Beginning his career as a critic in the 1960s, he was a film critic for Time magazine from 1965 to 2010, also writing for Life magazine, the Los Angeles Times Book Review and Truthdig. Over the course of his life, Schickel estimated that he’d seen around 22,590 movies, the first being Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1938.
“He was one of the fathers of American film criticism,” his daughter, writer Erika Schickel, told the LA Times. “He had a singular voice. When he wrote or spoke, he had an old-fashioned way of turning a phrase. He was blunt and succinct both on the page and in life.”
Schnickel, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, wrote many books over the course of his career, beginning with The World of Carnegie Hall in 1960, followed by 1962’s The Stars, Movies: The history of an art and an institution, and The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney, among many others. His most recent book was his memoir Keepers: The Greatest Films – and Personal Favorites – of a Moviegoing Lifetime, published in 2015, in which he wrote: “I just like to be there in the dark watching something — almost anything, if truth be known. In this habit — I don’t know if it is amiable or a mild, chronic illness — I have been indulged by wives, girlfriends, just plain friends and children. Of course, a lot of the time I’m alone, unashamedly killing an evening, no questions asked.”
Schickel made his directorial feature debut in 1973 with the TV movie documentary The Men Who Made the Movies: William A. Wellman. He was a three-time Emmy nominee, writing and directing more than 30 projects – most were for television – including Eastwood on Eastwood, The Harryhausen Chronicles, Spielberg on Spielberg, Woody Allen: A Life in Film and Shooting War, Minnelli on Minnelli: Liza Remembers Vincente and Life Goes to the Movies, among many others.
In 1964 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, in 2001 he was bestowed with the Maurice Bessy Award for film criticism, and the National Board of Review’s William K. Everson Film History Award in 2004. Schickel also lectured at USC and Yale University.
He is survived by daughters Erika and Jessica; step-daughter Ali Rubinstein; and grandchildren.