Her first job at The Herald Tribune was assistant to the women’s editor. After becoming a general-assignment reporter, she won a George Polk Award in 1951 for her education coverage.
She saw her first “blue” movie as the only woman covering Senate hearings on pornography in New York in 1945. Her male colleagues insisted that she leave the room during their private screening of the film in question, “Breaking In Blondie.” The unbuttoning scene was just beginning when she had to leave.
Her pocketbook gave her an advantage, however, while covering a news conference for a new Marilyn Monroe film. When Monroe broke a shoulder strap, Ms. Crist supplied her with a safety pin and was granted an exclusive interview.
She began writing theater reviews in 1957 while continuing to cover news. Three years later she became arts editor. During a newspaper strike in 1963 she reviewed theater and movies for WABC. Her aptitude for the medium was noticed by the Today show producers who later hired her. After the strike’s end, and after meeting with The Tribune’s editor, James Bellows, and publisher, John Hay Whitney (known as Jock), she became The Tribune’s movie critic on April 1, 1963. She wrote that she was immediately “famous” six weeks later for her “Spencer’s Mountain” review, which described the film as “sheer prurience and perverted morality disguised as piety.”
When the film’s producer and theater threatened advertisement cuts, The Herald Tribune stood firmly behind her on First Amendment grounds. In an editorial, it said that any paper that can be controlled by advertisers “cheats its readers and ceases to be an honest newspaper.”
As movies veered toward more explicit sexuality, she could be critical.
“I’m tired of bare breasts, buttocks and bellies,” she said in an interview with Newsweek in 1967. “I’m not a bluenose, but this penchant for flesh is moronic and unhealthy. It’s a big shill.”
Ms. Crist, who taught at the Columbia journalism school for more than 50 years, continuing until this February, also held a small festival in Tarrytown, N.Y. It began in 1971 and included appearances by famous directors and actors, as well as showings of still-unreleased movies. Woody Allen modeled his fictional film festival after it in “Stardust Memories.” She ended it in 2006.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Ms. Crist reviewed films for Coming Attractions magazine. She continued to write on other topics, including an article on TV dinners for Gourmet magazine in 2000..
Ms. Crist published a collection of reviews, “The Private Eye, the Cowboy, and the Very Naked Girl: Movies From Cleo to Clyde” (1968) and edited, designed or contributed to several more books.
She is survived by her son. Her husband, William B. Crist, a public relations counselor, died in 1993.
Ms. Crist said a critic must be an egomaniac. But she went on to say a larger job requirement was passion, perhaps even love, for what movies are, do and can be.
“Amid all the easily loved darlings of Charlie Brown’s circle, obstreperous Lucy holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “She fusses and fumes and she carps and complains. That’s because Lucy cares. And it’s the caring that counts.”