Noted movie critic Richard Schickel dies at 84

AP News
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Posted: Feb 21, 2017 12:00 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Schickel, a noted movie critic for Life and Time magazines who also wrote dozens of books and made documentaries about Hollywood, has died. He was 84.

Schickel, who'd had a series of strokes, died on Saturday in Los Angeles from complications of dementia, his daughter, Erika Schickel, told the New York Times.

"He was one of the fathers of American film criticism," she told the Los Angeles Times. "He had a singular voice. When he wrote or spoke, he had an old-fashioned way of turning a phrase. He was blunt and succinct both on the page and in life."

In a career that spanned a half-century, Schickel told it like it was — or as he saw it — whether the flick was a star-heavy blockbuster or a gritty independent production.

He loved "Citizen Kane" but thought "The Maltese Falcon" was "cramped and static."

Shickel was "witty, analytical, tough-minded but always fair, a gifted stylist who believed in honesty but steered clear of cheap shots," Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan wrote.

"He wrote from the perspective of a film insider but responded to films from a gut level and never lost the sense of being an average filmgoer reacting to what was on the screen," Richard Zoglin, a fellow critic and now a contributing editor at Time, told The New York Times.

Schickel estimated that he had seen more than 22,000 motion pictures, beginning with Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" when he was 5 years old.

But the Milwaukee-born writer was no snob about his passion.

In his 2015 memoir, he wrote: "I just like to be there in the dark watching something — almost anything, if truth be known."

He also liked to write about them. He was a Life magazine reviewer from 1965 until the magazine closed in 1972, then worked for Time until 2010. He later wrote for the blog Truthdig.com.

Shickel also wrote, co-wrote or edited nearly 40 books, including biographies of luminaries such as Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood and he wrote or directed nearly 40 documentaries on Hollywood and its players.

Shickel counted among his acquaintances the likes of Eastwood, director Stanley Kubrick and "Chinatown" screenwriter Robert Towne.

In addition to his daughter Erika, Shickel is survived by a daughter, Jessica Vild; a step-daughter, Ali Rubinstein and four grandchildren.