Robert Osborne

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Robert Osborne
Robert Osborne at the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards.jpg
At the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, 2014
Robert Jolin Osborne

(1932-05-03)May 3, 1932
DiedMarch 6, 2017(2017-03-06) (aged 84)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Washington
  • Film historian
  • television presenter
  • author
  • actor
Years active1958–2016
PartnerDavid Staller

Robert Jolin Osborne (/ˈɒzbɔːrn/; May 3, 1932 – March 6, 2017)[1][2] was an American film historian, television presenter, author, actor and the primary host for more than 20 years of the cable channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Prior to hosting at TCM, Osborne had been a host on The Movie Channel,[3] and earlier, a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. Osborne wrote the official history of the Academy Awards, originally published in 1988.[4]

Early life[edit]

Osborne was born on May 3, 1932, in the small town of Colfax, Washington, where he was raised. His parents were Robert Eugene Osborne, a public school teacher, and Hazel Ida (née Jolin).[5] Osborne graduated from the University of Washington School of Journalism in 1954.[6]

After graduation, Osborne served two years in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Seattle, where he began acting in local theater in his spare time. At the suggestion of Oscar-winning actress Jane Darwell, with whom he appeared in a play, he headed to Hollywood after completing his military service in the late ’50s.[7]



Osborne began his career working as a contract actor for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball's Desilu Studios.[5] There, Osborne became part of Lucille Ball's Desilu Workshop,[8] in which Ball worked with and nurtured such young performers as Osborne and actress-singer Carole Cook.

One of Osborne's early television appearances was in a 1959 episode of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse called "Chain of Command", starring Hugh O'Brian. He was also featured in the Christmas Day Desilu Playhouse installment "The Desilu Revue" in December 1959. He also had small roles in such TV shows as The Californians and the 1962 pilot episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, "The Clampetts Strike Oil" (in the role of Jeff Taylor). He refrained from signing on for the series, however, thinking the show would not be a success, and instead concentrated on acting in television commercials.[9]

Ball suggested that Osborne focus his energies on becoming a journalist, as he would often quip, "especially after she saw me act".[10] After The Beverly Hillbillies, Osborne worked on writing and journalism. In 1965, Osborne had his first book published, Academy Awards Illustrated.[11]


In 1977, Osborne began a long-standing stint as a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter.[12] The following year, he published 50 Golden Years of Oscar, which won the 1979 National Film Book award.[13] Having joined the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, he was elected its president in 1981, and served as such till 1983.[14][15] In 1982, Osborne began a five-year stint as the entertainment reporter on KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles.[15] In addition, he began his Rambling Reporter column for The Hollywood Reporter, published five times weekly.[15]

In 1984, Osborne began hosting for The Movie Channel,[16][17] as well as winning the Publicists Guild of America 1984 Press Award.[18] The following year, he began a relationship with Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), when he hosted a tribute to Shirley Temple at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. In 1988, AMPAS commissioned him to write 60 Years of the Oscar; he later wrote five updates to the volume, the latest being 85 Years of the Oscar in 2013.[3][4]

Turner Classic Movies[edit]

Robert Osborne in 2007

In 1994, Ted Turner created Turner Classic Movies as a competitor to American Movie Classics (now known as AMC).[19][20] Osborne was selected as the host of their nightly broadcasts.[9] For TCM, in addition to hosting four primetime movies seven days a week, he was also the host of special one-on-one "Private Screening" interviews featuring many familiar actors and directors. Beginning in 2006, Osborne also co-hosted TCM's The Essentials. His co-hosts were 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 and finally Sally Field.[21]

Osborne also participated in events at the Paley Center for Media in New York City saluting the television careers of Lucille Ball and Cloris Leachman.

From 2005 to 2010, Osborne hosted the annual "Robert Osborne's Classic Film Festival"[22] in Athens, Georgia.[23] The nonprofit event was held by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.[23]

In 2010, Osborne hosted the first TCM Classic Film Festival, and participated in subsequent annual festivals.[12]

In 2011, Osborne became ill and TCM announced that Osborne would be taking "a short break from his TCM hosting duties for minor surgery, followed by a vacation." Osborne continued to appear on Saturday nights, hosting The Essentials with Alec Baldwin.[24] In 2012, Osborne began to share some of his hosting duties with Ben Mankiewicz.[25][26] Mankiewicz hosted primetime films two nights a week, as well as many daytime events.[27] Osborne stated that he would continue to work "as long as I have health, and as long as I think I look O.K. on camera." He also said, "If I really couldn't do it with enthusiasm, that would be the time to quit."[28]

In 2013, Osborne presented the Honorary Academy Award to Dame Angela Lansbury at the Fifth Governors Awards.[29] Osborne introduced Lansbury by saying he thought it was "one of the best decisions the Academy has ever made". In Lansbury's acceptance speech, she made it known that she chose Osborne to present the Oscar to her, stating, "the one person who really knew about my early work was Robert Osborne". She also thanked Osborne and TCM, saying, "Thanks to Turner Classic Movies and Robert, those great films are shown and studied and discussed by students everywhere, as well as seen by a huge general audience, so thank you TCM and thank you Robert for keeping me alive all these years."[30]

In 2014, as part of an exclusive programming deal with Disney, TCM agreed to become the sponsor of The Great Movie Ride. The attraction underwent a refurbishment in 2015, with the addition of a new preshow and postshow hosted by Osborne, who also provides onboard narration to the ride.[31] The changes were unveiled on May 29, 2015.[32]

In 2015, nearing the end of his career, Turner Classic Movies hosted a surprise Special 20th Anniversary Tribute in his honor hosted by Alex Trebek. The special has since been rerun several times on TCM latenight.[citation needed]


Osborne retired in early 2016 due to ill health and missed a number of TCM annual events over the next year.[33][34] He died from natural causes at his New York City apartment in The Osborne on West 57th Street on March 6, 2017, at the age of 84.[11]

Reactions to his death included tributes from many in the entertainment industry. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences released a statement saying, "The affection he had for the Oscars and the Academy was wholeheartedly reciprocated, and we are grateful for his friendship and indelible contribution to film history and our community."[35] Others in the industry who mourned Osborne included Alec Baldwin, Eva Marie Saint, Liza Minnelli, Cher, Larry King, Leonard Maltin, Patricia Arquette, Bryan Cranston, and Patton Oswalt.[35]

On the day of Osborne's death, The Hollywood Reporter published a statement by Dame Angela Lansbury: "He was also the ultimate fan — and the ultimate friend — and our friendship will endure in my memory always".[36]

Personal life[edit]

Osborne moved to New York City in the late 1980s. During his lifetime, few details of his personal life were reported, but upon his death he was confirmed to have been in a 20-year relationship with David Staller, a New York City theater producer and director.[37][38]

Favorite films[edit]

In an interview in 2009, with the Screen Actors Guild Foundation,[39] Osborne stated his favorite films included:

Osborne also mentioned modern films he loved such as Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993), and The Departed (2006), as well as Christopher Guest's Best in Show (2000).


Year Title Role Notes
1960 Psycho Police Guard Uncredited
1960 Spartacus Guard Uncredited
1961 Twenty Plus Two Sailor with Dance Tickets Uncredited
1977 AFI Tribute to Bette Davis Self Television Special
1978 Dinah! Self 2 episodes
1980 The Man with Bogart's Face Reporter #4
1996-14 Private Screenings Host 28 episodes, TCM
2005-16 Guest Programmer Host 145 episodes, TCM
2006-12 The Essentials Host 105 Episodes, TCM
2015 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Himself Episode: Kimmy's in a Love Triangle!

Awards and honors[edit]

Osborne won the Publicists Guild of America 1984 Press Award. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Art University in 2005, and was awarded a star at Vine Street on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. In 2007, he received the National Board of Review's William K. Everson Award.[40]

In January 2016, Osborne was given the inaugural William Cameron Menzies Award from the Art Directors Guild, recognizing his 35 years as a film historian, columnist, and critic championing visual entertainment.

In March 2018, Turner Classic Movies announced the establishment of the Robert Osborne Award, to be presented at the annual TCM Classic Film Festival "to an individual whose work has helped keep the cultural heritage of classic films alive and thriving for generations to come." The inaugural recipient was film director Martin Scorsese for his work with The Film Foundation, which Scorsese helped found in 1990.[41]

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences honored Osborne by including him in their In Memoriam montage during the Oscars telecast.

The Robert Osborne Award[edit]

In 2018, the TCM Film Festival created the Robert Osborne Award.[42]

The winners included:

The Robert Osborne Collection[edit]

In 2021, the American Film Institute launched the Robert Osborne Collection. The online collection features a variety of Osborne’s famous film introductions on [43]



  • Academy Awards Illustrated. ESE California. 1965. ISBN 978-0912076041.
  • Hollywood Legends: The Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo. Marvin Miller. 1967. ASIN B0075MDDA0.
  • Academy Awards Oscar Annual. ESE California. 1971–1976.
  • Best Actor Oscar Winners Since 1927. ESE California. 1977. ISBN 978-0912076034.
  • Best Picture Oscar Winners Since 1927. ESE California. 1977. ISBN 978-0912076058.
  • Best Actress Oscar Winners. ESE California. 1977. ISBN 978-0912076027.
  • 50 Golden Years of Oscar. ESE California. 1978. ISBN 978-0912076300.
  • 60 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards. Equation. 1988. ISBN 978-1853361463.
  • Osborne, Robert; Foreman, Alexa L.; Peltason, Ruth A.; Vieira, Mark A. (2004). In the Picture: Production Stills from the TCM Archives. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811844161.




  1. ^ Sandomir, Richard (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies Host, Dies at 84". New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  2. ^ Barnes, Mike (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Beloved Host of Turner Classic Movies, Dies at 84". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  3. ^ a b King, Susan (November 4, 2013). "Robert Osborne: a classic gentleman". Los Angeles Times (online ed.). Retrieved March 6, 2017. Osborne's hosting gig on TCM has made him a superstar among classic film buffs.
  4. ^ a b Puente, Maria (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies host, dies at 84". USA Today (online ed.). Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Barnes, Mike (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Beloved Host of Turner Classic Movies, Dies at 84". The Hollywood Reporter (online ed.). Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  6. ^ "Face of TCM Robert Osborne ('54) inducted into Alumni Hall of Fame". University of Washington. September 24, 2015. Archived from the original on May 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  7. ^ McLellan, Dennis (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne dies at 84; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  8. ^ Karol, Michael (2004). Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia. iUniverse. p. 307. ISBN 9780595752133.
  9. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (August 14, 2005). "Turner's Classic Host Robert Osborne Brings Film Gems to Life on TCM". Washington Post.
  10. ^ "Robert O. Bio". Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Sandomir, Richard (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies Host, Dies at 85". The New York Times. p. A25. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Dagan, Carmel (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, TCM Host and Film Historian, Dies at 84". Variety. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  14. ^ Roberts, Jerry (2010). The Complete History of American Film Criticism. Santa Monica Press. p. 327. ISBN 9781595809438.
  15. ^ a b c McLellan, Dennis (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne dies at 84; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  16. ^ Bibbiani, William (March 6, 2017). "R.I.P. Robert Osborne, Host of Turner Classic Movies (1932–2017)". CraveOnline. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  17. ^ "Robert Osborne (1932 - 2017)". Legacy. March 7, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  18. ^ "Robert Osborne, TCM Host and Film Historian, Dies at 84". Cape Cod Times. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  19. ^ Mitchell, Kim; Granger, Rod (April 18, 1994). "Turner launches TCM". Multichannel News. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  20. ^ Grahnke, Lon (April 10, 1994). "Classic Films Find New Cable Outlet In Turner Empire". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  21. ^ "Robert Osborne Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  22. ^ "Robert Osborne's 2010 Classic Film Festival". September 23, 2010. Archived from the original on September 23, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  23. ^ a b "Film Festival overview". September 25, 2010. Archived from the original on September 25, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  24. ^ Lumenick, Lou (July 11, 2011). "Robert Osborne taking leave from TCM". New York Post.
  25. ^ Bobbin, Jay (July 5, 2012). "Turner Classic Movies' Ben Mankiewicz: 'It is a big responsibility' hosting the channel". Zap2it. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  26. ^ Lumenic, Lou (October 1, 2012). "New movie maven". New York Post.
  27. ^ Mckinely, Will (October 1, 2012). "Robert Osborne Taking Time Off from Turner Classic Movies".
  28. ^ "Robert Osborne is the face of TCM". The New York Times. November 23, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  29. ^ "2013 Governors Awards". March 14, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  30. ^ "Robert Osborne dies at 84". The Gay Star News. March 7, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  31. ^ Elliot, Stuart (November 25, 2014). "Disney Pairs Up With Turner to Promote TCM and Great Movie Ride". The New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  32. ^ Pedicini, Sandra (May 29, 2015). "New version of Great Movie Ride unveiled at Disney's Hollywood Studios". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  33. ^ Barnes, Mike (June 26, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Beloved Host of Turner Classic Movies, Dies at 85". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  34. ^ McLellan, Dennis (June 26, 2017). "Robert Osborne dies at 85; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies". Los Angeles Times.
  35. ^ a b "Robert Osborne dies, Hollywood reacts to TCM host death". Deadline. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  36. ^ "Angela Lansbury remembers Robert Osborne". The Hollywood Reporter. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  37. ^ Ring, Trudy (March 6, 2017). "TCM Host Robert Osborne Dead at 84". The Advocate. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  38. ^ "TCM host Robert Osborne Dead 84, Survived by Same Sex Partner". The Advocate. March 14, 2020.
  39. ^ "Conversations with Robert Osborne". Youtube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  40. ^ "2007 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  41. ^ Announcement of the inaugural Robert Osborne Award. Retrieved March 13, 2018
  42. ^ "Kevin Brownlow To Receive Robert Osborne Award At TCM Classic Film Festival". Deadline. February 21, 2019. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  43. ^ "AFI Launches Virtual Gallery of Robert Osborne's TCM Intros (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. April 30, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2021.

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