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13 October 2015

Good night, sweet cinematic prince

(Courtesy: The Dallas Morning News)

I'd like to say I had some wonderful thoughts to share about Philip Wuntch after the initial shock of the former longtime Dallas Morning News film critic's passing on Monday subsided a little.

But it hasn't subsided a little.  It still feels raw, as I said last night when I first heard the news, like I've been kicked in the stomach by a horse; an angry, snorting, pawing-the-turf horse at that.

So the wonderful thoughts will have to filter through a sense of loss too painful to ignore.

Philip Wuntch, you see, was so much more than an exceptionally gifted film critic, author and film historian.  Philip cheerfully and professionally shared his vast knowledge and insight into the world of cinema, past and present, for over 40 years, first at The Dallas Times Herald, then at The Dallas Morning News until 2006, when he took a "voluntary buyout."

(Click here to read Philip's obituary by Michael Granberry posted on The Dallas Morning News website.)

What I remember most through my sorrow of Philip's passing at 70 after a long illness is the way the extremely sweet, polite gentleman -- always the gentle man -- said "yes" as if it had two syllables.

"Yea-us," he would say when he agreed with something.  It was always such a warm response, almost like Philip got tremendous pleasure out of giving affirmation to a colleague, friend or fan.

For those who never saw Philip with Mimi, his high school sweetheart-turned-loving life mate, just know this:  I have never known a happier couple.  Call them two peas in a pod, life forces perfectly matched or whatever you desire, but I will never forget the aura of warm, loving admiration and the spirit of "we're in this together" that accompanied them whenever I had the pleasure of being in their company.

Suellen and I hosted a small Christmas party one year.  We all laughed and laughed as Mimi and Philip shared how they met and began a life journey together.  I think Philip blushed a little that night.

I spent countless hours with Philip in the '80s, '90s and '00s during the time our film critic paths paralleled at hundreds of movie screenings, film premieres and even the Academy Awards in 1990.

I can't begin to adequately describe the chaos in the press tent behind the auditorium at the Oscars back then.  Movie stars wearing big grins and clutching golden statuettes were paraded through for questions and comments.  Technology for transmitting stories over phone lines wasn't as easy as it is now, and newspaper deadlines arrived at a fast and furious rate.

Yet on that night, my first exposure to The Show for film critics, Philip took time to snap my picture as I wrapped my arm around one of those giant golden Oscars used for stage props.

It was so hectic that night, I never got to really thank Philip for that kind gesture toward a friend and colleague.

I think he knows, though.

Yea-us, he knows.