The inimitable entertainment critic Mal Vincent passed away this weekend at the age of 83. In the days before the internet, Rotten Tomatoes, and social media, Mal’s film reviews as printed in The Virginian-Pilot often determined the size of our audiences, to both the good and bad of that week’s ticket sales. But there is no question that Mal was a big-time supporter of The Naro as a community institution – you only had to see the sold-out houses he generated in 17 years of hosting Mal’s Movies, our annual series of classic films that he carefully selected and introduced in-person. He will be missed! We reprint below his obituary from The Virginian-Pilot. Please feel free to post your own thoughts and memories of Mal at the bottom of the articl
Longtime Virginian-Pilot movie critic Mal Vincent, beloved for his tales of Hollywood stars, dies at 83
Mal Vincent, the longtime film and theater critic for The Virginian-Pilot, died overnight Saturday. He was 83.
Vincent interviewed many of Hollywood’s best and brightest stars during a storied career that spanned more than half a century. He began working for The Pilot in the 1960s and was still writing freelance articles for the newspaper at the time of his death.
His most recent assignment involved an interview with singer Marie Osmond about her upcoming performance at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, but he hadn’t yet turned his story in, said Pilot features editor Denise Watson.
“Mal was a force to be reckoned with,” Watson said. “He had so many great stories about all the people he’d met over the years.”
Among them were Mae West, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Sir Laurence Olivier, Bette Davis, Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts. But the one interview he wanted most and never got: screen legend Ava Gardner.
Vincent’s love of movies and theater began as a child, according to his longtime friend Page Laws. His parents frequently took him to New York to see Broadway shows, she said. During his adult life, Laws was the one who usually accompanied him to the theater.
In addition to his work for The Pilot, Vincent made regular appearances on WHRO public radio’s “HearSay with Cathy Lewis” and hosted a wildly popular weekly summer movie series at Naro Expanded Cinema every year.
The films were selected by Vincent and typically starred actors and actresses he’d met. Before each film was shown, Vincent — a native of the tiny town of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina — would share tales about its stars in his characteristic Southern drawl.
“The line (to get into the theater) would wrap around the block,” said Thom Vourlas, a co-owner of The Naro and friend of Vincent’s since the mid-1980s. “The audience ate it all up. They absolutely loved him and his stories.”
Vourlas and Tench Phillips, the other owner of The Naro, would invite Vincent to watch new movies before their release so he could publish a review in time for the opening. The private screenings were typically held late at night and then Vincent would head to the newspaper’s office to write his review.
Mike D’Orso, a former writer for The Pilot and author of 16 books, was sometimes in the newsroom when Vincent showed up after midnight. The two remained friends for decades.
“Talk about immersion,” D’Orso said. “It wasn’t just a job to him. It was his life.”
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Jane Harper, 757-222-5097, firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATES: A memorial tribute will be held for Mal at 10am on Saturday, December 11, at The Naro. Admission is free; doors will open at 9am.
A longer weekend feature article about Mal was published by The Virginian-Pilot on December 3rd with additional photos and tributes from the community. Read it here.