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GMA Movie Critic Joel Siegel Dies at 63

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Dennis Van Tine /Landov

After a decade-long cancer battle, Good Morning America’s film critic Joel Siegel died Friday in New York with friends and family by his side. He was 63.

“He was a brilliant reviewer and a great reporter,” said ABC News President David Westin. “From the time he learned of his cancer, Joel demonstrated a remarkable courage and strength in reporting on his own disease in an effort to educate and help others.”

As GMA’s movie reviewer since 1981, the witty and insightful critic was as passionate with his praise for a good film as he was delivering a barb to a bomb. Rating The Pursuit of Happyness, Siegel said the film deserves “a C for spelling and an A for acting.” And he said Matthew McConaughey had “constant ticks, bad hair and strained syntax” in We Are Marshall.

First diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997 – a week after he and wife, Ena Swansea, found out she was pregnant with their son, Dylan – Siegel wrote about his illness in his 2003 book Lessons for Dylan.

“I think of all the things I want to do with Dylan, and what I’d miss if I wasn’t able to do them,” he once told PEOPLE. “One is taking him to his first ball game. I want to be there for that. I want to be sitting next to him when he watches the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera.”

Ten days ago, in one of his last public appearances, a frail-looking Siegel took Dylan to a screening of the soon-to-be released film Ratatouille at a Times Square movie theatre.

“He was a gladiator,” recalled colleague Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Web site. “Brave, wildly funny, passionate about Dylan, Ena and his family – and completely in love with every new day.”