Preminger, whose "Hurry Sundown" she called the "worst film" she had seen in memory, referred to her as "Judas Crist." After she condemned Billy Wilder's classic "Some Like It Hot" for its "perverse" gags and "homosexual 'in' joke[s]," Wilder allegedly remarked that asking her to review your movie was like "asking the Boston strangler to massage your neck."
Crist had many friends in the business, from Bette Davis to "Cleopatra" director Joseph Mankiewicz. She ran a film festival for decades out of Tarrytown, N.Y., with guests including Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Steven Spielberg. Woody Allen liked her enough to give her a cameo in his 1980 drama "Stardust Memories," widely believed to have been based in part on Crist's Tarrytown gatherings.
She was born in New York in 1922 and said Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" was her first and most vivid film memory. By 10, she decided she wanted to be a reviewer. She would cut classes to visit a theater, including a cherished day in which she took in showings of "Gone With the Wind," "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Grand Illusion."
Her edge was likely formed by her childhood. The daughter of a successful fur trader, she lived in Canada until age 9, attending private school, enjoying the luxuries of multiple homes, live-in servants and the family's bulletproof Cadillac. But in the 1930s, her father's business was ruined by the Great Depression.
"And then suddenly, our most gracious home was gone. The servants left," she wrote years later in Time magazine. "After we lost the last of our homes, we moved to New York to get some kind of assistance from my mother's family. Well, from both of my parents' families. We lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment while my father went out on the road, recouping things."
She attended Hunter College and received a master's from Columbia University's journalism school. In 1945, she was hired as a feature writer by the Herald Tribune, where she remained until the paper closed in 1966, and where colleagues included Jimmy Breslin and Tom Wolfe. In 1950, her education reporting brought her a George Polk Award, and she was honored five times by the New York Newspaper Woman's Club.
Crist reviewed film and theater for the "Today" show from 1964-73, and as a print critic worked for New York magazine, TV Guide and the New York Post. She was a longtime adjunct professor at Columbia and her essays, interviews and reviews have been compiled into three books: "The Private Eye, The Cowboy and the Very Naked Girl," "Judith Crist's TV Guide to the Movies" and "Take 22: Moviemakers on Moviemaking."
Crist's husband, public relations consultant William B. Crist, died in 1993. Their son, Steven Crist, covered horse racing for The New York Times and later became publisher of the Daily Racing Form.