Kenneth Turan Recalls Judith Crist, the Columbia Journalism Teacher

For decades, the late Judith Crist taught film reviewing at Columbia University in New York. Among her many former students is LA Times critic Kenneth Turan, who in the wake of her death Tuesday pays touching tribute to her gifts as a mentor.

One of Crist’s repeated bits of classroom advice was, “Resist the temptation to sell your grandmother down the river for a good line.” Even though she herself was known for her classic put-downs. In some ways, what Crist engineered on campus stands as a larger legacy than what she accomplished as a writer:

Though she was not the only critic who taught, no one passed on the art and craft of journalistic reviewing with as much passion or longevity as she did. Crist taught that criticism class for more than 50 years, longer than anyone taught any single course in the entire history of the journalism school. She was still teaching it this past February, and her other alumni include film critic David Denby of the New Yorker and New York Times critics Anna Kisselgoff and Margo Jefferson.

Turan says that one of Crist’s golden rules about attending screenings – as a courtesy to the host or studio, no opinion should be articulated by a critic until they are at least a block away – is one that he tries to follow to this day. Read his full piece here. There’s also a nice remembrance from other former students posted on the Columbia website.