Siegel, Joel: Film Professor and Critic Dies at 63

Joel E. Siegel, 63, a retired Georgetown University English professor who also was a lyricist, music producer and freelance film and music critic for the Washington City Paper, died of spinal meningitis March 11, 2004 at George Washington University Hospital.

Dr. Siegel mostly taught film studies at Georgetown, where he was a faculty member for 32 years, until 1998. He offered the college's earliest courses on film studies and built the curriculum while maintaining a vibrant career in the arts outside the classroom.

He staged singer and songwriter series at the Kennedy Center, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the University of Maryland; managed singers and produced their albums; and in 1973 authored Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror,” about the legendary film producer.

In 1993, he shared a Grammy for best album notes with Buck Clayton and Phil Schaap for their book accompanying the 10-CD set The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve, 1945-1959.”

He was perhaps most recognizable for his freelance music, book and film reviews that appeared in the Washington City Paper for the past 20 years. His last movie review, about the recent revival of Francis Ford Coppola's 1982 film One From the Heart,” appeared in January.

He utilized an economical writing style with short, declarative sentences in his critiques, which sometimes related occurrences in his personal life, said Leonard Roberge, arts editor at the City Paper.

In one review, Dr. Siegel likened the displeasure of watching a movie with a bad ending after enjoying two-thirds of the film to a dining experience he had at a restaurant. He wrote how fabulous the food tasted until the very last bite, when lifting his fork he found an insect plastered to the underside, ruining the entire meal.

“He established a relationship with readers, confided in them,” Roberge said.

Dr. Siegel also wrote reviews for JazzTimes, Washingtonian magazine and the old Washington Newsworks and Washington Tribune newspapers.

As a music producer, he managed Washington jazz singer-songwriter Shirley Horn in the 1980s and 1990s, after she had taken time off to raise her children. He produced her 1987 album Softly” and co- produced her You Won't Forget Me” and I Love You, Paris” albums. He was an associate producer on her album Here's to Life.”

In the early 1990s, he wrote English lyrics for the Italian song Estate.”

Dr. Siegel also produced jazz vocalist Patti Wicks's recent album Love Locked Out.”

He would often take sabbaticals from teaching to pursue his other interests or simply squeeze in projects between the courses he taught, said his sister, Judith Siegel-Baum.

Among his favorite activities was penning lyrics. His long list of credits includes the songs Noir,” recorded by Claire Martin; The Ways of Love,” recorded by Shirley Horn and Wynton Marsalis; I Watch You Sleep,” recorded by Jackie Cain and Roy Kral; and the theme song of the 1979 war movie Yanks.”

Dr. Siegel, an Arlington resident, was a native of Washington, Pa. He graduated from Cornell University and received a master's degree and a doctorate in English from Northwestern University. His doctoral dissertation was on film director Vincente Minnelli.

In addition to his sister, of New York, survivors include his parents, Sherman H. and Miriam Danzinger Siegel of Washington, Pa.