There was a gentle, time-capsule feeling to Robert Osborne. He had a feel for old Hollywood; during at least one awards ceremony, he waited outside with his friend Bette Davis, because she couldn't spend that much time without a cigarette.
Osborne died recently at 84 and Turner Classic Movies will devote the entire weekend to him. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
Robert Osborne was a
man of persistent elegance.
He made every
suitcoat seem like a tuxedo, every sentence seem like a gracious
invitation. He reflected an era that he caught the final years of –
old Hollywood at its best and brightest.
Now Turner Classic
Movies will spend the weekend watching him celebrate that era. For 48
hours, it will show Osborne – who died March 6, at 84 –
interviewing stars – Peter O'Toole, Debbie Reynolds, Liza Minnelli,
Alan Arkin, Kim Novak, a 92-year-old Ernest Borgnine and a
101-year-old Luise Rainer.
were among the many duties Osborne continued into his 80s. He wrote
the lush history of the Academy Awards in 1988 and updated it every
five years (Abbeville Press) through 2013. He also was the official
greeter for celebrities at the Oscar. “All of a sudden, they see
what looks like a mile of red carpet,” Osborne said.
First, they would
see him; it was a pleasant job, he said. “Nobody's lost an Oscar
(yet) and everyone's in a good mood.”
This was far from
his boyhood in Colfax, a Washington town that now has 2,700 people.
Fortunately, it had a movie theater, which he frequented. He went on
to college (journalism, University of Washington) and the Air Force,
where he had time to act in theater. Then came Hollywood.
He became a contract
player with Desilu and landed some small roles – from a 1954 “Death
Valley Days” to playing the banker's assistant in the 1962 “Beverly
Hillbillies” pilot. He also became a friend of Lucille Ball, who
gave him frank advice: His future was in reporting, not acting.
So Osborne wrote
Hollywood books in 1965 and '67, wrote Academy Award annuals and in
1977 joined the Hollywood Reporter. He did some morning-TV work for
CBS and a Los Angeles staton; when TCM started in 1994, he was the
logical one to be its host.
He eventually moved
East, living in New York with his partner of 20 years, theater
director-producer David Staller. Still, he continued to fly to
Atlanta for TCM and to Hollywood, where he hosted the annual TCM
Classic Film Festival, greeted people at the Oscars and has a star on
the Walk of Fame.
Osborne is even the
filmed host and narrator for the Great Movie Ride at Disney World.
That's a perfect fit: For decades, and again this posthumous weekend,
he's taken us on great movie rides.
(all on Turner Classic Movies):
-- Saturday: Alec
Baldwin interviews him (2014): 6 a.m. ET; 1:30 p.m.; 8:05 p.m.; 12:45
-- Sunday: Baldwin
interview: 10:30 a.m. ET, 5:30 p.m., 3:45 a.m.
-- Saturday: Tribute
to Osborne's first 20 years on TCM (2015): 9 a.m. ET; 4:15 p.m.'
-- Sunday: Tribute
to Osborne: 4:45 a.m. ET; noon; 8 p.m.; 11 p.m.
-- Also: His TCM
debut – a brief introduction (1994) of “Gone With the Wind” --
is 8 p.m. Saturday.
-- Saturday: Norman
Jewison, 7:30 a.m. ET; Alan Arkin, 10:15 a.m.; Luise Rainer, 11:30
a.m.; Liza Minnelli, 12:15 p.m.; Eva Marie Saint, 3 p.m.; Peter
O'Toole, 5:30 p.m.; Kim Novak, 6:45 p.m.; Debbie Reynolds, 9:30 p.m.;
Betty Hutton, 10:30 p.m.; Liza Minnelli, 11:45 p.m.; Jewison, 2:15
a.m.; Ernest Borgnine, 3:30 a.m.
-- Sunday: Minnelli,
6 a.m.; Saint, 7 a.m.; Novak, 8:15 a.m.; O'Toole, 9:15 a.m.; Arkin, 1
p.m.; Jewison, 4:15 p.m.; Minnelli, 7 p.m.; Saint, 9 p.m.; Rainer,
10:15 p.m.; O'Toole, midnight; Novak, 1:15 a.m.; Arkin, 2:30 a.m.;
Rainer, 5:15 a.m.