Much loved film critic Derek Malcolm has died at the age of 91 after several months of illness.

His witty, weekly movie column ran in The Guardian from the 1970s until 1999, after which he became chief film critic for The Evening Standard until 2009.

Often championing foreign language films over Hollywood blockbusters, in person he was sardonic and mischievous and a fund of anecdotes about his colourful life.

He lived between homes in Deal and Crouch End with his second wife, the historian and author Sarah Gristwood.

As well as being an Eton and Oxford-educated former National Hunt Jockey, he was a keen tennis player and member of the Coolhurst Tennis Club where John Bartlett recalls he was "a modest player".

Ham & High: Derek Malcolm was President of Cinema For All which backs volunteer led UK Film societies and is pictured here with the BFI's Danny Leigh and Film Society member Elizabeth CostelloDerek Malcolm was President of Cinema For All which backs volunteer led UK Film societies and is pictured here with the BFI's Danny Leigh and Film Society member Elizabeth Costello

"A lot of people knew him at the club, he used to be a star attraction. He was absolutely charming and was of course awfully good at talking about films all the time. That was his passion, no question."

Fellow film reviewer Neil Norman posted on Facebook that he would forever be grateful to Derek "for welcoming me into the fold when I started out as a young critic".

"I loved his impish mischief and acute observations on movies as well as his reverence for the masters of cinema in the face of the increasingly gaudy Hollywood product."

Malcolm was also President of Cinema For All which supports the UK's volunteer-led fim societies and community screenings and where he is remembered as someone who took cinema seriously, but never himself.

Brian Clay, Vice President of Cinema For All said: "His commitment to the film society and community cinema movement was clear. Always supportive, always funny: his anecdotes about the film stars and directors of cinema’s glorious past could not be beaten. He will be sorely missed."

Cinema For All Chief Executive Deborah Parker added: "I was immediately taken with this gentleman from another world – who told tales of Godard and Truffaut, and could command an entire room with his immaculate timing and wit. He knew just the moment to drop the name of a filmmaker most of us could only dream of meeting, but always in the most mundane of settings – an elevator, a hotel lobby, or most memorably, Federico Fellini at the next urinal in Cannes."

Born in Marylebone in 1932, Malcolm described in his memoir Family Secrets how his father Douglas had shot his mother's lover dead in 1917. He was acquitted of murder at The Old Bailey and the couple remained together unhappily. His love of film began as a child watching newsreel cinema on Victoria Station, and Laurel and Hardy - who he had tea and buns with in 1947 after being invited backstage following a performance - remained his favourite stars.

Two years as a repertory actor had bored him stiff, and he had ridden 13 winners as an amateur jockey, before switching horses to take up journalism.

His Guardian career began as a horse racing correspondent before moving into film criticism. During a lengthy career he served as Artistic Director of the London Film Festival in the 1980s and hosted BBC2s arthouse programme The Film Club.

He is survived by Gristwood and daughter Jackie from his first marriage.