Judith Crist the first woman to become a full-time film critic at a major American newspaper and longtime film critic for the ‘Today’ show and ‘TV Guide died Aug. 7 at her home in New York. She was 90. Her immediate cause of death was not announced.
Crist, a caustic, exacting, irreverent, sprightly and altogether formidable film critic and journalism instructor sent shivers and fear through generations of filmmakers.
Legendary writer and director Billy Wilder once said that “inviting her (Christ) to review a movie was like inviting the Boston Strangler to give you a neck massage.”
Mrs. Crist modeled herself on actress Bette Davis, whom she called the ideal of the “forceful woman with a cigarette in her hand.” Few critics surpassed Mrs. Crist in clout.
In a scathing review of “Spencer’s Mountain,” a family drama starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara, she blasted Radio City Music Hall for its Easter-time showing of a film “that for sheer prurience and perverted morality disguised as piety makes the nudie shows at the Rialto look like Walt Disney productions.”
Of the 1963 epic “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Mrs. Crist wrote: “At best a major disappointment, at worst an extravagant exercise in tedium.”
A critic, she said in a 1989 interview with the Jerusalem Post, “is an individual voicing his or her own opinion. He’s not the voice of God. In my reviews, I say what I think of a film and why, and my readers know my tastes by now. Some hate my taste, and so I’m reliable for them, too, since they know they’ll like what I hate.”
From 1958 until last February, when she became ill, Crist was an adjunct professor of writing at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism