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Joel Steven Siegel (July 7, 1943 – June 29, 2007) was an American film critic for the ABC morning news show Good Morning America for over 25 years.

Joel Siegel
Siegel in 2004
Joel Steven Siegel

(1943-07-07)July 7, 1943
DiedJune 29, 2007(2007-06-29) (aged 63)
New York City, U.S.
EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles
OccupationTelevision journalist/Film critic
Notable credit(s)
Good Morning America Entertainment Editor (1981–2007)
Spouse(s)Karen Oshman (1969–1970; divorced)
Jane Kessler (1976–1982; her death)
Melissa DeMayo (1985–?; divorced)
Ena Swansea (1996–2007; his death; 1 child)

The winner of multiple Emmy Awards,[2] Siegel also worked as a radio disc jockey and an advertising copywriter.[3]

Siegel died of complications from colon cancer on June 29, 2007, in New York.[4]


Early lifeEdit

Born to a Jewish family of Romanian descent,[5] and raised in Los Angeles, he graduated cum laude from UCLA.[2] His Romanian-born grandmother from Botoşani survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in March 1911.[6] During college, Siegel worked to register black voters in Georgia during the Civil Rights Movement, and he spoke frequently of having 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. According to some reports, he also led student opposition to the construction of a football stadium on campus.[7]

The 1960sEdit

Siegel worked at a range of jobs throughout the 1960s, often concentrating on the civil rights movement. In the late '60s, before moving to New York, he worked as an advertising agency copy-writer and producer. While working in advertising for Carson/Roberts Advertising, he invented and named ice cream flavors for Baskin-Robbins.[3] These flavors were: German Chocolate Cake; Peaches & Cream; Pralines & Cream; Blueberry Cheesecake; Strawberry Cheesecake; Green Cheesecake; Red, White and Blueberry; and Chilly Burgers.[8]

He began working in radio as a disc jockey and newscaster, while continuing to freelance in advertising. Through his freelance work, he was offered the book review position with the Los Angeles Times.

The 1970s and early careerEdit

Siegel's essays in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine were spotted by a CBS executive, and Siegel was hired as a feature correspondent for WCBS-TV in New York. Joel created signature work teamed with a producer who later became an executive at WABC-TV's Eyewitness News. When Siegel's producer moved, he offered Siegel a featured on-air position, and Joel accepted. Siegel proposed to Eyewitness News management that he become a film and theatre critic. He suggested that he would innovate the form by using brief clips from the movie or show being reviewed as drop-ins into his reviews, working them into his scripts as gags to create a new, witty form of review. Siegel, during his years at WCBS-TV, also created features for WCBS-AM Newsradio 88 called Joel Siegel's New York.

Good Morning America and later careerEdit

In 1981, he joined Good Morning America (GMA) as a film critic.[2] While Siegel worked at his reviewing, he wrote the book for The First, a Broadway musical based on the story of Jackie Robinson,[9][10] for which he received a Tony Award nomination in 1982. This marks him as the only drama critic to receive this nomination.[3] In 1999, Siegel was also one of the many guest critics on Roger Ebert's show At The Movies as a replacement for Gene Siskel following his death. Siegel was also a good friend of Roger Ebert.


Siegel's second wife, Jane Kessler, died from a brain tumor in 1982. In 1991, he joined with the actor Gene Wilder to found Gilda's Club, a nonprofit organization that provided social support for cancer patients and their families. The organization was named for Wilder's wife, Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer.

On June 21, 1996, Siegel married his fourth wife, artist Ena Swansea. In 1997, at 53 years, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. One week after being diagnosed, Siegel found out he would be a father for the first time. He wrote the book Lessons for Dylan which shares the ups and downs of his life with his young son, as he might not live long enough to relate those stories in person.[11]

Siegel underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. He welcomed his newborn son, Dylan Thomas Jefferson Swansea Siegel, home on the same day he completed his chemotherapy treatments. Two years later, a CAT scan revealed a lesion on Siegel's left lung. After a pulmonary lobectomy and additional chemotherapy, Siegel continued to work on GMA.

He was outspoken on the subject of colon cancer, and in 2005, spoke at a meeting of C-Change, a group of cancer experts from government, business, and nonprofit sectors, chaired by former President George H. W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush.[12]

He testified before the Senate during Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, March 2005. "I came here from New York City this morning hoping that I would encourage someone to have a colonoscopy so that they would not have to go through what I went through", he told a Senate panel.[13]

In June 2005, Siegel published a letter in the peer-reviewed cancer medicine journal, The Oncologist entitled, "One at a Time". It shares his cancer diagnosis and experiences to that date.[14]

On May 10, 2007, less than two months before his death, he spoke before the CEO Roundtable on Cancer,[15] an association of corporate executives that was formed when former President George H. W. Bush asked corporate America to do something "bold and venturesome" about cancer. Bush and his wife Barbara were in the audience when Joel spoke on May 10 at the Essex House in New York City. He began and ended his presentation by saying, "I want to thank you for what you are doing for cancer patients."

Joel Siegel died from metastatic colon cancer on June 29, 2007 shortly before what would have been his 64th birthday. His family has said the last movie he saw was Ratatouille with his son.

Following his death, Roger Ebert wrote a tribute to Joel and stated in the tribute that Joel was "a brave man, and a hell of a nice guy." [16]


Siegel received five New York Emmy Awards and a public service award from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award for general excellence in individual reporting.[2]


In 1986, Spy magazine derided Siegel as "the poor man's Gene Shalit", who relied "heavily on alliteration." [17]


  • Siegel, Joel. Lessons for Dylan: On Life, Love, the Movies, and Me. PublicAffairs, 2003. ISBN 978-1-58648-127-8


  1. ^ Chute, David (July 1, 2007). "Film critic Joel Siegel '65 memorialized in scholarship". UCLA magazine. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved 2014-12-26. Siegel had in fact edited satirical campus humor magazines at both Hamilton High ("The Iconoclast") and UCLA ("Satyr").
  2. ^ a b c d "Movie critic Joel Siegel dies" Accessed 2007-06-29.
  3. ^ a b c "Joel Siegel: Entertainment Editor on Good Morning America". Archived from the original on 2007-06-09. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ Joel Siegel dies of cancer at age 63 - Accessed 2007-06-29.
  5. ^ "Q&A With Entertainment Editor Joel Siegel", ABC News, June 30, 2003
  6. ^ Joel Siegel, "Lessons for Dylan: From Father to Son", PublicAffairs Books, 2003
  7. ^ Crowe, Jerry. "Who would have guessed? Rick Neuheisel has UCLA playing as well as USC." Los Angeles Times. November 18, 2009
  8. ^ "NNDB: Joel Siegel". Retrieved 2007-07-02.
  9. ^ "1982 Tony Award Winners".
  10. ^ "Joel Siegel" on WABC-TV New York website. Accessed 30 June 2007.
  11. ^ "Lessons for Dylan" (excerpt from Siegel's 2003 book)
  12. ^ e-collaborating (and communicating) to battle cancer issue #3 summer 2005
  13. ^ ABC News: Siegel Passionate About Cancer Awareness - Accessed 2 July 2007
  14. ^ Siegel, Joel. "One at a Time" The Oncologist 10 (7): 558.
  15. ^ CEO Roundtable on Cancer
  16. ^ "Joel Siegel: In Memory". 2007.
  17. ^ "Spy". April 1987.

External linksEdit