NEW YORK -- Judith Crist, a blunt and popular film critic for the "Today" show, TV Guide and the New York Herald Tribune whose reviews were at times so harsh that director Otto Preminger labeled her "Judas Crist," has died. She was 90.
Her son, Steven Crist, said his mother died Tuesday at her Manhattan home after a long illness.
Starting in 1963, at the Tribune, Crist wrote about and discussed thousands of movies, and also covered theater and books. She was among the first reviewers of her time to gain a national following, and Roger Ebert credited her with helping to make all film critics better known, including such contemporaries as The New Yorker's Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice.
The 1960s and '70s were an inspiring time for reviewers. But Crist's trademark quickly became the putdown.
An early review was for "Spencer's Mountain," a melodrama starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara. Unmoved by a story that became the basis for the TV series "The Waltons," Crist denounced the film's "sheer prurience and perverted morality" and cracked that "it makes the nudie shows at the Rialto look like Walt Disney productions."
She poured it on for "Cleopatra," the historical epic that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and was overwhelmed by the actors' off-screen love affair. "At best a major disappointment, at worst an extravagant exercise in tedium," Crist called the film, dismissing Taylor as "an entirely physical creature, no depth of emotion apparent in her kohl-laden eyes, no modulation in her voice, which too often rises to fishwife levels."
Her conclusion: "The mountain of notoriety has produced a mouse."
Crist was occasionally banned from advance screenings, while studios and theaters would threaten to pull advertising. When her "Cleopatra" review brought her a prize from the New York Newspaper Women's Club, officials at 20th Century Fox, which released the movie, withdrew from the ceremony.