Judith Crist, Provocative Film Critic, Dies At 90

Judith Crist, a highly influential and provocative film critic, died at her home in Manhattan today at the age of 90. Her death was confirmed by her son.

Crist was one of America’s most widely read film critics for over three decades, according to the New York Times. She was a regular reviewer on the Today show, and her provocative and off-color personality helped bring her to prominence. An example of Crist’s notorious wit can be found in her review for 1965’s The Sound of Music, of which she said, “The movie is for the 5-to-7 set and their mommies who think the kids aren’t up to the stinging sophistication and biting wit of Mary Poppins. ”

Crist was the very first woman to be made a full-time reviewer for a big-time American newspaper with her job at The New York Herald Tribune. She was also Today‘s first regular movie critic, appearing frequently between 1963 and 1973. Her fame primarily stems from her stint with TV Guide, where she wrote popular reviews for 22 years, well into the 1980’s. She also wrote for Saturday Review, Gourmet and Ladies’ Home Journal, according to USA Today.

Though known for her harsh, barbed and unreserved criticisms, she considered herself a passionate film enthusiast, once saying in an interview that “true” movie fans take James Bond entries as seriously as “the grand auteurism of Bergman.” Fellow critic Roger Ebert also noted that though film studios were terrified of Crist’s reviews, her criticisms “led to every newspaper in the country saying, ‘Hey, we ought to get a real movie critic.’ ”

“She was outwardly motivated, where so many critics are inwardly motived and are concerned just with their own thoughts,” said Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. “She was about other generations, about this way of writing, showing other people how to do it. She created a legacy of critics whom she taught for decades. No one else did that.”

For her own part, Crist admitted that harsh criticism is merely a veil for the true bleeding heart. “Amid all the easily loved darlings of Charlie Brown’s circle, obstreperous Lucy holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “She fusses and fumes and she carps and complains. That’s because Lucy cares. And it’s the caring that counts.”