Host Robert Osborne Gets the Star Treatment for TCM’s 20th Anniversary

Robert Osborne is in the spotlight for a special Private Screenings show to celebrate his 20th anniversary as host of Turner Classic Movies.

Robert Osborne.

Robert Osborne.

Private Screenings: Robert Osborne premieres January 6 on TCM and has the great host being interviewed by his good friend Alec Baldwin. It is a two-hour show that reveals how Osborne developed a passion for classic movies, how he became friends with Hollywood’s luminaries, and how a lot of lucky breaks led him to TCM’s 20-year celebration.

“It was awkward. I’m used to being on the other side,” Osborne told me about becoming the interviewee when Baldwin got to turn the tables on him and delve into his background. But then they get comfortable since Bob has interviewed Alec several times in the past, and they both co-hosted TCM’s The Essentials show together. They start by talking about “Blackie,” a huge notebook which Osborne started to compile during his early years. It is basically the core of Osborne’s movie knowledge and the gateway to his profession.

Osborne is well known and respected in Hollywood, but makes his home in New York nowadays. He has been a columnist-reviewer for The Hollywood Reporter, and he and I worked together there when I was editor of the trade paper in the 1970s. I told Bob he was “the most reliable columnist we ever had, plus a true professional and a gentleman.” During his stint at the Reporter, Bob did reviews on many future classics and wrote film location articles. The man knows and loves Hollywood, and vice versa.

The interview with Baldwin will be followed by a night of four special films selected by Osborne, who has introduced thousands of great movies during his tenure at the Turner network. Bob’s four favorite films are The Third Man, Libeled Lady, Love Letters and The Band Wagon.

Osborne’s life story reads like a classic Hollywood story—small town boy from Colfax, Washington, who loved movies, and followed his passion to Hollywood. At first he wanted to be an actor, and racked up some credits in commercials, movies, soap operas and other TV shows. He had a role in the first episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, and later got a contract at Desilu Studios where he was befriended by Lucille Ball. It was Lucy who suggested he become a writer and do books about Hollywood history. Vintage stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era also became his friend. A big moment in his life was when Olivia de Havilland asked him to escort her to Bette Davis’ AFI tribute.

He is filled with great Hollywood stories and it was fate that Bob and Turner Classic Movies should form a bond from the network’s start in 1994. Hosting TMC seemed like a career custom-made for the man who had the knowledge, the personality, and the looks for the job.

“Ever since TCM launched, Robert Osborne has been the face of the network and its passionate, driving force,” said Charlie Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM. “Private Screenings: Robert Osborne is a perfect chance for viewers to get to get to know Robert and learn the story behind his fascinating career. As TCM celebrates its 20th anniversary, we are proud to take this opportunity to honor the man who has done so much to bring classic films to life for generations of movie lovers.”

As TCM expanded, so did Osborne’s duties. He also hosts TCM’s The Essentials weekly showcase with Drew Barrymore, plus he is the official host of the Classic Film Festival, held in Hollywood each spring. And he’s in charge of the TCM Classic Cruise now in its third season.

Over the years he has written a series of books about the Academy Awards. And in recognition of his contribution to the appreciations of classic films, Bob got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.

The Private Screenings special is filled with great personal stories. We see rare clips with stars such as Betty Hutton, Robert Mitchum, Ernest Borgnine, and others who became close friends—Lucille Ball, Natalie Wood, Dorothy Lamour, Eva Marie Saint, Jane Powell, Barbara Rush, Liza Minnelli, Robert Wagner, Tina and Nancy Sinatra, and so many more who praise Osborne. And I would like to add my personal congratulations to my friend Bob Osborne, the keeper of the flame for great classic films.