Richard Corliss dies at 71; longtime Time magazine film critic

Richard Corliss, longtime movie critic for Time magazine, has died at 71

Richard Corliss, the longtime Time magazine film critic known for his witty, perceptive reviews — 2,500 over 35 years — died Thursday in New York City. He was 71.

He had a major stroke last week, according to the magazine, which announced his death.

Corliss "conveyed nothing so much as the sheer joy of watching movies — and writing about them," Time theater critic Richard Zoglin wrote in an online tribute. "He was a perceptive, invaluable guide through three and a half decades of Hollywood films, stars and trends."

His reviews were "authoritative but never intimidating," Zoglin wrote, and his tastes "populist but electric," including Chinese kung fu and Disney animation as well as films by Ingmar Bergman and Werner Herzog.

Early in his career, Corliss dismissed the box office "Star Wars" hit, stating that "the movie's 'legs' will prove as vulnerable as C-3PO's." But he soon embraced the films directed by George Lucas, as well as those by Steven Spielberg.

Of Spielberg's "E.T.," he said "the movie is a perfectly poised mixture of sweet comedy and 10-speed melodrama, of death and resurrection, of a friendship so pure and powerful it seems like an idealized love."

Corliss also was the author of several books. "Talking Pictures" in 1974 was a survey of major Hollywood screenwriters. He also wrote a monograph on Stanley Kubrick's "Lolita" and last year published a book on iconic film mothers titled "Mom in the Movies."

Corliss was born in Philadelphia on March 6, 1944, the son of a businessman and a mother who taught first grade for four decades.

The first movie he saw, at age 5, was "Cheaper by the Dozen," according to Zoglin, but he was most influenced by Ingmar Bergman's classic "The Seventh Seal," which he saw when he was 16.

"I had grown up thinking of movies as something to eat popcorn with," he said. "Bergman and the other European directors were the first ones to open my eyes to film as art."

After graduating from St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia, Corliss moved to New York for graduate work in film at Columbia and New York University. He became editor of the movie journal Film Comment in 1970. He joined Time in 1980, sharing the movie beat with critic Richard Schickel.

His wife of more than 40 years, Mary Corliss is curator of the Film Stills Archive at New York's Museum of Modern Art. He is also survived by his brother, Paul Corliss, of New Jersey.

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World