Gene Siskel

Critic, Author
From the early 1970s until his untimely death in 1999, Gene Siskel provided a unique voice among film critics. Combining his Midwestern roots with an Ivy league education, coupled with his infectious love of both ... Read more »
Born: 01/25/1946 in Chicago, Illinois, USA

Filmography

other (29)

At the Movies 1982 - 2010 (TV Show)

Actor

Me, Myself and Irene 2000 (Movie)

in-memoriam (Other)

This Morning 1995 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Siskel & Ebert: If We Picked the Winners 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

Marlon Brando: Breaking All the Rules 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Sneak Previews 1978 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

The Rodman World Tour 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

CBS This Morning 1987 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Siskel & Ebert: If We Picked the Winners 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

The Siskel & Ebert Interviews 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

American Cinema 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

The 1994 Clio Awards 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

The Critic 1994 - 1995 (Tv Show)

Voice

Count on Me 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Hollywood Gets MADD 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Hope: The First Ninety Years 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

Diamonds on the Silver Screen 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

Siskel & Ebert: If We Picked the Winners 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

The Ten Best Films of 1992 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

The Worst Films of 1992 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

A Comedy Salute to Michael Jordan 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Siskel & Ebert: If We Picked the Winners 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

The Siskel & Ebert Special 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

1988 Summer Olympic Games 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

From the early 1970s until his untimely death in 1999, Gene Siskel provided a unique voice among film critics. Combining his Midwestern roots with an Ivy league education, coupled with his infectious love of both mainstream American movies such as "Saturday Night Fever" (1977) as well as obscure foreign films such as "My Dinner With Andre" (1981), he helped usher in an era of pop culture criticism. Paired throughout most of his career with fellow Chicagoan critic Roger Ebert, their weekly television reviews shows made popular their infamous "thumbs up/thumbs down" style for more than a generation of filmgoers.<p>Born Jan. 26, 1946 in Chicago, IL, Siskel was a lifelong lover of film. When he was nine years old, both of his parents passed away so he was forced to move to the nearby town of Glencoe to live with an aunt and uncle. Siskel would spend his afternoons lost at the local movie house. During his teenage years, he attended Culver Military Academy in nearby Indiana, before moving on to Yale, at which he graduated in 1967 with a degree in philosophy. Having earned a public affairs scholarship, Siskel went on to work on a political campaign in California before switching gears and joining the Army Reserves. During his stint in the military, he was assigned to the Dept. of Defense Information School, where he wrote and edited news releases.<p>After being released from his military duties at age 22 - and newly armed with an insatiable interest in journalism - Siskel returned to Chicago and, in January of 1969, quickly found work as a reporter for <i>The Chicago Tribune</i>. Just as he was beginning his journalistic career, a more specialized opportunity opened up - the paper's film critic was taking a leave of absence and the post would need to be filled temporarily. Siskel reportedly leapt at the chance, drafting a memo to his editor in which he argued that the paper needed one critical voice instead of a revolving cadre of critics; that he would be ideal for the position. His initiative worked and he landed the job.<p>Siskel quickly cultivated a critical style that appealed to both patrons of the arts and working class readers, becoming popular enough to be invited to review for the local CBS television affiliate, followed by a locally produced television program called "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You." His co-host was Roger Ebert, critic for the rival newspaper <i>The Chicago Sun-Times</i>. The show eventually evolved into "Sneak Previews" (1978-1982), reaching a wider audience when it was picked up for national broadcast in 1978 by PBS.<p>Within a few years, thanks largely to their playful banter, the weekly show became one of the highest rated shows in public broadcasting. Part of Siskel and Ebert's unforeseen popularity grew out of their entertaining bickering on the show; and although their differences of opinion weren't as common as it would seem, they were often invited onto late night talk shows and encouraged to debate each other. Playing into their parts, they did little to dissuade the notion that they genuinely disliked each other in real life, although there was little evidence that this was actually true.<p>In 1981, both critics agreed to leave public television and create a similarly formatted show for commercial syndication. The new show was entitled, "At the Movies" (1982-86), and later "Siskel & Ebert & the Movies" (1986-1999). When they decided to renegotiate their contracts with Disney's Buena Vista Television, breaking off from show owner Tribune Entertainment, Siskel was fired from the <i>Tribune</i> newspaper and became embroiled in a very public feud with his former employer, before being reinstated. During this time, Siskel continued to co-host the show with Ebert, and along w/ his partner across the aisle, enjoyed seeing their show earn several Emmy nominations. Adding to his triumphs, in 1990, he was appointed the film critic of "CBS This Morning" (1987-1999). <p>In his rare down time, the avid sports fan held courtside season tickets for his beloved Chicago Bulls and was a regular contributor to <i>Sports Illustrated</i> and <i>HOOP Magazine</i>, as well as <i>TV Guide</i>. In front of the camera, the surprisingly funny Siskel appeared in a popular 1993 episode of "The Larry Sanders Show," (HBO, 1992-1998) in which, while playing himself, he gets into an argument-turned-fistfight with comedian John Ritter - all over the actor's reaction to Siskel's review of his performance in the middling comedy, "Skin Deep" (1989). Siskel made the news solo yet again, when he famously bid more than $2,000 for the iconic white suit worn by John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever" - a film he unashamedly admitted he had watched 17 times.<p>In 1998, Siskel underwent surgery to have a brain tumor removed. He announced in February of the following year that he was taking a leave of absence from his film criticisms, but that he expected to be back by the fall, humorously 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 viewed was the Sarah Michelle Gellar romantic comedy "Simply Irresistible." Shockingly, only two weeks after the operation, he died from complications from the surgery at the premature age of 53. Fans who had followed the bickering pairs' commentaries for years were shocked to see Ebert sincerely grieving for his supposed film foe, publicly disclosing how saddened he was that Siskel, who, during his illness, had mentioned to Ebert that he hoped to recover in time to see the "Star Wars" prequel, "The Phantom Menace" (1999), had not lived to see it.<p>Following his onscreen partner's death, Ebert continued doing their show, first with a series of rotating substitute critics, before <i>Sun-Times</i> critic Richard Roeper was selected as Siskel's successor and the show was renamed "Ebert & Roeper." (2000- ). Siskel may have been gone, but proving he was not forgotten, not long after his death, the Film Center for the School of Art Institute of Chicago was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center. Siskel was also inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame. Even filmmakers - often on the receiving end of a critic's ire - honored Siskel, when the Farrelly Brothers surprisingly dedicated their Jim Carrey comedy, "Me, Myself & Irene" (2000) to the memory of the beloved film critic.

Relationships

Callie Gray Siskel

Daughter

Kate Adi Siskel

Daughter

Mae Gray

Aunt
raised Siskel and his siblings after parents' death

Marlene Siskel

Wife
married in 1980

Nathan Siskel

Father
died c. 1955

Ida Siskel

Mother
died c. 1955

Will Siskel

Son
born on March 1, 1995

William Siskel

Brother
older

Arlene Siskel

Sister
older

EDUCATION

Culver Military Academy

Culver , Indiana

Yale College, Yale University

New Haven , Connecticut 1967
freshman roommate was TV personality Tim Weigel

Milestones

1998

Underwent brain surgery (May 11)

1996

Became contributor to TV GUIDE

1978

Co-hosted "Sneak Previews" with Roger Ebert on PBS

1974

Began working as film critic for WBBM-TV, Chicago

1968

Joined CHICAGO TRIBUNE as film critic (January 20)

Raised in Glencoe, Illinois by aunt and uncle after parents' deaths

Film critic for CBS, appears regularly on "CBS This Morning"

On orders from doctors, curtailed his schedule by withdrawing from "Siskel and Ebert at the Movies" for the duration of the 1998-1999 season; died shortly thereafter

Co-host, "Siskel and Ebert at the Movies" (syndicated)

Named syndicated film columninst for Tribune Media Services

Co-hosted syndicated "At the Movies" with Roger Ebert

Bonus Trivia

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Siskel was a big fan of the 1977 film "Saturday Night Fever". In the 1980s, he purchased the white disco suit and black shirt worn by John Travolta in the film. In 1995, he sold it at auction for $145,000.

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He was also a longtime fan of the Chicago Bulls basketball team.

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