Joel Siegel, Film and Theatre Critic, Dead at 63 | Playbill

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Obituaries Joel Siegel, Film and Theatre Critic, Dead at 63 Joel Siegel, the film and theatre critic known for his enthusiastic, blurb-worthy reviews and his thick brush moustache, died June 29 at the age of 63. The cause was colon cancer. Mr. Siegel was diagnosed with the disease in 1997.
Joel Siegel
Joel Siegel Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris

While never considered a deep-thinking critic, Mr. Siegel possessed a wide influence with the public, due to his long-time perch as entertainment critic on "Good Morning, America," a program he joined in 1981. He was also for many years a critic at WABC.

As Mr. Siegel was prone to hyperbole, quotes from his reviews were routinely featured in newspaper ads and on placards outside Broadway theatres.

Joel Siegel was born on July 7, 1943, in the entertainment capital of the U.S., Los Angeles. He graduated cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles. Though always interested in show business and journlism, his early career was flavored by the tumultuous times during which he grew up. In college he worked to register black voters in Georgia and met Martin Luther King Jr. He also worked as a joke writer for Senator Robert F. Kennedy and was at the Ambassador Hotel the night the senator was assassinated in 1968.

Before establishing himself as a television personality, Mr. Siegel seemed to have tried a bit of everything. While working in advertising for Carson/Roberts Advertising, he invented and named ice cream flavors for Baskin-Robbins. Among them were German Chocolate Cake, Blueberry Cheesecake and Red, White and Blueberry Chilly Burgers. He knew Terry Gilliam in his pre-"Monty Python" days. Together they published a book, "The Cocktail People."

In 1981 Mr. Siegel wrote the book for The First, a musical based on the story of Jackie Robinson. The show had music by Bob Brush and lyrics by Martin Charnin, who also directed. David Alan Grief played Robinson. It played Broadway for only 37 performances, but earned the critic a Tony Award nomination. The producers were Zev Bufman, Neil Bogart, Michael Harvey and Peter A. Bobley. Joel Siegel was married three times. The first union, to Karen Oshman, ended in divorce. His second wife, Jane Kessler, died of brain cancer in 1982. He married Ena Swansea in 1996. Together, they had a son, Dylan. When Mr. Siegel discovered the next year that he had cancer, he decided to write a book for his son called "Lessons for Dylan: From Father to Son." It was published in 2003.

He is survived by his son, Dylan, and his wife.

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