Richard Schickel, the longtime Time and Life film critic and author of 37 books, many of them about film and filmmakers, died on Saturday here in Los Angeles after a series of strokes and the affliction of dementia. He had reached 84 years old on Feb. 10. "A giant of American film criticism, one of the last survivors of a golden age," Kenneth Turan says in the LA Times obituary. "No one could touch him for the high quality of his writing sustained over so many formats and so many years."
Turan elaborated in an appreciation posted this afternoon.
How did he manage to have not one but three extensive film-related careers, any one of which would have exhausted anyone else? There was no secret. Schickel simply worked harder and was smarter than most. A lot smarter.
Witty, analytical, tough-minded but always fair, a gifted stylist who believed in honesty but steered clear of cheap shots, Schickel was a model critic for half a century, most of it as Time magazine's regular reviewer.
His career as a weekly critic began in the long-gone days of Life magazine and extended into the Internet Age with a stint at the popular website Truthdig. Schickel was a lifelong smoker who took pleasure in frustrating much-younger doctors who demanded he stop, and his stamina was legendary....No matter how many films he'd seen over how many decades, Schickel never lost his enthusiasm for what was new and exciting. Seeing his eyes literally twinkle when the conversation turned to what he'd enjoyed was to know that, without a doubt.
Turan notes that Schickel made more than 30 documentaries about the art and craft of producing movies, making him a working member of the Directors Guild.
"Richard brought his experience, passion and encyclopedic knowledge as a film critic and documentarian to the DGA by serving for more than 25 years on the Guild’s Special Projects and Publications Committees – enlightening his fellow members by helping to create events and articles that unspooled the secrets of the craft and passed on that wisdom to the next generation of directors," the guild said in a statement Sunday. "He was incisive, direct and uncompromising, a masterful documentarian with a deep wellspring of love for films – and the directors who made them."
The New York Times lede says that "Schickel, who was so captivated by Walt Disney’s 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' when he was 5 years old that he grew up to be a noted film critic, Hollywood historian and prolific author and documentarian — and estimated that he had watched 22,590 movies..."
"He was one of the fathers of American film criticism,” said his daughter Erika Schickel, part of the LA Observed family. “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.” She and her dad commiserated in 2014 on the closing of Kate Mantilini in Beverly Hills. Our condolences to Erika and to the Richard's family.
Photo posted to Facebook by Erika Schickel.