Ebert died at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, two days after announcing on his blog that he was undergoing radiation treatment for a recurrence of cancer.
"I've lost the love of my life," his wife, Chaz Ebert, said in a statement Thursday, "and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other."
Ebert's criticism earned him a Pulitzer in 1975, and he wrote more than 20 books that included two volumes of essays on classic movies. He hung out with filmmakers from Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman to Billy Wilder and Mel Brooks. He was the first critic given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Directors Guild ceremony featured recorded testimonials from Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and others who amusingly recalled good and bad notices from Ebert and made it clear that his reviews kept them on their toes.
"The role of the critic is to call them as they see them and Roger did so with integrity. In more than four decades of honest review of our films, Roger demanded excellence — but recognized our directorial achievements," Directors Guild President Taylor Hackford said Thursday.
The feeling was mutual. Unable to speak at the guild ceremony after his cancer surgery, Ebert shared his affection for the directors in a statement recorded via a synthetic computer voice with a British accent.
"The motion picture is the art form I love above all others," Ebert told the directors. "It is the symphony, and you are the conductors."