'Time' Magazine Critic Richard Corliss Dies at 71

Associated Press
Richard Corliss

He had a major stroke a week ago, Time.com reported Friday.

Time magazine's longtime film critic Richard Corliss has died at 71.

Corliss had a major stroke a week ago and died Thursday night in New York City, Time.com reported on Friday. Corliss had served as Time's film critic for 35 years, the magazine's longest-serving movie critic, and spent five decades as a film critic.

He wrote 2,500 pieces during his years at Time, including reviewing more than 1,000 movies and penning more than two dozen cover stories. He also wrote four books.

Time editor Nancy Gibbs sent the following note, posted on Time.com, to staffers on Friday morning.

It is with great sorrow that I tell you that Richard Corliss died last night, following a stroke.

It’s painful to try to find words, since Richard was such a master of them. They were his tools, his toys, to the point that it felt sometimes as though he had to write, like the rest of us breathe and eat and sleep. It’s not clear that Richard ever slept, for the sheer expanse of his knowledge and writing defies the normal contours of professional life.

Everyone who had the pleasure of working with him has stories of his kindness, his quirks, his humor, his obsessions, the bright, fresh breezes of his head and heart. And the many millions more who had the pleasure of reading him found the most engaging and trustworthy guide not just to what movies were worth seeing, but to the sprawling variety of his interests and passions. Our tributes and a sampling of his writing from his 35 years at Time allow us to savor the immense range and excellence of his work as one of the world’s most important voices on film, and so many other subjects.

We will miss him terribly, and our prayers are with his beloved wife Mary.

In an online tribute to Corliss, the magazine's theater critic Richard Zoglin wrote, "The magazine, along with all lovers of film and great critical writing, will have a hard time recovering. … Amid the murk he sometimes had to wade through, as well as the masterpieces that turned him into an enthusi-wooziast, Corliss’s writing always glowed. And so did he."

Zoglin added: "His reviews were authoritative but never intimidating; he had an encyclopedic knowledge of film, but never flaunted it. His prose was zestful and sparkling — it simply jumped off the page."

Zoglin also shared the following anecdote in his tribute: "Once, because of an arcane Time rule, he was not allowed to append the name of two correspondents at the end of a story he had written but they had helped report. So he rewrote the entire story so that the first letter of each paragraph spelled out the two uncredited reporters’ names."

Zoglin describes Corliss as "a workaholic" who wrote late into the night and as close to deadline as possible, sometimes spending entire nights in the office.

One of his last reviews was of Summit's Soviet-era thriller Child 44, directed by Safe House's Daniel Espinosa and starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman.

Corliss grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a businessman and first-grade teacher. The first film he saw was Cheaper by the Dozen, at age 5, and when he saw Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, he began to think of "film as art," as he would later say.

He graduated from St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia and did graduate work in film at Columbia and New York University. Before joining time, Corliss wrote reviews for the National Review, SoHo Weekly News and New Times, among other publications. He also served as editor of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Film Comment magazine starting in 1970, and for many years served on the selection committee of the New York Film Festival.

He joined Time in 1980, covering film with Richard Schickel while also reviewing theater (including the then-new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, when it debuted in London) and television and writing about his many other interests. He even penned Time's 1980 cover story on the big summer question about Dallas: Who Shot J.R.? He was also an avid contributor to Time.com in the magazine website's early days.

The longtime critic, the magazine said, is survived by his wife, Mary, curator of the film stills archive at the Museum of Modern Art, whom he married in 1969, and brother Paul.

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy said of Corliss, "Richard Corliss and his late, great friend Roger Ebert were the two great and glib (in a good way) wordsmiths among the generation of film critics and journalists who came to the fore in the late '60s. And I stress 'journalists,' as words flowed off their keyboards as quickly and easily as if they were speaking. And most eloquently. Richard's stewardship of Film Comment played a crucial role in shaping the nature of film appreciation in the United States for many years and in providing a platform for a generation of new critical voices, including my own. His career was unique and enormously influential."

Other critics took to social media to mourn the death of Corliss, with Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf and New York magazine's Bilge Ebiri and Matt Zoller Seitz all weighing in.