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Robert Osborne, Historian and Turner Classic Movies Host, Dies at 84

Robert Osborne
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Lovers of classic film have lost one of their greatest champions. Robert Osborne, the longtime host of Turner Classic Movies, has passed away at the age of 84. Here is the statement on the news from TCM, via Twitter:

Osborne began his career in show business as a television actor before segueing into writing. He authored books like The Official History of the Academy Awards, and spent many years as a columnist at The Hollywood Reporter. After a stint at The Movie Channel, Osborne became the first host at Turner Classic Movies. When TCM launched in 1994, Osborne was on hand to set introduce the channel’s very first movie, Gone With the Wind. Osborne remained with TCM until his death. (You can read more about Osborne’s life and career at THR.)

When Turner Classic Movies first launched, there were many cable channels dedicated to movies, and quite a few specifically dedicated to older films. In 2017, most of the rest have gone away, added commercials, or shifted their programming so drastically into original series that they’re barely recognizable in their current form. Through all that time, TCM has remained dedicated to its mission. Osborne’s continuing presence was a welcome reminder of that for more than 20 years.

For over two decades, Osborne introduced hundreds (thousands?) of movies on TCM — and introduced thousands (millions?) of viewers to films they may never have seen otherwise. His intros were an impressive blend of history, trivia, and criticism, and helped make TCM an oasis of class and quality on cable TV. Back before the days of DVR, if I was going to watch something on TCM, I always made a point to flip channels early, so I could not only catch Osborne’s introduction, but also watch his outro to the previous movie as well.

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Though Osborne wielded an expert’s knowledge of film history, he never came off as an elitist snob. He never made viewers feel inferior just because they hadn’t seen Dark Victory before; he was always excited that they were were ready to watch Dark Victory now. He made old movies accessible, setting an inclusive tone and striking an inspiring example. It’s one I’ve tried to follow in my own work for many years, ever since I started watching TCM as a film student. I never met the man, but he taught me a lot about film and how to talk about film.

TCM has several other fine hosts, but it will never be the same without Robert Osborne. He will be dearly missed.

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