Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My memories of Robert Osborne (1932-2017)

Robert Osborne at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

I don’t think there was a nicer guy on the planet than Robert Osborne. He was a true gentleman. The world lost someone truly special when the long time host of TCM passed away yesterday. He had been missing from the channel for quite a while and many of us suspected the worst. When the news hit yesterday that he was gone my heart broke. I knew it was coming and probably soon but nothing can really prepare you for the loss of someone who meant so much.

When I first started exploring the world of classic film, Robert Osborne became my teacher and guide. I watched his intros and outros with fervent curiousity and admiration. Thanks to his infectious enthusiasm for classic movies, it wasn’t long before I was hooked.. Osborne had a true love for movies, their history and the people who made them. He was inclusive, understanding, gentle and compassionate. I saw this firsthand when I attended the 2013 and 2014 TCM Classic Film Festivals. For as much as he loved movies, he loved us fans too. Robert Osborne was one-of-a-kind. We’ll never have anyone quite like him.

In honor of the great Robert Osborne I wanted to share some of my favorite memories from seeing him at two of the TCM festivals.

Note: All of the photos shared in the post are my own unless noted otherwise.

Robert Osborne at the 2013 TCMFF Press Conference

1. The first time I saw Robert Osborne -  The 2013 TCMFF press conference was just about to start and I couldn't believe that in a few moments I'd be seeing Robert Osborne, THE Robert Osborne, in person. It had been a dream of mine for years and it was finally happening. What would he be like? Would he be totally different from his on screen persona? Finally I spotted him. Tall, elegantly dressed. He looked ready for the camera. And his presence filled the room. I stared at him in awe. He was larger than life and had a way of making us feel like we belonged there with him. I hung on to his every word. I'd see him numerous times afterwards but I'll never forget that first glimpse.

Ann Blyth and Robert Osborne at the 2013 TCMFF

2. Robert Osborne's interview with actress Ann Blyth - I loved attending the TCMFF interviews held in the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel lobby. These were great moments to see the talent up close. My favorite of these was Osborne's interview with Ann Blyth. Two of my favorite people were only a few feet away from me I couldn't believe it.  Osborne had a way of making his interview subjects feel at ease. You can tell he had a real admiration for Blyth's talent and beauty. He later interviewed her at a screening of Mildred Pierce and that moment was special for me too.


Eva Marie Saint and Robert Osborne pose for pictures at 2013 TCMFF

3. Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival taping with Eva Marie Saint - Not realizing how far away from the main hub of the festival this taping was being held, we hoofed it and barely made it in. We got stuck with nosebleed seats and I was nursing some bad blisters. But I'd do it all over again for the opportunity to watch Robert Osborne interview his good friend Eva Marie Saint. Saint had a love for Osborne and it was evident in their conversation. She said first there was her husband and then there was Osborne. This interview is on the Conversations with Robert Osborne DVD.


TCMFF goers observe the interior of the Grauman's Chinese before it's remodel, circa 2013.

4. On the eve of the TCL/Grauman's Chinese Theatre remodel - The final screening of the 2013 TCMFF festival was held at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre (now the TCL Chinese). The movie was The General (1926) and Osborne was on hand introduced the final big film of the festival. This wasn't going to be any ordinary introduction. Robert Osborne informed the audience that we were attending the second to last event at the theatre before it would be remodeled for IMAX. The theatre was just as it had been since 1926 and he told us to take a moment to look around and take it all in. After the screening was over we all took Osborne's advice. For a few minutes we stood, looked every which way around us and took pictures. It was a bittersweet moment.


Robert Osborne at the 2014 TCMFF Press Conference

5. Robert Osborne's final TCMFF press conference - Robert Osborne held his final TCMFF press conference in 2014 and I was in attendance. I'm grateful for this conference in particular because we got to spend a lot of time listening to Osborne tell us some of his amazing stories. He spoke about how Jane Darwell and Lucille Ball helped him get his start, about his special friendship with Olivia de Havilland and their weekly phone calls and about his excitement for Maureen O'Hara attending that year's festival. Osborne also spoke at length about his favorite movies and how TCM has helped many people get through tough times. You can read my full transcript of Osborne's Q&A here. I feel privileged to have been part of a small group of people who got to hear him speak at this conference.


Robert Osborne and Kim Novak at the 2014 TCMFF

6. Robert Osborne's interview with Kim Novak - I attended a screening of Bell Book and Candle (1958) not expecting the emotionally charged interview that would kick off the event. This happened not too long after Novak's appearance at the Oscars. She had been nervous and took some medication to calm her down which had the ill effect of making her look flighty on stage. She suffered a lot of criticism for her awkwardness and her physical appearance. As Novak recounted the events of that night and its aftermath, Osborne held her hand. You could tell that Novak spoke from deep pain and Osborne was there to comfort her. This really moved me. I knew Novak was in good hands with Osborne by her side and with us as a supportive audience.


Robert Osborne with Maureen O'Hara at the 2014 TCMFF




7. Robert Osborne's interviews with Maureen O'Hara - I consider myself beyond lucky to have seen Robert Osborne interview Maureen O'Hara on two separate occasions. The screening of How Green Was My Valley (1941) was tops for me and some of us got in line a couple hours early to guarantee entrance and a good spot. O'Hara was quite old at that point and had some difficulty with the interview. Osborne was a true gentleman. He was patient and supportive of O'Hara and had this look of admiration that echoed what so many of us felt at that time. There was another interview with O'Hara, a surprise bonus for many of us, at the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt. I was at that one too. It hurts to realize that both of these wonderful people are now gone and only the memories remain.


Meeting Robert Osborne in 2014. Photo by Laura.

8. Conversations with Robert Osborne DVD signing - I had no clue that this would be both the only time I would speak with Robert Osborne but also the last time I would see him in person. If I had known that would be the case I would have spoken up more and told Osborne how I truly felt. Earlier in the festival I learned of an opportunity to meet Osborne. Attendees who purchased Conversations with Robert Osborne DVD at the gift shop could attend a special signing on the final day I went with my friend Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings. We were almost last in line and it took quite a while to get to the front. What took so long was Osborne taking the time to chat with attendees and pose for photos. We were told specifically that Osborne had a screening to get to so we could not keep him long and posing for photos was strictly prohibited. Laura and I came up with a plan. While she was getting her DVD signed I'd secretly take photos of them together and she would do the same for me. When I finally got to meet Robert Osborne I was so nervous. Even though his staff was in a rush to get him out of there, Osborne made it seem like he had all the time in the world for me. He asked me if I was enjoying the festival. I couldn't believe he was talking to me. I had spent years watching him on TV telling me everything I wanted to know about the movies I loved. Now here he was right in front of me. It was surreal moment.

And I got to take home a keepsake to treasure forever.

For Raquel. From Robert Osborne.

Thank you Mr. Osborne for the memories. You will be missed.

God speed Robert Osborne (1932-2017)

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