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Roger's passing is virtually the end of an era and now the balcony is closed forever." -- Movie director Steven Spielberg. The movies won't be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family." -- President Barack Obama, in a statement.

Roger Ebert, who became the most popular and powerful movie critic in the world by the simple trick of also making himself a TV star, died Thursday after a 10-year battle with thyroid cancer. The cancer robbed him of his physical voice, but it never silenced the razor-sharp commentary that won him a Pulitzer Prize and near-universal admiration.

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In addition to getting the first Pulitzer for a movie critic, he was also the first film commentator to be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive, capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical,” President Obama said in a statement.

There was a professional distance between us, but then I could talk to him much more freely than I could to other critics. I know that's what kept him going in those last years - his life-or-death passion for movies, and his wonderful wife, Chaz.

We all knew that this moment was coming, but that doesn't make the loss any less wrenching. His reviews went far deeper than simply thumbs up or thumbs down.

He became interested in journalism while attending Urbana High School.