I admit it … I’m a bit of a late-comer when it comes to watching Robert Osborne. While I’ve been a fan of Turner Classic Movies (TCM) for about as long as it’s been on air, I never really paid much attention to Osborne’s intros.
That is until one cold, dark December day when I tuned into TCM to watch Stella Dallas. There was Osborne interviewing Drew Barrymore, both giving their takes on the film and helping me see one of my most favorite movies in a whole new way. From that day on, I was hooked.
Watching Osborne on The Essentials with his kind face and warm voice was like listening to a much-loved college professor. And watching such current Hollywood notables as Barrymore, Sally Field and Alec Baldwin discussing these films with him really helped me to see these films in a whole new way. And I think that was what Osborne strived for…to make his audience love the films as much as he did and to always see the magic in them.
And as I’ve come to learn while reading about Osborne over the past few days, is that he started loving these movies at a very young age. In a Hollywood Reporter article (where he was once a writer and was known as the Rambling Reporter), Osborne stated that while other kids were out having fun and partying, he was going through the New York Times looking at all the current movies playing, where they were playing, who was in the movie and how long it ran. He kept all this information in a book (which he named Blackie) and which he still owned!
Eventually his obsession brought him to Hollywood where he found minor success as an actor (he was in the pilot episode of The Beverly Hillbillies). It was then through fate that Osborne met Lucille Ball, (who he called his mentor) and who told him that Hollywood “(has) enough actors. We don’t have enough people writing about the industry.” And that was the beginning of everything.
Later in life when he got his dream job at TCM , he became friends with some of the greats–Joan Crawford, Olivia de Havilland, Bette Davis. My favorite story about Osborne and Davis that I just read is how he mentioned to Davis one day that he had just seen that great new movie called Star Wars. When he asked Davis if she had seen it Davis replied, “‘I hate that kinda movie.’ And I said, ‘Oh, but it’s really good. I think you’d really enjoy it.’ And she turned to me with full volume and said, ‘I told you, I HATE that kind of a movie!’ And I said, ‘I can’t believe you would say something so stupid as that. Well, her head zipped around and looked at me, and I thought, ‘She may kill me.’ And then I looked at her, and I knew I had her. And that’s what she was waiting for: A challenge. And we were friends from then on!”
Only in Hollywood…
So while I grew up loving classic films before I ever heard of Robert Osborne, once I got to watch him, he took my viewing experience to a whole new level–teaching me new things about the actors and movies that I’ve always loved and sometimes encouraging me to watch a movie that I may have never considered before. And for that, I will be forever grateful.