Vincent Canby (July 27, 1924 – October 15, 2000) was an American film and theatre critic who served as the chief film critic for The New York Times from 1969 until the early 1990s, then its chief theatre critic from 1994 until his death in 2000. He reviewed more than one thousand films during his tenure there.
Life and career
Canby was born in Chicago, the son of Katharine Anne (née Vincent) and Lloyd Canby. He attended boarding school in Christchurch, Virginia, with novelist William Styron; and the two became friends. He introduced Styron to the works of E.B. White and Ernest Hemingway; and the pair hitchhiked to Richmond to buy For Whom the Bell Tolls. After war service in the Pacific theater, he attended Dartmouth College and then was employed as a film critic by Variety for six years.
Canby was an enthusiastic supporter of many filmmakers, notably Woody Allen, who credited Canby's rave review of Take the Money and Run as a crucial point in his career. He was also heavily critical of some otherwise acclaimed films, such as Rocky, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Night of the Living Dead, After Hours, Blazing Saddles, A Christmas Story, Witness, Mask, The Natural, Rain Man, The Exorcist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Deliverance, The Godfather Part II, Alien and The Thing.
In the early 1990s, Canby switched his attention from film to theatre; he was named the chief theatre critic in 1994.
The career of Vincent Canby is discussed in the film For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism by contemporary critics such as The Nation’s Stuart Klawans, who talks of Canby’s influence for a quarter century as America’s most prominent "make-or-break" critic, and A.O. Scott, who praises his New York Times predecessor for "always finding the right tone" in his reviews.
Canby never married, but was, for many years, the companion of English author Penelope Gilliatt. He died from cancer in Manhattan on October 15, 2000. Almost three years later, upon the death of Bob Hope, the late Canby's byline appeared on the front page of The New York Times. Canby had written the bulk of Hope's obituary for the newspaper several years before.