Remembering Sheila

We welcome your thoughts, stories, and photos of your connection with Sheila. Comments can be sent to

A Perfect Description – Michelle Swanson, theatre director and teacher

Infectious joy and enviable skill. [Sheila’s reviews as cited by the National Society of Film Critics] Perfect description.

I loved the twinkle in her eye and her ability to filet a film or performance as needed (and much of this was NEEDED. . . .)

But! She also championed. She found films and performances we all could have missed. And she was always teaching us how to look, how to see what a film said about life, about us.

There were months, maybe years, when the only thing I read in the Times were Sheila’s reviews.

They always made me want to see the film. Always.

  • Strays – Caitlin Benson Hartford, daughter
    My mother took in strays. Not dog and cat strays, the house already had two or three much-loved cats and she would never have risked disturbing the feline harmony with an outsider.  No, she took in human strays. I don’t mean down-and-outs; Mom’s strays had perfectly nice families somewhere else. They were new arrivals who … Continue reading
  • Enduring Gift – Ann Ashley, daughter
    I think the most enduring gift we had from our mother was her unhesitating, ceaseless support. From earliest memory, no matter how outlandish our suggestions she would say only “Are you sure you want to do this?” “Ohhh, YES,”  we’d say, eyes alight with the newest venture. And that was all it would take. Her … Continue reading
  • Our Muse – Laura Dern, actor & friend
    We have lost one of our greatest film lovers, critics, and muses. Such an artist in inspiring storytellers to see the best in film. She played such a huge role in my career. I love you, Sheila, Laura Dern @LauraDern March 1, 2022
  • Rats and Mice – Michael Umble, son-in-law
    I think of Sheila, I think about the look. The glint in her eyes. The expression utter delight, complete surprise, sly mischievousness and if you witness a wrong moment, there would be a sigh of exasperation and an expression of “oh rats and mice!”. The joy and delight would come back, always. Joy. Surprise. Happiness. … Continue reading
  • Spark – Edward Landler, friend
    A light shone there beneath the skinIts source you’d see if you would lookIt was sparked there in the eyesOf course… that spark is love. We all are creatures sparked by loveBut in whose – how many – eyes we meetDo we see that spark’s identityWith love… creation… all that is…? There are some people … Continue reading
  • The Sky has a New Star! – Jesse Beaton, friend
    It’s just been a few hours since our beloved Sheila left us here on this crazy planet.What a force of nature she was.Whip Smart.Insightful and provocative – a deep thinker who loved her family & friends; art, literature & cinema with a passion.Hostess with the Mostess.Collector of books and fab items gathered from swap meets … Continue reading
  • Condolences – Justin Chang, colleague
    Dear Ms. Umble and Mr. Hong, Please accept my condolences on the passing of your beloved mother and wife. I never got to meet Sheila in person but she was extraordinarily kind and generous to me in her many emails over the years, which meant the world to me coming from a critic of her … Continue reading
  • Every Comma Mattered: Sheila Benson’s Life & Times, by Chuck Wilson, friend & colleague
    Former Los Angeles Times film critic Sheila Benson died February 23, 2022 of natural causes. She was 91. Admired by colleagues for the eloquence of her prose and by filmmakers and actors alike for her generosity of spirit, Sheila came to criticism quite naturally. Her parents were artists and writers. She herself studied ballet under … Continue reading
  • Mourning her loss – National Society of Film Critics, Twitter, 2/28/22
    We mourn the loss of our dear friend and longtime member, Sheila Benson, who wrote beautifully, incisively and lovingly about movies for the Los Angeles Times, the Pacific Sun, Cinemania and other publications. She will be deeply missed.
  • Fond Memories – Chris Connelly, colleague
    I’ve got fond memories of your mother’s literate & spirited reviews, especially during a film decade when her critical discernment and truth-telling were so greatly needed. I was very sorry to read of her passing. It’s fitting that you’ve been hearing from grateful readers & colleagues who appreciated her work… I think she helped a … Continue reading
  • Miracle Worker – Stephen M. Silverman, colleague
    She was so loving and fun — and there was a time (January 1993, maybe) we were snowed in together for nearly a week in my Lincoln Center apartment because of a blizzard. As you can imagine, we watched a lot of great movies (“The Third Man’ sticks out in my mind) and got through … Continue reading
  • A trip to the dentist – Eden Umble, daughter
    Reflecting on my remarkable mother’s blessedly long and colorful life, so many memories bubble up. I’m eight years old, sitting in my third grade class, when I’m called to the Principal’s office for reasons unknown. (Betty Grimm wasn’t terrifying for her name alone). When I get there, convinced I must have done something dreadful despite … Continue reading
  • Pencils – Caitlin Benson Hartford, daughter
    I last saw you in October and you were still feathering your new nest. A single-story house that would be much easier on your knees and in a great neighborhood – if it weren’t for the knees – within walking distance to your favorite places in Fairhaven. Unpacked boxes still stuffed the garage and an … Continue reading