The success of a film could hinge on whether his thumb pointed up or down. His reviews were not just evaluations, they were art unto themselves. Roger Ebert, the most influential film critic of his day, will be missed -- by those who felt his sting and his praise, and by fans of his celebrated TV shows, such as "Siskel & Ebert at the Movies."

Ebert, who died Thursday at 70, was more than a film critic. He was a prolific columnist, author and educator, the recipient of the first-ever Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. Here's an enthusiastic thumbs-up to a man of letters who gave hope to millions of cancer patients with his openness and courage when he so easily could have dimmed the lights, pulled the curtain and retreated from public life.