Mike Clark, a veteran former USA TODAY movie critic with a famously encyclopedic knowledge of film history and an enduring love for the art form, died Friday at 73.
“The film industry has lost one of its great voices,” said Mike Snider, a USA TODAY reporter and longtime colleague of Clark’s.
Nicknamed “Movie Mike,” Clark, who lived in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., died in a hospital in Reston, Virginia, after a fall on July 27. He had been ill with liver disease for several years, according to his son, Nick Clark.
“He had a head injury that led to bleeding around the brain, in part due to his underlying liver issues,” Nick Clark told USA TODAY. He described his father’s “obsessive passion for film and music and a singular talent for storytelling.”
“As often as I would quiz him –and it was often – I was never able to get the best of ‘Movie Mike’s’ encyclopedic knowledge. He had an enduring and often twisted sense of humor (one that he was always proud to point out I had also inherited), and an infectious laugh. Most of all, he was a devoted father and a very loved ‘Pops’ to his two grandsons.”
Most recently, Clark had been writing reviews of newly issued Blu-ray Discs and DVDs of celebrated theatrical blockbusters, as well as more obscure movies from the golden days of Hollywood, for Media Play News, an online publication that has covered the home entertainment industry since 2018, said founder Thomas K. Arnold.
But from 1985 to 2009, Clark was the senior film critic and home entertainment columnist for USA TODAY, joining the “Nation’s Newspaper” a few years after its debut. His weekly column began when VHS tapes were still still sold in drugstores.
Before that, Clark programmed approximately 150 film series and 5,000 individual titles over eight years as program planner and eventually director of the American Film Institute Theater, then in Washington,’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He also spent a year as film critic for the Detroit Free Press.
An elected member of the National Society of Film Critics, Clark was highly regarded by his peers. His many friends and former colleagues posted loving tributes on Facebook.
“My heart is broken like the third reel of a grindhouse double feature,” posted his USA TODAY colleague Jim Cheng. “The great Movie Mike Clark has left the screening room. Friend, mentor, endless font of information (not just movies), father, grandfather, and of course, Yankee fan. Love to his family. RIP, Movie Mike. In his honor, I hope to spend the weekend watching classic movies.”
“We have all lost a friend and colleague,” posted former USA TODAY photo editor Jym Wilson. “Rest in a dark theatre Mike, with butter on your popcorn.”
“RIP, Mike. Enjoyed our long talk just last week. We are going to miss you. Our readers are going to miss you. Your studio friends are going to miss you. You mattered,” Arnold posted on Facebook.
His friend Leonard Maltin once wrote that Clark became known as a film “expert” when he was 10 years old, and appeared on the hugely popular TV quiz show “The $64,000 Question.”
“I met him when he was attending the NYU Graduate School of Cinema and we’ve been friends ever since,” Maltin recalled. “He and I bonded over our love for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and our unexplainable interest in the little-remembered Keefe Brasselle.
“I’ve always enjoyed Mike’s writing…He often makes me laugh out loud.”
Clark is survived by his two sons, Nick and Alex; grandsons Benjamin and Oliver; sister Marta; and his ex-wife and close friend Cathy Crary.