10/24/1997 AT 12:00 AM EDT
Veteran New York Times film critic Vincent Canby, 76, one of the country's more lucid voices on the subject of movies, died of cancer on Sunday. His reviews had appeared in the paper for more than 35 years. Among the careers Canby championed early on were those of Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen. Indeed, Allen used to hold back the release of some of his movies just so they wouldn't open when Canby was on vacation. Canby was also almost single-handedly responsible for the yanking (and ultimate re-editing) of "Heaven's Gate" when in his review he labeled the 1980 Michael Cimino Western "that Hollywood rarity -- an unmitigated disaster."