Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Film Critic Judith Crist’s Papers

Crist is considered one of America’s most widely read film critics.  Throughout her career, she wrote reviews for The New York Herald Tribune, New York Magazine, TV Guide, Saturday Review, Gourmet, and Ladies’ Home Journal.  In 1963, she became the first regular movie critic for the Today Show. She passed away at 90 on August 7, 2012.

Her reviews were often known to be caustic; film director Otto Preminger referred to her as “Judas Crist.” In a 1989 interview with the Jerusalem Post, she reflected on her profession, noting that a critic “is an individual voicing his or her own opinion. He’s not the voice of God. In my reviews, I say what I think of a film and why, and my readers know my tastes by now. Some hate my taste, and so I’m reliable for them, too, since they know they’ll like what I hate.”

Born Judith Klein in the Bronx in 1922, she received her BA from Hunter College in 1941, and a Master of Science from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1945. In addition to her work as a film critic and reporter, she taught journalism courses at Columbia and was a longtime member of the Executive Committee of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Alumni Association.  She also served three terms as President of the Alumni Association during the 1960s.

Crist once also commented, “One of the joys of criticism is in wanting to share discovered pleasure. You can’t kill the trash, but at least you can give the good a push and pass it on.”  She championed the work of such filmmakers as Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, and Woody Allen, and made a cameo appearance in Allen’s 1980 film Stardust Memories.

The papers constitute 135 linear feet of material, covering her entire career as a writer, critic, exhibitor, and teacher.  The collection is the gift of her son, Steven Crist.

“This important collection adds to the RBML’s film criticism strengths considerably, joining the collections of other former Columbia faculty members such as Andrew Sarris and Cecile Starr,” said Jennifer B. Lee, RBML Performing Arts Curator. 

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.