Prolific film critic Judith Crist died at age 90 on Tuesday at her Manhattan home after a long illness, according to her son. NY1's Neil Rosen filed the following report.
Judith Crist was one of the most influential movie critics in America and it was a position she held for many decades. A negative review from Crist, and there were many of them, was feared by filmakers and movie studio executives, back in the day when a widely respected critic could have a genuine effect at the box office.
Her work appeared in many publications like The New York Herald Tribune, where she became the first woman to hold the position of full-time film critic at a major American newspaper. She also wrote for New York Magazine and People and she appeared on TV as the first regular movie critic for the Today Show in the early 1960s. She reached her widest audience though as the movie critic for TV Guide, a position she held for many years.
She didn't mince words with her brutally frank writing style, regularly getting to the core of her opinion with short, cutting quips. She described the Sound Of Music, one of the highest grossing films of all times, as "icky sticky." She panned Cleopatra, starring Liz Taylor, as "a monumental mouse." The great writer-director Bully Wilder, who made Some Like It Hot, once said having her review your film was like asking the Boston Strangler for a neck massage.
But she also championed many filmakers like Sydney Pollack, Federico Fellini, Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen, just to name a few, when they were either first starting out or working towards getting their films seen by a wider audience. Perhaps in gratitude, Allen cast her in a small role in his film Stardust Memories.
Born in New York in 1922, she claimed she was smitten with movies after seeing Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush as a young child.
In addition to reviewing films, Crist also taught for many decades at the Columbia School of Journalism, where she mentored many of today's top critics.