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Vincent Canby

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Critic, writer

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Penelope Gilliatt

Film critic

Vincent Canby

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July 27, 1924 Chicago, Illinois, U.S. (

October 15, 2000, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States

Katharine Anne Vincent, Lloyd Canby

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Vincent Canby (July 27, 1924 – October 15, 2000) was an American film and theatre critic who served as the chief film critic for The New York Times from 1969 until the early 1990s, then its chief theatre critic from 1994 until his death in 2000. He reviewed more than one thousand films during his tenure there.

Life and career

Canby was born in Chicago, the son of Katharine Anne (née Vincent) and Lloyd Canby. He attended boarding school in Christchurch, Virginia, with novelist William Styron; and the two became friends. He introduced Styron to the works of E.B. White and Ernest Hemingway; and the pair hitchhiked to Richmond to buy For Whom the Bell Tolls. After war service in the Pacific theater, he attended Dartmouth College.

He obtained his first job as a journalist in 1948 for the Chicago Journal of Commerce. In 1951, he left Chicago for New York and was employed as a film critic by Variety for six years before, finally, starting to work for The New York Times.

Canby was an enthusiastic supporter of many filmmakers; notably Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Jane Campion, Mike Leigh, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, James Ivory and Woody Allen, who credited Canby's rave review of Take the Money and Run as a crucial point in his career. On another hand, Canby was also heavily critical of some otherwise acclaimed films, such as Rocky, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Night of the Living Dead, After Hours, Blazing Saddles, A Christmas Story, Witness, Mask, The Natural, Rain Man, The Exorcist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Deliverance, The Godfather Part II, Alien and The Thing. Among the best known texts written by Canby was an extremely negative review of the movie Heaven's Gate by Michael Cimino.

In the early 1990s, Canby switched his attention from film to theatre; he was named the chief theatre critic in 1994.

Canby, was also an occasional playwright and novelist, penning the novels Living Quarters (1975) and Unnatural Scenery (1979) and the plays End of the War (1978), After All (1981) and The Old Flag (1984), a drama set during the civil war.

The career of Vincent Canby is discussed in the film For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism by contemporary critics such as The Nation’s Stuart Klawans, who talks of Canby’s influence for a quarter century as America’s most prominent "make-or-break" critic, and A.O. Scott, who praises his New York Times predecessor for "always finding the right tone" in his reviews.

Canby never married, but was, for many years, the companion of English author Penelope Gilliatt. He died from cancer in Manhattan on October 15, 2000. Almost three years later, upon the death of Bob Hope, the late Canby's byline appeared on the front page of The New York Times. Canby had written the bulk of Hope's obituary for the newspaper several years before.


Vincent Canby Wikipedia