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January 23, 1902
Grass Valley, California
|Died||April 3, 1981
Los Angeles, California
|Children||Shana Alexander, Laurel Bentley|
Cecelia Ager (January 23, 1902 - April 3, 1981) was an American film critic and star reporter for Variety and the New York Post Magazine. Married for 57 years to songwriter Milton Ager, she was mother to two daughters, Laurel Bentley and journalist Shana Alexander. Ager was known as "the coed" for her wit and the ukulele she carried on social occasions.
Life and career
Ager was born Cecelia Rubinstein in Grass Valley, California, a mining town, the daughter of Fannie (Meyer) and Zalkin H. Rubinstein. Her parents were Polish Jewish immigrants. She married Milton Ager four months after meeting him; Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York, also a songwriter, presided at the wedding in his office.
Ager was the first female reporter for Variety, and was known as one of the best dressed women in America. Ager was the movie critic for the New York newspaper PM and a contributor to the New York Times and several national magazines. Her sense of style became an asset to advance her work as a writer. It has been said that "she used fashion as her entry into examining the constricting roles women were asked to play, in real life and onscreen.”
Her astute and often wittily-written articles and reviews of films showed her a champion for quality and a keen-eyed observer of American culture. Among the first critics to take notice of the importance of Orson Welles’s 1941 film Citizen Kane, she wrote for PM: “Before Citizen Kane, it’s as if the motion picture were a slumbering monster, a mighty force stupidly sleeping, lying there…awaiting a fierce young man to come kick it to life, to rouse it, shake it, awaken it to its potentialities.... Seeing it, it’s as if you never really saw a movie before.”
Cecelia's aunt was Anzia Yezierska, known for her sensitive writing about the immigrant Jewish experience in New York. Anzia's uncle, Meyer Yeziersky/Max Mayer was the first of his family to immigrate to the US. Anzia arrived in 1901 after the rest of the family had joined him in adopting his first name as their surname in the US. Her success with novels and a film encouraged her niece and grandniece.
Ager died in Los Angeles in 1981 after suffering a stroke.
- Lopate, Phillip (March 2006). American Movie Critics: From the Silents Until Now. New York, New York: Library of America. ISBN 978-1-931082-92-1.
- Fabe, Marilyn (2004). Closely watched films: an introduction to the art of narrative film technique. University of California Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-520-23891-6.
- Herbert, Mitgang (1981-04-04). "Cecelia Ager, 79; Critic of Films Who Wrote for Variety and PM". New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 20. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
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