Vincent Canby

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Vincent Canby
Canby in 1977
Canby in 1977
Born(1924-07-27)July 27, 1924
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedOctober 15, 2000(2000-10-15) (aged 76)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma materDartmouth College (did not graduate)
  • Film
  • theatre
PartnerPenelope Gilliatt

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.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Canby was born in Chicago, the son of Katharine Anne (née Vincent) and Lloyd Canby.[3] 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; the pair hitchhiked to Richmond to buy For Whom the Bell Tolls.[4]

He became an ensign in the United States Navy Reserve on October 13, 1942, and reported aboard the Landing Ship, Tank 679 on July 15, 1944.[5] He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on January 1, 1946, while on LST 679 sailing near Japan.[6] After the war, he attended Dartmouth College, but did not graduate.


He obtained his first job as a journalist in 1948 for the Chicago Journal of Commerce. In 1951, he left Chicago for New York and was employed as a film critic by Variety for six years, before beginning to work for The New York Times.[7] In February 1969, he was designated The New York Times' film critic, succeeding Renata Adler.[8]

Canby was an enthusiastic supporter of only specific styles of filmmakers, notably Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Jane Campion, Mike Leigh, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, James Ivory and Woody Allen, who credited Canby's rave review of Take the Money and Run as a crucial point in his career.[9] On the other hand, Canby was also highly 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,[10] Deliverance, The Godfather Part II, Alien and The Thing. Among the best-known texts written by Canby was an extremely negative review of the movie Heaven's Gate by Michael Cimino.

In December 1994, Canby switched his attention from film to theatre, having been named the Sunday theatre critic. He was replaced as the Times' chief film critic by Janet Maslin. [11][7]

Canby was also an occasional playwright and novelist, penning the novels Living Quarters (1975) and Unnatural Scenery (1979) and the plays End of the War (1978), After All (1981) and The Old Flag (1984), a drama set during the American Civil War.[11]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Canby never married, but was, for many years, the companion of English author Penelope Gilliatt, who died in 1993.[12] He died from cancer in New York City on October 15, 2000.[12] Almost three years later, upon the death of Bob Hope, Canby's byline appeared on the front page of The New York Times. Canby had written the bulk of Hope's obituary several years before.[13]


  1. ^ Canby, Vincent. "Vincent Canby Reviews – Best Movie Reviews – Movies – New York Times". Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  2. ^ Janet Maslin (October 16, 2000). "Vincent Canby, Prolific Film and Theater Critic for The Times, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. p. B 6. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  3. ^ "Vincent Canby Biography (1924–2000)". Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  4. ^ Carvajal, Doreen (November 11, 2000). "Recalling the Civilized Voice of a Critic, Vincent Canby". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  5. ^ United States Navy NAVPERS 605-B "Commissioning Report Officers Report of Changes of U.S.S. LST 679", July 15, 1944, page 1. Note: Service Number 360 047.
  6. ^ United States Navy NAVPERS 605-B "Officers Sailing Report, Report of Changes of U.S.S. LST 679, 10th day of January, 1946, date of sailing from Yokohama, Japan to Kure, Japan", February 7, 1946, page 1.
  7. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (October 16, 2000). "Vincent Canby, Prolific Film and Theater Critic for The Times, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. p. 6. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  8. ^ "Vincent Canby Gets 'Times' Film Critic Post; Exit Renata". Variety. March 5, 1969. p. 7.
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent (August 19, 1969). "Take the Money and Run (1969)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  10. ^ Anderson, John (November 22, 1976). "Film: 'Rocky,' Pure 30's Make-Believe". NY Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  11. ^ a b "New Assignments for 3 Times Critics". The New York Times. October 27, 1993. p. C18. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Malcolm, Derek (October 17, 2000). "Obituary: Vincent Canby". The Guardian. London: Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved October 15, 2010.
  13. ^ Canby, Vincent (July 28, 2003). "Bob Hope, Comedic Master and Entertainer of Troops, Dies at 100". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 6, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by Chief film critic of The New York Times
Succeeded by