Robert Osborne

TCMFF 2017, Day 1: From Osborne to Scorsese


April 6, 2017

Robert Osborne TCMFFNot long before the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival got underway,  fans of the channel were heartbroken to hear the news that long-time host Robert Osborne had passed away. Although Osborne wasn’t there in person this year, you couldn’t go anywhere without feeling his spirit. This year’s festival was officially dedicated to his memory and one of the first events this year was a panel all about him.

During this event, several TCM staffers, along with Osborne’s long-time friend Diane Baker, gathered to share their memories. It was an absolute delight to hear everyone’s stories about how they met him, the advice he’d given them, and what it was like to work with him. Many of the stories were touching, but one thing they made very clear is that Robert wouldn’t have wanted sad songs being played for him, so many of the stories were on a lighter, funnier note.

For example, out of all the big-name guests who appeared on the channel over the years, the one Osborne seemed to be most intimidated by was Judge Judy. He was a huge fan of her show and one of the TCM staffers talked about how if you called up to his apartment while the show was on, you would hear Judge Judy blaring in the background. And given how many film legends he knew and befriended over the years, you might not expect Osborne to be the type to be starstruck often. But when Jean-Paul Belmondo was at the festival a few years ago to introduce Breathless, Osborne was reportedly a bit giddy after meeting him for the first time.

It goes without saying that Robert Osborne was one of a kind. While there are lots of people who have a talent for on-air hosting and experience interviewing celebrity guests, Diane Baker said it best when she pointed out that what set him apart is that he genuinely cared about who these stars were as people.

Martin Scorsese

Not long after the Remembering Robert Osborne panel, there was a big announcement that changed my plans for the rest of the night. A nitrate print of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much had been part of the schedule from the get-go. There wasn’t a big-name guest to introduce it, but it was high on many peoples’ must-see lists because it was a nitrate print. However, since so many people seemed to be interested in The Man Who Knew Too Much, I was starting to lean more toward Requiem for a Heavyweight instead just to avoid the crowd. But then, I checked my phone and saw a notification announcing that Martin Scorsese would be introducing Man Who Knew Too Much and my whole plans for the night changed.

Martin Scorsese is my favorite living filmmaker and since he is such a strong advocate for film preservation, having the chance to see him at an event like this was really too much to resist. So not only did I decide to skip Requiem for a Heavyweight, I also decided to skip the documentary Dawson City: Frozen Time so I would have more time to line up for it. Dawson City had originally been at the top of my list of things I was most excited to see, but Scorsese was a game changer. This is a prime example of why one of the biggest pieces of advice I give to first-time festival attendees is to keep your options open. Because when your plan B involves getting to see someone like Martin Scorsese introduce a nitrate print of anything, you know you’re in a good place.

TCMFF Lee Grant Todd Fisher Dick Cavett

Lee Grant, Todd Fisher, and Dick Cavett

TCMFF Ruta Lee Keir Dullea Beau Bridges

Ruta Lee, Keir Dullea, and Beau Bridges

Before The Man Who Knew Too Much, I spent some time watching red carpet arrivals for the gala screening of In the Heat of the Night, which is always a lot of fun. The red carpet is always a way to see a lot of the festival’s special guests all in once place so you get to see a lot of people you wouldn’t get to see otherwise. In this case, it gave me a chance to see Lee Grant, Todd Fisher, Keir Dullea, John Landis, Beau Bridges, and Ruta Lee, which was great since I wasn’t able to see them at any of their events.

Peter Lorre The Man Who Knew Too MuchAfter the red carpet, I grabbed some dinner and got in line at the Egyptian theater for The Man Who Knew Too Much. Scorsese’s introduction was everything I’d hoped it would be. As he walked out to the podium, you could tell he was delighted to be there. Every single person who was there that night cares about film history and was excited to have the opportunity to see nitrate, so we were definitely his kind of crowd. “I’m sure you all already know about nitrate, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway just because I like talking about it,” he told the crowd. He then went on to not only tell us about the print of The Man Who Knew Too Much we were about to see, he talked a little bit about each of the nitrate prints being shown at the festival, such as where they came from or where he’d seen screenings of them in the past.

The print of The Man Who Knew Too Much we saw was originally part of David O. Selznick’s personal collection. Not only was the print itself in impeccable condition, the added shine that nitrate gives was the icing on the cake. It was my first time seeing this version of The Man Who Knew Too Much; I’d seen the 1956 Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day version several times before. On the whole, I preferred the 1954 version if only because of its unforgettable Albert Hall sequence. But I loved that in the end, it’s Edna Best’s character who takes charge of the situation and saves the day.

By the end of the day, it was clear that this was going to be an exceptionally great TCM Classic Film Festival.

TCMFF 2014, Day 1– Press Day

Thursday, April 10, 2014:

Robert Osborne at Press Day, TCMFF 2014

The 2014 Turner Classic Movie Classic Film Festival officially got underway on Thursday, April 10.  For those of us attending with media credentials, the day started with the chance to attend press conferences with TCM’s Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, Senior Vice President of Programming Charles Tabesh, and Managing Director Genevieve McGillicuddy.

The biggest revelation from Robert Osborne’s conference was about Olivia de Havilland.  There has been much speculation lately that Olivia would be doing a Private Screenings interview and would possibly be making an appearance at this year’s festival.  The Private Screenings interview rumors were true, but unfortunately, it did not end up happening. Olivia agreed to do the Private Screenings interview and since she lives in France, Robert Osborne and the TCM crew flew out there to film it.  But when they got there, Olivia was in the hospital. Olivia felt awful about not being able to do the interview and offered to fly to New York to film it there instead, but once again, health problems stood in the way.  As for her coming to the festival, she simply cannot handle traveling that far anymore. According to Robert, the last time she traveled to California to visit her family, it took her a year to fully recover from it.

Although many people might expect a classic film festival to be mostly full of people wanting to revisit movies from their youth, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  66% of TCM’s viewers are 18-44 years old and about half of festival attendees are under 30.  Robert Osborne stated that when he got started with TCM twenty years ago, he thought it was going to be a nostalgia channel, but he’s thrilled that younger people have embraced it so strongly.  In fact, Charles Tabesh said one thing he would really like to do in the future is have a series of child guest programmers.  (Personally, I hope that works out because that could be really fascinating.)

Ben Mankiewicz, Press Day TCMFF 2014

There has long been concern among some TCM viewers that TCM will start showing more and more modern movies in hopes of luring in younger audiences. Robert, Ben, Charles, and Genevieve were all very adamant that the TCM we all know and love will not be changing.  There’s no need for them to actively court young viewers when they already have young viewers.  TCM just celebrated its 20th anniversary and Ben made it clear that when TCM celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2034, it will not be playing a bunch of movies from 2004.

One interesting thing Robert Osborne said is that he never expected his job description to include being a nurse.  He and Ben both said they are most moved by hearing fans tell them about how Turner Classic Movies helped them cope with periods of unemployment, illnesses, and other difficult times in their lives. Ben elaborated that the personal connection many fans have with TCM is completely unique.  Although he enjoys watching things on ESPN and HBO, he does not have the attachment to those networks the way people do with TCM.

Welcome Back, Robert!

In  case you haven’t already heard, Robert Osborne will be returning to TCM on December 1st!  I know I’m eagerly awaiting his return!  The name of the network may be Turner Classic Movies, but it might as well be Osborne Classic Movies because it just isn’t the same without him.  There have been many great guest hosts in his absence, but it sure will be nice to hear, “Hi, I’m Robert Osborne…” coming from my television once again.

If you’d like to join the Internet party welcoming Robert Osborne back to TCM, feel free to join in on the Welcome Back, Bob! Tumblr.