Celebrated critic Jeffrey Lyons talks movies at the Mount

March 12, 2018

Film critic Jeffrey Lyons discussed the life and career of Orson Welles on Friday, March 9 at Mount Saint Mary College.

Film critic Jeffrey Lyons discussed the life and career of Orson Welles on Friday, March 9 at Mount Saint Mary College.


Renowned film critic Jeffrey Lyons has reviewed more than 15,000 movies during his decades-long career, but it was two of his favorites – Jane Eyre (1943) and The Graduate (1967) – that brought him to Mount Saint Mary College on March 9. 

Lyons, a Mount Honorary Degree recipient (2002), discussed his life, career, and memories of revered actor Orson Welles during a free public talk Friday night. The event included a special 75th anniversary screening of Jane Eyre, in which Welles plays the leading man opposite Joan Fontaine. 

“I hope nights like this will keep Orson’s memory alive,” said Lyons. “Orson was my father’s best friend.” 

With the single exception of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles “had the most influence on my life among my parents’ friends,” Lyons revealed. “If he had never been a movie star, or a radio star, or a Broadway star, never written a word of script, he would have been a genius in whatever field he pursued. Except for sports, he was the world’s greatest authority on anything and everything.”

Welles’ first film, which he co-wrote, directed, and starred in, was 1941’s Citizen Kane. Widely regarded as the greatest film of all time, Lyons said such early success might have been too much for any other actor. “It’s hard to have your greatest achievement be your first achievement,” he explained. 

But not Welles, Lyons noted, who went on to contribute to more than 50 films, including Othello (1952), The Trial (1962), and Touch of Evil (1958). His final role was voicing the central villain in Transformers: The Movie (1986).

The talk and film screening was made possible by Mount Saint Mary College’s Samuel D. Affron Memorial Lecture Series and the Affron family. Jerome S. Affron, a former Mount trustee, established the Samuel D. Affron Memorial Lecture Series in honor of his father in 1982. A native of Kingston, Samuel D. Affron served on the Board of Education in Beacon for many years. 

Earlier in the day on March 9, Lyons offered some insight to Mount film students in professor Dean Goldberg’s Cinema of the ‘60s course. Lyons introduced the seminal film The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman.


Film critic Jeffrey Lyons discussed the life and career of Orson Welles on Friday, March 9 at Mount Saint Mary College.

During his recent visit to Mount Saint Mary College, film critic Jeffrey Lyons met with communication arts students to discuss film history highlights.


“I’ve seen 30,000 movies, and The Graduate is my favorite film,” said Lyons. “When it came out, Mike Nichols, the director, lived upstairs on the floor above us. I slipped a note under his door – I was 22 years old – and I said this is my favorite film. It still is.”

The critic also revealed to Goldberg’s class a few more of favorite films, among them The Man Who Never Was (1956), The Horse Soldiers (1959), The Longest Day (1962), Gladiator (2000), and Jim Thorpe – All-American (1951), which Lyons said is “probably the best all-around sports movie ever made.”

Of Jaws (1975), another of his favorite films, Lyons quipped, “I told director Stephen Spielberg I’ve never been in the ocean since Jaws. The fish go where they go, I go to a pool.” 

In addition to his career as a film critic, Lyons, a five-time New York Emmy Award winner, has reviewed more than 900 Broadway and off-Broadway plays; interviewed nearly 500 actors; written or co-authored seven books; and co-hosted three national movie review shows on PBS, MSNBC, and NBC.

Lyons began his journalism career working for the Newhouse Newspapers. He was seen nationally on The Independent Network News via Tribune Broadcasting, and in 1982, Lyons was chosen over 300 aspirants to co-host Sneak Previews, the famous PBS movie review program which he co-hosted for 12 seasons (1982-92 and 1994-96).

In 1996, Lyons joined WNBC as their film and theater critic. He also reviewed movies with his son Ben Lyons on MSNBC’s At the Movies in 2003. He continues his career reviewing movies on WCBS radio in New York and through national syndication on Lyons Den radio, and occasionally on TV. 

His most recent and highly-acclaimed book is What a Time It Was! Leonard Lyons and the Golden Age of New York Nightlife, a sequel to Stories My Father Told Me, Notes from the Lyons Den. Both are collections of anecdotes from his father’s iconic Broadway column, along with his own interviews.