By Jeff Labrecque
Updated February 17, 2010 at 07:15 PM EST

Even fans who initially knew Roger Ebert’s work as a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer eventually came to know him best by his voice. Not his literary voice, but his actual recorded voice, heard in the balcony he shared for nearly three decades on the genre-defining television program he pioneered with Gene Siskel. Whether he was passionately arguing the merits of a film he adored or brusquely dismissing his rival’s opinion with unveiled contempt, that voice, motored by an encyclopedic mind of movie history, educated millions of moviegoers. As reporter Chris Jones writes in a must-read profile in Esquire, the sound of that voice has now been silenced by cancer and numerous unsuccessful surgeries to restore his jaw. The picture from Esquire (left) says it all. Except that it doesn’t. Ebert still writes magnificently, on his online blog and for the Chicago Sun-Times. His life is complicated, but not as complicated as you might fear at first glance. He has his movies, his books, and his loved ones, who he communicates with through Twitter-like comments conveyed through machines and hand-written notes. Initially, part of me wished Esquire hadn’t included the unflinching portrait of Ebert. Not because I’m squeamish or some other superficial reason. But because it might have overshadowed the story, the man and his spirit. But Ebert’s own prose, quoted extensively by Jones, immediately puts that concern to rest. His talents with the pen are simply staggering, and he’s contributing to the world of cinema as he always has: as an advocate for film’s great promise with an eloquent voice we can all understand.

Do yourself a favor and read Jones’ Roger Ebert story. Then spend an entire weekend at the multiplex.

Photo Credit: Ethan Hill