Obituary: Joseph Baltake

Joseph Baltake, a film critic for nearly 40 years in Philadelphia and Sacramento, and author of the film blog, “The Passionate Moviegoer,” died peacefully at his Haddonfield home on March 26, of complications from multiple myeloma. He was 74.   

Joe was born and raised in Camden, where his parents owned Baltake Bakery. As small business owners, they worked many long hours, leaving Joe to entertain himself by going to the aptly-named Liberty Theatre … and so began his lifelong passion. After graduation from Rutgers University he began his professional reviewing career at Gannett’s suburban newspaper group, and continued writing for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Sacramento Bee. He was first-string critic at both dailies, reviewing more than 10,000 movies. He also wrote for the Los Angeles Times, New York Post, Us magazine and Films in Review; Joe also served on several film festival juries. 

Baltake was a biographer of the actor Jack Lemmon, whom he had admired as a teen, and authored “The Films of Jack Lemmon” and “Jack Lemmon: His Films and Career.” He was an associate editor of John Willis’ Screen World anthology from 1973 to 1993, wrote the afterword for “The Films of Burt Reynolds” and contributed commentaries to DVD sets, including on-camera interviews for The Jack Lemmon Film Collection and “The Apartment” collector edition.  

Joe won multiple awards for his columns but as a longtime animal activist, was most proud of being honored by the Performing Animal Welfare Society in 1995 for a column on the film industry’s mistreatment of animals, both simulated and real.  

He is survived by wife Susan Baltake, sister Rose Brazier and niece Cindi Frese, both of Turnersville, several other nieces and nephews, as well as his beloved rescue cats. Contributions can be made to Samaritan Hospice, 5 Eves Drive, Marlton, N.J.  08053, online at: www.samaritannj.org or the no-kill animal shelter of your choice.