Judith Crist, the influential film critic whose often caustic reviews caused filmmakers to quake in fear, died Tuesday in New York, her hometown, at age 90. Billy Wilder famously quipped about Crist that “inviting her to review a movie was like inviting the Boston Strangler to give you a neck massage.”
Crist published in the New York Herald Tribune - she was among the first full-time female critics for a major American daily. She was the founding film critic for New York magazine, wrote for People, Ladies Home Journal and also served as the on-air critic in the ‘60s and ‘70s for NBC’s Today. She continued to teach courses in critical writing at Columbia University until earlier this year.
Crist was fiercely independent and fiercely opiniated, slamming such much-loved classics as The Sound of Music (“Icky-sticky…. The movie is for the 5-to-7 set and their mommies who think the kids aren’t up to the stinging sophistication and biting wit of Mary Poppins,") and calling the mega-hit weepie Love Story "Camille with b.s." Crist wrote about Ann Bancroft’s character in 1964’s The Pumpkin Eater thusly: “She seems a cowlike creature with no aspirations or intellect above her pelvis.”
But she wasn't just a fun-to-read naysayer. Crist was a champion of films and filmmakers, too, celebrating work by directors famous and forgotten. About Hud, the groundbreaking 1962 Paul Newman which offered an unsparing portrait of a morally uncentered protagonist, she wrote: "The distinction of Hud is that it presents the unpleasant truth about people without the pretty packaging.... And perhaps the most encouraging aspect is that the making of such a film and our appreciaition of it indicates that we are getting out of the lollipop stage at last."