Twitter feed, which were full of poignant, critical, and sharp dissections of our cultural and social lives. One remarkable and compelling part of Ebert’s life was his 21-year-long marriage with his wife, Chaz, who sat by him during his struggle with cancer. Over the years, Ebert spoke about his wife, marriage, and the enduring nature of love. In honor of his memory, today we look back on what Roger Ebert taught us about love, from the strictly serious to the absolutely hilarious:
1. “You never get anywhere with a woman you can't talk intelligently with.”
Chaz Ebert was sitting at a table with a group of friends at a restaurant when Roger approached her, initially drawn by her voluptuous figure and commanding presence. In his recollection in his memoir, “Life Itself,” he notes that no romance is worth it unless you meet your intellectual peer. Taking over as vice president of the Ebert Company after they were wed, it’s safe to say that Chaz matched Roger in mind, spirit, and heart. There’s nothing sexier than a woman (or a man) with a robust intellect.
2. “I've been around a long time, and young men, if there is one thing I know, it is that the only way to kiss a girl for the first time is to look like you want to and intend to, and move in fast enough to seem eager but slow enough to give her a chance to say "So anyway ..." and look up as if she's trying to remember your name.”
This bit of advice, weaved seamlessly into a review for Shopgirl, says everything about Ebert as a lover that you need to know: he was damn smooth. He knew a good kiss means intent, but it also means respecting the person you want to kiss.
3. “Propose marriage only at a place you want to return to time and again.”
The story goes that in 1990 during Cannes, Roger and Chaz dipped down to Monte Carlo and he eagerly proposed at a café. Never wishing to return to Monte Carlo (or, the café, for that matter) Ebert regretted not waiting until they got to a better city. But he also knew that sometimes you just propose at the end of a happy day and it doesn’t matter in what shitty little café it happens in.
4. “You do not honk your horn on a first date and expect the woman to hurry out to your car.”
Walking to someone’s door to pick them up is polite and a tiny bit chivalrous. Honking from outside like you’re picking your kid up from soccer practice? Absolutely poor form. Roger Ebert understood this.
5. “Romance in the winter in Venice is intimate and private, almost hushed.”
When Ebert did romance, he did it up style. He whisked his wife off to Venice during their first winter together. They slept late in the Royal Danelli, woke up, made love repeatedly, and then looked over the Grand Canal. Not only does this sound like a Fellini film, but it also says something stirring about true love. Often our most memorable moments in love are enveloped in the fog of privacy.
6. You can seduce someone solely using ee cummings' poetry, as evidenced by his homage to the highly readable poet last month.
“may my heart always be open to little/ birds who are the secrets of living.”-ee cummings, posted by Ebert. For a man who watched movies for a living, his writing was soulful and his reflections on love were highly poetic.
7. A true love “has more faith in me than I do.”
After battling cancer for decades, Roger Ebert knew struggle. And his wife Chaz, who supported him along the way, was his rock. Though Roger struggled to walk, Chaz encouraged him to take strolls two times a day in order to regain his health after months at a time in the hospital. Believing emphatically that he only survived his illness as long as he did because of his wife, he embodied the idea that our true loves are people we believe and invest in, perhaps even more than we believe in ourselves.
8. “Valentine's Day is being marketed as a Date Movie. I think it's more of a First-Date Movie. If your date likes it, do not date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date."
Some of Ebert’s most entertaining reviews are his bad ones. Here, sarcastically and wittily, Ebert develops the flawless vetting process for a first date. Step 1. Take your date to an atrocious film Step 2. If they like it, they are terrible and should be dumped. Step 3. If you like it, you are equally as terrible and probably will be dumped.
9. Love “is the great fact of my life.”
Announcing he was taking a “leave of presence” a mere two days ago, Ebert knew in some way that the road was coming to an end. Writing in 2011, he claimed he didn’t fear death because: “I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip.” While a film critic, Ebert remained an exceptional and prominent figure because he didn’t just review what a movie was about or how good it was; he related it to all the complexities and emotions of every day life. He once called his wife, “the great fact of my life.” For Ebert, there was no more significant aspect of life than love. Because of that fact, he and his work will remain a cultural legend.