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Jewish Journal

Film critic Judith Crist dies at 90

by Uriel Heilman, JTA

August 7, 2012 | 3:56 pm

Film critic Judith Crist, a one-time mainstay of the “Today” show and TV Guide, has died at 90.

Crist died Tuesday in Manhattan following a long illness, according to reports.

She was born Judith Klein to parents Solomon Klein and the former Helen Schoenberg, spending her early years in Montreal before returning to her native New York at age 12.

Crist was a woman of many firsts. At the New York Herald Tribune, she became the first female film critic at any major American newspaper, according to The New York Times, working there for more than two decades. She was also the first film critic at New York magazine before moving on to do reviews on “Today” in the 1960s.

Crist, did not mince words and was famous for her sharp tongue, prompting director Otto Preminger to label her “Judas Crist,” according to The Associated Press. In 1974, reviewing the Israeli musical comedy film “Kazablan” for New York magazine, Crist wrote, “You don’t have to be Jewish to dislike ‘Kazablan,’ but it helps. At best, it portrays Jews as stereotypes and clowns.”

In 1987, she was among the many Jewish women to respond to an appeal by Lilith, the Jewish feminist magazine, to campaign for the freedom of Soviet Jewish refusenik Ida Nudel. Nudel was released later that year.

Crist taught at Columbia’s School of Journalism intermittently over the course of more than half a century, and in 2008 she received an alumni award from the school.

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