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Roger Ebert was an American film critic best known as one half of the popular Siskel and Ebert film critic television show.
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Siskel's death, however, did not signal the death of At the Movies. To continue on with the work that he and his partner had started, and perhaps to keep his friend's memory alive, Ebert chose to keep the program going. With the help of wife Chaz,
Ebert tried out a parade of guest hosts before settling on Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper as Siskel's replacement.
Ebert also continued to move forward off-screen. He wrote more books and even took the hard steps toward losing weight. But in 2002, the celebrated critic experienced significant health issues of his own. He then underwent a cancerous thyroid-necessitated surgery, which he seemingly recovered from, allowing him to return to the paper and his TV show. A year later, however, Ebert was back in the hospital, this time to remove a growth on his salivary glands, to undergo a procedure requiring radiation treatment.
In 2006, doctors discovered more cancer, this time in Ebert's mouth. To get at the tumor, surgeons cut out a part of his lower jaw. The procedure seemed to be a success, but just as Ebert was about to head home, he suffered a devastating medical emergency: His carotid artery, which had been damaged by the radiation and surgery, burst, causing blood to rush out of his mouth.
The situation and procedures that followed changed Roger Ebert's life in unimaginable ways. He lost his voice and was unable to eat or drink. He then underwent a tracheostomy, which forced him to get his nutrition through a tube that ran through his stomach. Attempts were made through more surgeries to reconstruct Ebert's jaw from bone and tissue taken from other parts of his body, but none of the efforts were successful. And so the man who had made a living with his words and voice settled into this new phase of life.
The surgeries spelled the end of Ebert's television appearances, but not his writing or his public appearances. He returned to the Sun-Times and continued to review films. In 2008, he also began to write an online journal. What had started simply as an effort to track his recovery development soon morphed into a larger look at other areas like politics (Ebert long identified as an unapologetic liberal), death, religion and other big-picture themes. Additionally, in his later years, Ebert continued to churn out books. In 2009, he finished Great Movies III.
In 2004, Ebert became the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Five years later, he was recognized by the Director's Guild of America with an Honorary Life Member Award. In early 2010, Ebert drew a standing ovation from a crowd that included Hollywood heavyweights like Helen Mirren, Jeff Bridges and Peter Sarsgaard, at the 25th Film Independent Spirit Awards. Matt Dillon, who served as presenter that night, called Ebert "a tireless champion of independent film."
But all of that paled in comparison to the developments that took place in early 2010. After several years of speaking with a computer-generated voice that he activated by a keyboard, Ebert stumbled across the work of CereProc, a Scottish company that analyzes prior recordings of a person's voice to recreate a computer generated sound that is extremely similar to how a person actually speaks.
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