Monday, March 6, 2017
Robert Osborne Goes to that Movie House in the Great Beyond
Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne has merged with The Infinite.
I was pretty much convinced that Robert Osborne was a robot. It didn't matter what time of day or night I switched on Turner Classic Movies, if a movie wasn't playing, he was providing an intro or outro in a smooth, polished, knowledgeable manner, like the best film prof you never had. In theory he was the prime-time host, but for several years in there, I literally remember no one else.
I mean, sure, it was just a few minutes per movie, but those need to be written, shot, etc... and it was clear he was pretty hands-on with all aspects. Including the phenomenal interviews he wrangled with innumerable Hollywood icons, and later as he'd co-host series with modern luminaries reflecting back on whatever run of movies they were about to show. And he always got to the nut of what made the film special both writ large and what made fans (these modern film stars) so passionate about the movie.
It wasn't just that you *liked* Osborne as a host, you respected him. It was clear he knew his stuff. And in a period of my life when I was likely to wander away from classic film, he was my sherpa. I can't tell you how many times I'd finish a movie and what he had to say about the next movie was enough to keep me tuned in. Or how many times I recorded a movie I'd seen before just to hear what he had to say about it (often without watching the movie).
Part of all that was, of course, that Osborne knew these movies so deeply. There was nothing he hadn't seen, written about, had an opinion on. He was a film-buff's film-buff, and when he was given a new bit of info during an interview, you saw him assimilating it into his mental index with a simple "I didn't know that...".
And I'm not alone in my admiration. Social media is full of 20 and 30-somethings who adore classic film almost entirely thanks to Turner Classic and Osborne (they're either too young to remember when AMC was American Movie Classics or TCM was *always* the more vital force between the two - and indeed it was post 1995 or so). TCM has a cult-like following, it's own film festival, cruises, and even a movie-wine-pairing mail order club. That's a hell of a base Osborne put together.
And, yes, every year I run the numbers on what it would cost to go to the TCM festival and how it would collide with my work schedule. Never comes up something I can do.
We'll miss you, Mr. Osborne. You've got a small army filling in for you at TCM, and they're doing pretty okay. But you guided the way for how this should work.