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Poets Biography

Novelist Short Story Writer John Cheever 1912 - 1982

(born May 27, 1912, Quincy, Mass., U.S.—died June 18, 1982, Ossining, N.Y.) U.S. short-story writer and novelist. Cheever lived principally in southern Connecticut. His stories appeared notably in The New Yorker, his clear and elegant prose delineating the drama and sadness of life in comfortable suburban America, often through fantasy and ironic comedy. He has been called the Chekhov of the suburbs. His collections include The Enormous Radio (1953), The Brigadier and the Golf Widow (1964), and The Stories of John Cheever (1978, Pulitzer Prize). Among his novels are The Wapshot Chronicle (1957), The Wapshot Scandal (1964), and Falconer (1977). His revealing journals were published in 1991. Two of his children, Susan and Benjamin, also became writers.

Novelist Literature José Saramago 1922 -

(born Nov. 16, 1922, Azinhaga, Port.) Portuguese novelist and man of letters who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.

The son of rural labourers, Saramago grew up in great poverty in Lisbon. After holding a series of jobs as mechanic and metalworker, Saramago began working in a Lisbon publishing firm and eventually became a journalist and translator. He joined the Portuguese Communist Party in 1969, published several volumes of poems, and served as editor of a Lisbon newspaper in 1974–75 during the cultural thaw that followed the overthrow of the dictatorship of António Salazar. An anti-Communist backlash followed in which Saramago lost his position, and in his 50s he began writing the novels that would eventually establish his international reputation.

One of Saramago's most important novels is Memorial do convento (1982; “Memoirs of the Convent”; Eng. trans. Baltasar and Blimunda). With 18th-century Portugal (during the Inquisition) as a backdrop, it chronicles the efforts of a handicapped war veteran and his lover to flee their situation using a flying machine powered by human will. Saramago alternates this allegorical fantasy with grimly realistic descriptions of the construction of the Mafra Convent by thousands of labourers pressed into service by King John V. Another ambitious novel, O ano da morte de Ricardo Reis (1984; The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis), juxtaposes the romantic involvements of its narrator, a poet-physician who returns to Portugal at the start of the Salazar dictatorship, with long dialogues that examine human nature as revealed in Portuguese history and culture. The novel A jangada de pedra (1986; The Stone Raft; film 2002), explores the situation that ensues when the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from Europe and becomes an island, and O evangelho segundo Jesus Cristo (1991; The Gospel According to Jesus Christ) posits Christ as an innocent caught in the machinations of God and Satan. In both novels Saramago continues his practice of setting whimsical parables against realistic historical backgrounds in order to comment ironically on human foibles.

Among Saramago's other novels are his first, Manual de pintura e caligrafia (1976; Manual of Painting and Calligraphy), and such subsequent works as Historia do cerco de Lisboa (1989; The History of the Siege of Lisbon), Todos os nomes (1997; All the Names), O homem duplicado (2002; The Double), and As intermitências da morte (2005; Death with Interruptions). Ensaio sobre a cegueira (1995; “Essay on Blindness”; Eng. trans. Blindness; film 2008) and Ensaio sobre a lucidez (2004; “Essay on Lucidity”; Eng. trans. Seeing) are companion novels.

Saramago also wrote poetry, plays, and several volumes of essays and short stories, as well as autobiographical works. His memoir As pequenas memórias (2006; Small Memories) focuses on his childhood. When he received the Nobel Prize in 1998, his novels were widely read in Europe but less well known in the United States. He was the first Portuguese-language writer to win the Nobel Prize.

Actress Nancy Marchand 1928 - 2000

Actress. Born June 19, 1928, in Buffalo, New York, Marchand was a reticent child, who was sent to acting school at age 10 to overcome her shyness. While studying drama at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she made her acting debut in a summer stock production of The Late George Apley (1946). Upon her graduation, in 1949, Marchand joined the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she met and married fellow actor Paul Sparer.

In 1950, Marchand moved to New York, where she starred in the TV movies Little Women (1950) and Marty (1953), before making her Broadway bow in Miss Isobel (1957). She won her first feature film role shortly thereafter in the Paddy Chayefsky drama The Bachelor Party (1957). Marchand continued to enjoy steady stage and television work throughout the 1960s, offering a stellar performance as an impassioned brothel owner in an off-Broadway production of The Balcony (1960), for which she earned an Obie Award.

Memorable parts in some of TV's most popular daytime dramas followed, including Another World and Love of Life, which featured Marchand in the recurring role of Vinnie Phillips from 1970-74. In the mid-1970s, Marchand starred in the short-lived drama Beacon Hill (1975), before she won the role of autocratic newspaper publisher, Margaret Pynchon, on the series Lou Grant (1977-1982). A spin-off of the beloved The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant enjoyed six successful seasons on the air, during which Marchand received four Emmy Awards as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

A distinguished character actress, Marchand's projects during the 1980s ranged from period dramas like The Bostonians (1984), starring Christopher Reeve, to slapstick comedies like The Naked Gun (1988), with Leslie Nielsen. In addition to a prosperous film and television career, Marchand continued to work on Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional theatre. Throughout the 1980s, she offered compelling performances in the productions Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Awake and Sing, Elektra, and The Cocktail Hour. For the latter production, Marchand earned a 1988 Obie Award.

Marchand went on to appear in the films Regarding Henry (1991) and Sabrina (1995), before landing the scene-stealing role of Livia Soprano on the acclaimed HBO series The Sopranos (1999-2000). Receiving two Emmy nominations and a 1999 Golden Globe Award for her compelling performance as the domineering matriarch of a New Jersey mob family, Marchand remained a cast member until her death from lung cancer on June 18, 2000 (one day before her 72nd birthday).

Writer Roquia Sakhawat Hussain 1880 - 1932

Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, Bangla: (বেগম রোকেয়া), (18 June, 1880 – December 9, 1932) was a prolific writer and a social worker in undivided Bengal in the early 20th century. She is most famous for her efforts on behalf of gender equality and other social issues. She established the first school aimed primarily at Muslim girls, which still exists today. She was a notable Muslim feminist; modern feminist writers such as Taslima Nasrin cite her as an influence.

She was born Roquia Khatun but achieved prominence as Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain. Begum is an honorific, that is, a title of respect in addressing a woman. When she wrote in English, she transliterated her name as Rokeya.

Roquia Khatun was born in 1880 in the village of Pairabondh, Rangpur, in what was then the British Indian Empire and is now Bangladesh. Her father, Jahiruddin Muhammad Abu Ali Haidar Saber, was a highly educated zamindar (landlord). Roquia had two sisters, Karimunnesa Khatun and Humayra Khatun; and three brothers, one of whom died in childhood. Roquia's eldest brother Ibrahim, and her immediate elder sister Karimunnesa, both had great influence on her life. Karimunnesa wanted to study Bangla, the language of the majority in Bengal. The family disliked this because many upper class Muslims of the time preferred to use Arabic and Persian as the media of education, instead of their native language, Bangla. Ibrahim taught English and Bangla to Roquia and Karimunnesa; both sisters became authors.

Karimunnesa married at the age of fourteen, later earning a reputation as a poet. Both of her sons, Nawab Abdul Karim Gaznawi and Nawab Abdul Halim Gaznawi, became famous in the political arena and occupied ministerial portfolios under British authorities.

Roquia married at the age of sixteen in 1896. Her Urdu-speaking husband, Khan Bahadur Sakhawat Hussain, was the Deputy Magistrate of Bhagalpur, which is now a district under the Indian state of Bihar. He continued her brother's work by encouraging her to keep learning Bangla and English. He also suggested that she write, and on his advice she adopted Bangla as the principal language for her literary works because it was the language of the masses. She launched her literary career in 1902 with a Bangla essay entitled Pipasa (Thirst).

In 1909, Sakhawat Hussain died. He had encouraged his wife to set aside money to start a school primarily for Muslim women. Five months after his death, Roquia established a high school in her beloved husband's memory, naming it Sakhawat Memorial Girls' High School. It started in Bhagalpur, a traditionally Urdu-speaking area, with only five students. A dispute with her husband's family over property forced Roquia to move the school in 1911 to Calcutta (now known as Kolkata), a Bengali-speaking area. It remains one of the city's most popular schools for girls and is now run by the state government of West Bengal.

Begum Roquia also founded the Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam (Islamic Women's Association), which was active in holding debates and conferences regarding the status of women and education. She advocated reform, particularly for women, and believed that parochialism and excessive conservatism were principally responsible for the relatively slow development of Muslims in British India. As such, she is one of the first Islamic feminists. She was inspired by the traditional Islamic learning as enunciated in the Qur'an, and believed that modern Islam had been distorted or corrupted; her organization Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam organised many events for social reforms based on the original teachings of Islam that, according to her, were lost.

Begum Roquia remained busy with the school, the association, and her writings for the rest of her life. She died of heart problems on December 9, 1932. In Bangladesh, December 9 is celebrated as Rokeya Day.

Begum Roquia was an inspiring figure who contributed much to the struggle to liberate women from the bondage of social malaises. Her life can be seen in the context of other social reformers within what was then India. To raise popular consciousness, especially among women, she wrote a number of articles, stories and novels, mostly in Bengali.

Begum Roquia used humor, irony, and satire to focus attention on the injustices faced by Bengali-speaking Muslim women. She criticized oppressive social customs forced upon women that were based upon a corrupted version of Islam, asserting that women fulfilling their potential as human beings could best display the glory of Allah.

Begum Roquia wrote courageously against restrictions on women in order to promote their emancipation, which, she believed, would come about by breaking the gender division of labor. She rejected discrimination for women in the public arena and believed that discrimination would cease only when women were able to undertake whatever profession they chose.

US Newspaper Publisher E.W. Scripps 1854 - 1926

(born June 18, 1854, near Rushville, Ill., U.S.—died March 12, 1926, at sea off Monrovia, Liberia) U.S. newspaper publisher. He was first employed by his half brother, James Edmund Scripps (1835–1906), on newspapers in Detroit. He began publishing his own papers in 1878 and eventually owned 34 in 15 states. He was a partner in forming the first major U.S. newspaper chain, the Scripps-McRae League of Newspapers (1894). In 1907 he consolidated regional Scripps news services as United Press (after 1958, United Press International). In 1922 he transferred his interests to his son, Robert Paine Scripps (1895–1938), who with Roy W. Howard formed the Scripps-Howard chain. The E.W. Scripps Co. now operates the latter chain and includes varied media holdings in addition to newspapers.

Dramatist Comedian Philip Barry 1896 - 1949

(born June 18, 1896, Rochester, N.Y., U.S.—died Dec. 3, 1949, New York City) American dramatist best known for his comedies of life and manners among the socially privileged.

Barry was educated at Yale and in 1919 entered George Pierce Baker's Workshop 47 at Harvard. His A Punch for Judy was produced by the workshop in 1920. You and I, also written while Barry was a student, played 170 performances on Broadway in 1923. Over the next 20 years a succession of plays included such comedies as Paris Bound (1927), Holiday (1928), The Animal Kingdom (1932), and The Philadelphia Story (1939). They are characterized by witty and graceful dialogue and humorous contrasts of character or situation. Many of them use a triangle theme or conflicts between the generations to point up, with almost tender satire, various truths about human nature.

Barry's thoughtful approach to life is apparent in White Wings (1926), a fantasy considered by some critics Barry's best play; John (1927), a drama about John the Baptist; Hotel Universe (1930), a penetrating psychological study; and Here Come the Clowns (1938), an allegory of good and evil. His final play, Second Threshold (1951), revised by Robert E. Sherwood after Barry's death, combined his flair for social comedy and his preoccupation with more serious drama.

Actor E.G. Marshall 1914 - 1998

Actor. In all likelihood, E.G. Marshall was born on June 18, 1914, in Owatonna, Minnesota. However, both the date of his birth and his true name are the source of some controversy. While many public records list Marshall's birthday as June 18, 1910, in a 1997 interview Marshall insisted that his true birthday was four years later. Since his death in 1998, certain pieces of social security information have emerged that appear to confirm the 1914 date. An even greater mystery than Marshall's date of birth is the origin of the initials "E.G." When asked to state his full name in interviews, Marshall insisted, "My full name is E.G. Marshall. I am known by no other." When pressed as to what the "E.G." stood for, Marshall typically responded in jest. Some of his more noteworthy responses were "Enigma Gregarious," "Everybody's Guess" and "Edda Gunnar," an obscure reference to a book of Norse legends. While many hypothesize that his real name is Everett Gunnar, the true meaning of his initials (as his son-in-law David Sayer suggested shortly before Marshall's death) "will go with him to his grave."

Marshall became interested in theater and acting at a very young age. "I used to watch movies—silent movies—and stock companies and theater whenever I could," he later recalled. He also began performing wherever he could—in school, at church, at the YMCA, and in community theater productions. But in Minnesota during the Great Depression, there were few opportunities for advanced training in acting. "There were no acting schools back then," Marshall said. Instead, he attended the University of Minnesota and Carleton College, where he indirectly honed his acting skills by majoring in speech and music.

After graduating, Marshall worked briefly for a radio station in Minneapolis before joining the American Art Theater, an itinerant Shakespearean theater company. As Marshall put it, he "joined a touring Shakespearean company in the Deep South and spent three or four years playing Guildenstern and all the really terrible parts." He recalled, "We were doing Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Faust, and we used the same set for them all ... It was pretty bare." Asked by an interviewer whether the actors were paid, Marshall responded, "We got fed. That was more important."

After spending several years touring the country with the American Art Theater, Marshall and two actor friends packed their bags for New York City, arriving with no jobs but big dreams of making a splash on Broadway. Marshall spent his first few months in the Big Apple living in a boarding house, eating cabbage and beans while working odd jobs just to make ends meet. Then, in 1938, he made his Broadway debut in a Federal Theatre Project production of Prologue to Glory. It was the beginning of a long and successful Broadway career. Marshall went on to appear in Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth (1942), Jacobowsky and the Colonel (1944) and The Ice Man Cometh (1946). In 1953, he originated the part of Reverend John Hale in Arthur Miller's The Crucible before taking on the leading role of John Proctor. His most famous Broadway performance came in the 1956 Broadway premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. In a 1958 interview, Marshall extolled Beckett's controversial play as "a real theater piece—not something that has to be molded and hacked to fit in a theater. The theater today is too flaccid, too passive, too dull. It is good to have it stirred up by a play like this."

While he was enjoying a successful career as a leading man on Broadway, Marshall was also developing his film career. He made his feature film debut in the 1945 picture The House on 92nd Street before appearing in such 1950s classics as The Caine Mutiny (1954), Twelve Angry Men (1957), and Compulsion (1959). His most notable later film roles included Woody Allen's Interiors (1978), Superman II (1980), Nixon (1995) and Absolute Power (1997).

Despite this prolific career as a stage and film actor, the venue where Marshall enjoyed his most success was television. Marshall's most acclaimed and famous role came on the 1960s CBS courtroom drama The Defenders. Marshall played Lawrence Preston, an implacable defense attorney who represented such diverse and controversial clients as civil rights demonstrators, neo-Nazis and conscientious objectors. In one especially controversial episode of the socially piercing show, Marshall's character represented an abortionist. The Defenders ran from 1961-65, and Marshall won the 1962 and 1963 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor in a Series for his performance. After The Defenders went off the air, Marshall again achieved television success on the NBC medical drama The New Doctors, which ran from 1969-73.

E.G. Marshall married first wife Helen Wolf in 1939. They divorced in 1953, and he later remarried Judith Coy. Marshall had seven children from his two marriages. He died at home at the age of 84 in Bedford, New York, on August 24, 1998.

Over the course of his long and distinguished acting career, Marshall developed a reputation for his honest and stirring depictions of characters, as well as for his willingness to embrace socially critical, controversial material. And although many of the plays, films, and TV shows in which he appeared featured dark themes, Marshall believes that underpinning all his work was an optimistic, life-affirming message. "No matter what," he said. "Atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, anything—life goes on: You can kill yourself, but you can't kill life."

Poland Politician Lech Kaczyski 1949

(born June 18, 1949, Warsaw, Pol.—died April 10, 2010, Smolensk, Russia) politician who served as president of Poland (2005–10).

Kaczyski and his identical twin, Jarosaw, were sons of Rajmund Kaczyski, a soldier who fought the German occupation of Poland, and his wife, Jadwiga, who taught Polish linguistics and served in a literary research institute. The brothers first attained prominence as child actors, appearing in Those Two Who Would Steal the Moon (1962). They were both educated at the University of Warsaw, and both later earned law degrees, Lech at the University of Gdask and Jarosaw at Warsaw. During the 1970s, as students, they were active in anticommunist movements, and Lech was jailed briefly (1981–82) by the government.

Although both worked for a short time in education, by the early 1980s they had become active in Solidarity, the trade-union movement headed by Lech Wasa. Lech Kaczyski held leadership positions in the movement, while his brother for a time edited its newspaper. When Solidarity came to power in 1989, Lech and Jarosaw both began active careers in government. In 1990 they formed the Centre Agreement ( Porozumienie Centrum), which Jarosaw headed until 1998. Both brothers won election to the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish legislature, and they held a number of government appointments. By 1993, however, the pair had begun a falling out with Wasa, and in 2001 they cofounded the Law and Justice Party ( Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc; PiS), headed (2001–03) by Lech and from 2003 by Jarosaw.

The brothers did not fit neatly into traditional political categories. They were considered nationalist (even xenophobic by their critics) and aggressive in foreign policy, often hostile to the policies of the European Union (EU), and sharply critical of the country's historical enemies, Germany and Russia. They took a strong stand against the perennial problem of corruption in Poland. At the same time, there were populist elements in their views; although they advocated a strong central government, they also promoted both tax cuts and a strong economic safety net. On social issues they were deeply conservative, strictly following the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 2002 Lech became mayor of Warsaw, while his brother continued to serve in the Sejm. In September 2005 the PiS party won a plurality in the Sejm and formed a ruling coalition; in October Lech was elected president of Poland, and he was sworn into office in December. The following year, Lech appointed his brother prime minister; however, Jarosaw's tenure in office was cut short when his government was defeated in early parliamentary elections in 2007 by the opposition Civic Platform.

During the ratification of the EU's Treaty of Lisbon, Kaczyski played a central role. The Polish parliament had approved the treaty in 2008, but Kaczyski had refused to sign it until an Irish referendum on the treaty had passed. A week after Irish voters endorsed the treaty in October 2009, and with the Polish government's having secured opt-outs from EU policy on some social issues, including abortion, Kaczyski finally initialed the document. In April 2010 he died in a plane crash on his way to commemorate the Katyn Massacre, the mass execution of Polish military officers by the Soviet Union during World War II. The crash, which occurred not far from the Katyn site, also killed Kaczyski's wife and some 90 others, including top Polish government officials, among them the president of the national bank, the army chief of staff, and the head of the national security bureau.

US Song Lyricist Sammy Cahn 1913 - 1993

(born June 18, 1913, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died Jan. 15, 1993, Los Angeles, Calif.) U.S. song lyricist. He became a professional songwriter while still a teenager and later formed a songwriting team with Saul Chaplin; their first hit was “Rhythm Is Our Business” (1935). With Jule Styne he collaborated on songs for many films and musicals, including “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954, Academy Award). In 1955 Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen formed a partnership and went on to write dozens of songs for Frank Sinatra, whose recordings won them Academy Awards for “All the Way,” “High Hopes,” and “Call Me Irresponsible.”

Writer Roger Ebert 1942

Writer, film critic. Born June 18, 1942, in Urbana, Illinois, Roger Ebert, along with his longtime television partner Gene Siskel, is perhaps the most noted movie critic in film history. With their popular syndicated show Siskel and Ebert became almost as celebrated and famous as the movies and movie stars they covered.

Ebert, the only child of Annabel and Walter Ebert, came from a modest background. His father was an electrician who earned enough to keep his family out of hard times, but was determined to see that his son carve out a bigger future for himself. As a young child Roger Ebert loved to write, and thanks to a close relationship with his aunt Martha, developed an appreciation for the movies. He also adored newspapers and books and at an early age was writing and publishing his own local paper, the Washington Street Times, which he named after the street where his house was located. In high school he edited the school's paper, and even developed his own science fiction fanzine. To earn extra money he also wrote for The News-Gazette in Champaign, where his style and talent were on full display. He captured first place in the Illinois Associated Press sports writing contest his senior year, beating out a whole crop of much more seasoned reporters.

Ebert's father died of lung cancer in 1960, shortly after he began attending the University of Illinois. Ebert quickly rose in the ranks at the school's paper, earning the role of editor in chief by his senior year, in 1964. He stayed in school another year to pursue a Ph.D. in English, but soon abandoned the dream to write full time.

Ebert's decision paid off in 1966, when he was hired to write for the Chicago Sun-Times' Sunday magazine. Six months later, after the paper's society reporter died, the green reporter was tapped to become the paper's new film critic. From the get-go, Ebert demonstrated an energized gusto for writing about film that few could match. On his very first day at his new job, he gave readers a look at the French film Galia, using the film to advance his overall opinion about the entire genre of French "New Wave" movies. "We have been treated to a parade of young French girls running gaily toward the camera in slow motion," he wrote, "their hair waving in the wind in just such a way that we know immediately they are liberated, carefree, jolly and doomed." It's doubtful anyone could have predicted the prestige and longevity Ebert would bring to the position. Certainly his bosses didn't sense anything; his appointment was buried on page 57 of the paper's April 5, 1967 edition.

As he had in school, Ebert soon developed a reputation at the paper as a hard worker and a fast writer, someone whose quick mind and quicker typing skills drew the envy of his colleagues. By the mid 1970s Roger Ebert was already entrenched as a highly regarded movie critic and magazine writer—in 1975 he came the first film critic to ever win the Pulitzer Prize— and was approached by a local television producer about bringing his work to the world of television. The idea seemed like a novelty at the time: bring together two highly charged film critics from competing newspapers and let them air out their opinions each week for the cameras.

Ebert was an obvious choice. So was Gene Siskel, a movie critic for the Chicago Tribune, whose more reserved, less bombastic style clashed nicely with Ebert's more outgoing flair. The show, initially titled Opening Soon at a Theater Near You, first aired in September 1975 and proved to be an immediate success. By the end of its first season, the program was showcased on more than 100 public television stations. Three years later PBS, which had secured the rights to the program, brought the show to 180 markets.

While the show's popularity certainly fattened the wallets of the two critics, it wasn't until the early 1980s that the program began to make them rich. In 1982 the pair earned $500,000 apiece for the season. Four years later, after Walt Disney Co. purchased the program, the two critics doubled their salaries.

As the show's stars became increasingly household names, their influence took off. One way the pair flexed their muscles was to draw attention to issues that stirred their passions. Their campaign for an adult movie rating in part sparked the creation of the NC-17 rating. Other themed shows condemned colorization and pushed for full-screen letterbox images on video releases and more usage of black-and-white film. They also championed independent and foreign-language films, as well as documentaries otherwise doomed to fall through the cracks.

Both men continued to write for their respective papers. Ebert also authored an assortment of books that expanded his thoughts on film. But it was their television work, (producers finally settled on the title At the Movies) that put them on the map. Viewers loved their clashes, their opinionated battles over plots, performances, and direction. They also loved their famous "thumbs up, thumbs down" approval meter, an idea Ebert claims he developed.

In 1992, after a series of relationships, Roger Ebert's personal life settled down when he married Charlie "Chaz" Hammel-Smith, a divorced mother of two.

Not surprisingly, Ebert's relationship with Siskel mellowed as well. Over the years, the once fiercely competitive writers grew extremely close. Today, Ebert's Chicago-area brownstone is adorned with pictures of his good friend, who passed away in February 1999 from a brain tumor.

Siskel's death, however, did not signal the death of At the Movies. To continue on with the work he and his partner had started, and perhaps to keep his friend's memory alive, Ebert chose to keep the program going. With the help of his wife Chaz, Ebert tried out a parade of guest hosts before settling on Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper as Siskel's replacement.

Off-screen, Ebert continued to move forward as well. He wrote more books and even took the hard steps toward losing weight. But in 2002, the celebrated critic experienced significant health issues of his own. A cancerous thyroid necessitated surgery, which Ebert seemingly recovered from, allowing him to return to the paper and his TV show. A year later, however, he was back in the hospital, this time to remove a growth on his salivary glands, a procedure that required radiation treatment.

In 2006 doctors discovered more cancer, this time in Ebert's mouth. To get at the tumor, surgeons cut out a part of his lower jaw. The procedure seemed to be a success, but just as Ebert was about to head home, he suffered a devastating medical emergency: his carotid artery, which had been damaged by the radiation and surgery, burst. Blood rushed out of his mouth.

The situation and procedures that followed changed Ebert's life in unimaginable ways. His voice was taken away from him, as was his ability to eat or drink. He then underwent a tracheostomy, which now forces him to get his nutrition through a tube that runs through his stomach. Attempts were made through more surgeries to reconstruct Ebert's jaw from bone and tissue taken from other parts of his body. But none of the efforts succeeded. And so, the man who had made a living with his words and voice, settled into this new phase of life.

The surgeries spelled the end of his television appearances, but not his writing or his public appearances. Ebert returned to the Sun-Times and continued to review films. In 2008, he also started to write an online journal. What had started simply as an effort to track his recovery development, soon morphed into a larger look at other areas like politics (Ebert is an unapologetic liberal), death, religion, and other big-picture themes.

The annual EbertFest film festival, which the critic launched in 1999, is still a regular movie-lover's event in Champagne, Illinois, and Ebert continues to churn out books. One of his latest, Great Movies III, was finished in late 2009.

Ebert's work, too, has been celebrated. In 2004 he was the first film critic ever to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Five years later, The Director's Guild of America recognized him with an Honorary Life Member Award. In early 2010, Ebert drew a standing ovation from a crowd that included Hollywood heavyweights like Helen Mirren, Jeff Bridges, and Peter Sarsgaard at the 25th Film Independent Spirit Awards. Matt Dillon, who served as presenter that night, called Ebert "a tireless champion of independent film."

But all of that has paled in comparison to the developments that took place in early 2010. After several years of speaking with a computer-generated voice that Ebert activated by a keyboard, the writer stumbled across the work of CereProc, a Scottish company that analyzes prior recordings of a person's voice to recreate a computer generated sound that is extremely similar to how a person actually speaks. For Ebert, there was no shortage of archived sound to draw from and on March 2, 2010, after months of work, he debuted his old voice on Oprah.

As expected, Ebert has used this latest development as an exciting jumping off point. In late March 2010, in the wake of the cancellation of At the Movies (in its most recent incarnation, hosted by critics A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips) Ebert announced on his blog plans to launch a new show.

"We will go full-tilt New Media: Television, net streaming, cell phone apps, Facebook, Twitter, iPad, the whole enchilada," he wrote. "The disintegration of the old model creates an opening for us. I'm more excited than I would be if we were trying to do the same old same old. I've grown up with the Internet. I came aboard back when MCI Mail was the e-mail of choice. I had a forum on CompuServe when it ruled the web. My web site and blog at the Sun-Times site have changed the way I work, and even the way I think. When I lost my speech, I speeded up instead of slowing down."

British Singer Composer Paul McCartney 1942

(born June 18, 1942, Liverpool, Eng.) British vocalist, songwriter, composer, bass player, poet, and painter whose work with the Beatles in the 1960s helped lift popular music from its origins in the entertainment business and transform it into a creative, highly commercial art form. He is also one of the most popular solo performers of all time in terms of both sales of his recordings and attendance at his concerts.

McCartney's father, James, worked in the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, and his mother, Mary, was a midwife, out at all hours on her bicycle to deliver babies. Her death from breast cancer in October 1956, when McCartney was age 14, had a profound effect on his life and was the inspiration for his ballad “Let It Be” (1970). His younger brother, Michael, later changed his name to Mike McGear and had a number of hits in the satirical rock group Scaffold. Like fellow Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), McCartney grew up in a traditional north of England working-class society, with an extended family frequently visiting the house at 20 Forthlin Road in the Allerton area of Liverpool (the house is now owned by the National Trust). His father had been the leader of Jim Mac's Jazz Band, and in the evenings the family often gathered around the piano, an experience McCartney drew upon for such sing-along songs as “When I'm 64” (1967).

On July 6, 1957, he met John Lennon at Woolton Village Fete and joined his skiffle group, the Quarrymen, which, after several name changes, became the Beatles. When Lennon's mother was killed by a speeding police car in 1958, McCartney, with his own mother's death still fresh in his memory, was able to empathize with the distraught 17-year-old, creating a bond that became the basis of their close friendship. McCartney and Lennon quickly established themselves as songwriters for the group, and, by the time the Beatles signed with EMI-Parlophone in 1962, they were writing most of their own material. By their third album the group stopped recording covers. Lennon and McCartney's songwriting partnership was very important to them, both financially and creatively; even in 1969, when they were estranged over business matters and supposedly not on speaking terms, Lennon brought McCartney his song “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and they worked together on the “middle eight” (the stand-alone section that often comes midway in a song). Their music transcended personal differences.

Though usually associated with ballads and love songs, McCartney also was responsible for many of the Beatles' harder rock songs, such as “Lady Madonna,” “Back in the USSR,” and “Helter Skelter” (all 1968), but above all he has an extraordinary gift for melodies and sometimes tags an entirely new one on to the end of a song, as he did with “Hey Jude” (1968). This facility extends to his bass playing, which is famously melodic though often overlooked. A multi-instrumentalist, McCartney also played drums on some Beatles tracks and played all the instruments on some of his solo albums, as well as lead guitar at concerts.

The Beatles ceased playing live shows in 1966. After their breakup in 1970, McCartney recorded two solo albums, McCartney (1970) and Ram (1971), before forming the band Wings with his wife Linda (formerly Linda Eastman), an American photographer and musician whom he had married in 1969. He wanted her with him at all times, and having her on stage solved many of the problems that befall marriages in the world of popular music. Wings toured the world and became the best-selling pop act of the 1970s, with an astonishing 27 U.S. Top 40 hits (beating Elton John's 25) and five consecutive number one albums, including the highly acclaimed Band on the Run (1973) and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976).

Security problems caused by Lennon's murder in 1980 prevented McCartney from touring for a decade, and he concentrated instead on studio recording and on writing and starring in the 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street, which was poorly received. Nevertheless, critics loved his 1989 album, Flowers in the Dirt, which coincided with his return to live performance. In 1997 McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II “for services to music.” The next year Linda died of cancer. (In the 2000s McCartney married and divorced actress and activist Heather Mills.)

Inspired by a meeting with Willem de Kooning in the late 1970s, McCartney began painting, and by the late 1980s he was devoting much of his time to it. His work was first shown publicly in May 1999 at a retrospective held in Siegen, Ger. McCartney branched out in other areas too: his semiautobiographical classical composition Liverpool Oratorio, written in collaboration with American composer Carl Davis, was first performed in 1991 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at Liverpool's Anglican cathedral, where McCartney once failed his audition as a choirboy. He subsequently oversaw the recording of his other classical compositions, including Standing Stone (1997), Working Classical (1999), and Ecce Cor Meum (2006). In 2001 a volume of his poetry, Blackbird Singing, which also included some song lyrics, was published. McCartney celebrated his 62nd birthday in Russia in 2004, playing his 3,000th concert to an audience of 60,000 in St. Petersburg.

With some 60 gold records and sales of more than 100 million singles in the course of his career, McCartney is arguably the most commercially successful performer and composer in popular music. The 1965 Beatles track “Yesterday” (wholly written by McCartney and performed alone with a string quartet) has been played some six million times on U.S. radio and television, far outstripping its nearest competitor. Moreover, with over 3,000 cover versions, it is also the most-recorded song ever. In 2009 the U.S. Library of Congress announced that McCartney would be awarded its Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

McCartney is a strong advocate of vegetarianism and animal rights and is engaged in active campaigns to relieve the indebtedness of less-developed countries, to eliminate land mines, and to prevent seal culling. More than a rock musician, McCartney is now regarded as a British institution; an icon like warm beer and cricket, he has become part of British identity.