By Jarrod Jones. It is with a heavy heart that I report Robert Osborne, film historian, gentleman, and host of Turner Classic Movies for 23 years, has died at the age of 84.
Osborne studied Journalism at the University of Washington, and went on to briefly follow his passion for performance by joining the Desilu Workshop as a contract actor for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. After a few television appearances, Ball famously suggested that Osborne put his energy into journalism once more (“especially after she saw me act,” Osborne would say). In 1965, he would publish his first book about film, Academy Awards Illustrated.
Following Ball’s advice, Osborne became a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, joining the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (where he became president in 1981) and later becoming the entertainment reporter for KTTV Channel 11 in L.A. It was here where Osborne’s potency as a screen presence began to solidify.
In 1994 Osborne was tapped as the host of Ted Turner’s Turner Classic Movies, a position he would hold for 23 years. Including his iconic (and decidedly effusive) opening and closing monologues about the trivia and gossip that permeated the classic studio paradigm, Osborne hosted “Private Screenings”, interviewing the likes of Patricia Neal, Charlton Heston, Angela Lansbury, Jane Fonda, Lauren Bacall, and far too many more to list here. He also hosted “The Essentials”, spotlighting the very best in classic cinema, which he hosted alongside Molly Haskell (from 2006 to 2007), Carrie Fisher (from 2007 to 2008), Rose McGowan (from 2008 to 2009), Alec Baldwin from (2009 to 2011), Drew Barrymore (2012 to 2015) and finally, Sally Field.
In 2011, Osborne took his first prolonged sabbatical from hosting duties, following minor surgery. Those duties ultimately went to Ben Mankiewicz.
Osborne once said, “I was shaped by the heroes in the films I saw, which you always want to emulate and be like. I wanted to be like Alan Ladd, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart.” It’s no small wonder that he would have the same effect on me. Rest in peace, Mr. Osborne. The film community is a lesser thing without you.