Robert Osborne, Hollywood historian and host of Turner Classic Movies, has died at 84, according to the TV network.
In a statement, TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian said that Osborne’s “calming presence, gentlemanly style, encyclopedic knowledge of film history, fervent support for film preservation and highly personal interviewing style all combined to make him a truly world-class host.”
NPR film critic Bob Mondello also highlighted Osborne’s “encyclopedic” knowledge of film history.
Osborne “grew up before the Internet made film research easy — before there was even a book keeping track of Oscar winners,” Bob told our Newscast unit. “So he spent hours at his college library scribbling notes that eventually helped him write film reference books, fill a column for The Hollywood Reporter, and host decades of Turner Classic Movies.”
According to his biography, Osborne was born in a small town in Washington state and studied journalism before he headed to Hollywood, where Lucille Ball encouraged his writing career.
He had a brief acting career — his biography mentions the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies, and Bob Mondello notes uncredited bit parts in Psycho and Spartacus — but it was his work as a host and historian that earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He wrote the “Rambling Reporter” column in The Hollywood Reporter for more than 25 years, and wrote a series of official histories of the Academy Awards.
Osborne was the first host of Turner Classic Movies, when the network launched in 1994. He has been the face and voice of the network ever since, although he was eventually joined by two other hosts and had cut back on his duties in the last few years.
About a year ago, in an interview with Mo Rocca on CBS Sunday Morning, Osborne said he’d been training his whole life to host TCM — without imagining it would be an option. “I was preparing for my ideal job that didn’t exist,” he said.
He also told Rocca why he believed movies matter.
“I think we have to have dreams,” he said in the CBS interview. “We need a little Carmen Miranda with all her tutti frutti hats. And we need some Fred and Ginger dancing. We need Gene Kelly hanging off that lamppost. We need to be taken into a fantasy world, and not be afraid to go there occasionally.”