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Pat Dowell, Longtime NPR Film Critic, Dies


Longtime NPR contributor Pat Dowell died Sunday after a long illness. She was 66. Pat covered film for nearly 30 years. Our critic Bob Mondello remembers his late colleague.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Pat Dowell did her first movie piece for NPR about the same time I did, in the mid-1980s, and even then, she knew more than I did. She was practically encyclopedic about filmmakers most Americans have never heard of.


PAT DOWELL, BYLINE: Stan Vanderbeek's 1963 film "Breath Death" is full of animated collages satirizing gender roles and politics. There's also an arresting stage scene. A woman sits on a bed nuzzling a figure made from an empty shirt and trousers topped by a television set showing men's faces.

MONDELLO: While Pat spoke with all the greats, from Robert Altman to George C. Scott, she was fascinated by work that flew under everyone's radar. Indie directors, foreign composers - if it was offbeat and unorthodox, Pat couldn't wait to describe it. She started her career as a critic and could be emotional in her enthusiasm. She used to say she cried at Cornflake commercials, none of which ever got in the way of her reporting. Pat Dowell spent her career researching history, delving deep into process, helping audiences understand. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.