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May 22: Judith Crist

lawrencebush
May 22, 2014

primary_judit1-thumb-500x280-50911Judith Crist (Klein), America's most popular film critic in the 1960s and '70s, with outlets that included New York magazine (she was the founding film critic), TV Guide, the New York Herald Tribune, and The Today Show, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1922. Crist was a Columbia graduate and taught in the Columbia School of Journalism from 1958 for more than half a century. She championed new American directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, John Cassavettes, Steven Spielberg, and Woody Allen, but lavished arch and sometimes savage criticism as much as praise, earning a reputation the critic most hated in Hollywood. (Director Billy Wilder joked that inviting Crist to review a film was "like asking the Boston Strangler for a neck massage.") Crist's love affair with movies began with her viewing of Chaplin's The Gold Rush in the 1920s, but she worked in journalism for eighteen years before finding her place as a film critic (and as one of the first full-time women newspaper columnists in America). Between 1971 and 2006 she also hosted film weekends in Tarrytown, NY, which included many celebrity appearances.

"The greatest day of my life I cut school and went to see 'Gone With the Wind' at the Capitol for 25 cents, then across the street to the Rialto to see 'The Grapes of Wrath' and down to 42nd Street for 'Grand Illusion' on Broadway. And there was still 75 cents left over to sustain us with an enormous chunk of many-layered whipped cream pie at Hector's." -Judith Crist