Yesterday afternoon Time Out Chicago‘s Jake Malooley posted a nice summary of Thursday night’s Roger Ebert tribute at the Chicago theatre. Pallies and colleagues shared their feelings along with Ebert’s widow Chaz (a great lady) and family members. The memorial for the departed critic lasted two and a half hours.

Photo stolen from Variety story filed by Scott Foundas.

Variety critic Scott Foundas called Ebert a ‘gentle giant,’ as opposed to the likes of Pauline Kael, who inspired in her disciples a fierce partisanship. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy concluded his memorial tribute saying, ‘In film criticism for 46 years, there was Roger Ebert — and then there was the rest of us.” Christie Hefner said she was mortified to recall showing Ebert film reviews she had written for her college newspaper while he was interviewing her for a story ‘on Hugh Hefner’s daughter.’ She later went on to review films for the Boston Phoenix.

Joan Cusack read aloud a heartfelt letter from the Obamas. Brother John remembered a nervous first run-in with Ebert at the Carnegie Deli in New York while on the press tour for The Sure Thing. ‘Don’t worry,’ Ebert whispered to the young actor. ‘I liked your movie.’ Cusack said that Ebert ‘didn’t always love your movie, but he always gave you a fair shake. His writing was often better than the writing in the film.'”

Honest Wells anecdote: I was in the same Toronto elevator as Cusack in ’02, and on the way down I heard him quietly mention that he’d heard Ebert had fallen asleep during a screening of Menno MenjesMax, in which Cusack played an Austrian art dealer who has dealings with Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor).

“Several filmmakers underscored Ebert’s fairness [in] advocating for small-budget art-house cinema alongside reviews of Hollywood blockbusters. Director Gregory Nava (El Norte) said there was a time when Ebert ‘was the only major critic in this country who would look at our movies,’ i.e., indie films telling minority stories. Michael Barker, president of Sony Pictures Classics, called Ebert ‘the conscience of the movie business.’

Filmmaker Andrew Davis — whom Ebert imagined directing ‘the perfect Chicago movie’ — had fond remembrances of his friend, even taking the chance to read Ebert’s glowing review of Davis’s The Fugitive.

“Ebert’s boozy past made a brief appearance when Old Town Ale House proprietor Bruce Elliott told a bawdy barroom tale. (Apparently, Rog had a fondness for large-breasted women.) Comedian Dick Gregory did some off-color standup before comparing Ebert to a turtle: ‘Hard on the outside, soft in the middle and always willing to stick his neck out.'”