Gene Siskel was born in Chicago on January 26, 1946. After graduating from Yale University in the class of 1967, he began working for the Chicago Tribune first as a cub reporter and working his way up until the movie beat more or less fell into his lap and eventually he became their chief film critic.
It was in 1975, that Siskel would be teamed up with this soon-to-be partner Roger Ebert, a critic from a rival paper The Chicago Sun Times for an experimental new program for PBS called Opening Soon At a Theater Near You with the premise that two critics from rival newspapers would sit in theater seats for a half hour and discuss the latest new films.
In 1980, Gene Siskel married Marlene Iglitzen and eventually they had three children together, Kate, Callie, and Will.
In 1982, Siskel and Ebert's program left PBS and went into syndication under the new title At the Movies. The two developed an rapport onscreen that would become their legacy. There in the balcony seats they would discuss the movies intelligently, sometimes agreeing and many times disagreeing with one another, always ending their reviews with a "Thumbs Up" or a "Thumbs Down" review. Despite the fact that they agreed most of the time, their onscreen arguments became legendary.
They were spoofed on everything from Animaniacs to Dinosaurs to a piece in the films Hollywood Shuffle, The Ref and Godzilla. Gene and Roger always tried to avoid guest spots on television because they felt it was a conflict of interest, but they relented when they were asked to be guest stars on the animated sitcom The Critic for an episode called "Siskel and Ebert and Jay and Alice" in which the two get into an on air spat that leads to their breakup.
In 1998 Gene Siskel underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his brain and for at least two installments of the show Roger Ebert hosted by himself. For several shows Gene did the show from his hospital bed before returning in late in the year and doing the show non-stop until the week before his death. He had announced that he was taking time off and would return in the fall of that year but sadly, he died on February 20, 1999. For the first show after his death, Roger Ebert hosted touching a half-hour tribute called "Remembering Gene Siskel". Ebert would continue the show with a series of guest hosts because, he said, that Gene felt it was important for movies to be discussed intelligently on television.
In 2000, "The Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago" was renamed "The Gene Siskel Film Center". Siskel had been a supporter of the institution from it's inception and had been a member of it's advisory board. He also championed support and funding for the institute.