Critic could throw zingers: "Icky-sticky" she wrote of "The Sound of Music."
Judith Crist, one of America's most widely read film critics for more than three decades and a provocative presence in millions of homes as a regular reviewer on the "Today" show, died Tuesday at her home in New York City. She was 90.
Crist came to prominence at a time when film was breaking with the conventions of the Hollywood studio era while experiencing a resurgence in popularity, much of it fueled by baby boomers. She championed a new generation of American directors (Steven Spielberg, Sydney Pollack and Woody Allen) and new actors (Robert De Niro and Faye Dunaway).
Her commentary had many homes: The New York Herald Tribune, where she was the first woman to be made a full-time critic for a major U.S. newspaper; New York magazine, where she was the founding film critic, and TV Guide, which most defined her to readers. Her reviews appeared there for 22 years.
She was the "Today" show's first regular movie critic, making her a morning fixture on NBC from 1963 to 1973.
A Harris Poll of moviegoers in the 1960s cited her as their favorite critic. TV Guide dismissed her in 1983 to replace her column with a computerized movie summary, but the magazine was deluged with letters and asked her back three weeks later. She was given a raise and stayed until 1988.
Her zingers could be withering. In March 1965, she panned three major releases in a single "Today" appearance: "The Greatest Story Ever Told" ("A kind of dime-store holy picture"), "Lord Jim" ("A lot of heavy five-cent philosophy") and "The Sound of Music" ("Icky-sticky").
Crist was born Judith Klein on May 22, 1922, in New York City. She was 5 when she saw her first movie, "7th Heaven," a silent film with an Oscar-winning performance by Janet Gaynor. But she became a "movie nut," she said, when she saw Charlie Chaplin's "Gold Rush" (1925). She began sneaking out to the movies, telling her mother that she was swimming at the Y or studying at the library. Crist said she might have made Phi Beta Kappa at Hunter College had she not cut class so many times to go to the movies.