By Veronica Dudo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- If you have ever tuned-in to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) over the past 19 years, you have most likely watched the always charming Robert Osborne talking about a classic film or movie star. For loyal fans, the 80 year old has become a household name and a very familiar face offering special insight on a time gone by but certainly not forgotten. From professional knowledge to personal stories and even candid interviews with the stars themselves, the genial Osborne has educated and entertained legions of classic movies fans.
Since its debut, TCM has aired “uncut and commercial-free” films from a vast library that spans several decades of cinema. The TV channel also airs celebrity interviews, short films, documentaries and original programming. A popular event each year is TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar. The annual tribute held during the month of February celebrates Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated movies—something Osborne knows quite a lot about. Since 1965, he has authored several books about the subject including most recently, 85 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards scheduled to hit shelves this fall.
His path to becoming an author began when he combined his love of movies with his talent for writing at the suggestion of TV icon Lucille Ball. The Colfax, Washington native moved to Hollywood after graduating from the University of Washington’s School of Journalism to pursue a career in acting.
“I think whatever ego demands I had that made me want to be an actor, are certainly being taken care of now,” Osborne says with a laugh, referring to his rock-star status as a host on TCM.
While under contract as an actor by Ball and Desi Arnaz at their Desilu Studios, Osborne was given advice from the comedienne to write a book.
Osborne shared that he asked Ball, “Why write a book? She said, ‘Because you love writing, you love research and if you write a book people will look at you differently because they’ll know you’re serious about it and you have the discipline to sit down and do it.’ So, I really listened to her because she was smart.”
Ball became his mentor and soon he found himself attending swanky Hollywood parities.
“You could go to a party if you were on that circuit and there would be Cary Grant; Henry Fonda with Shirley Fonda; and Bob Wagner and Natalie Wood—people like that and you could go over and talk to them,” he explained.
Osborne has many memories from that era which he still cherishes today, including meeting several legendary movies stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh and Judy Garland.
Eventually, Osborne went from meeting stars to interviewing them when he joined The Hollywood Reporter, in 1977. During his long association with the film trade publication he wrote entertainment pieces, reviewed movies along with Broadway plays; and from 1982-2009 wrote the paper’s daily column, “Rambling Reporter.” For five years, Osborne served as the official red carpet greeter for the Motion Picture Academy at the annual Oscar ceremony in Hollywood.
In addition to his hosting duties, Osborne also gets to interact with fans while keeping the memory of old Hollywood alive through interactive TCM events like the 10-City Road to Hollywood Tour; the TCM Cruise; and the TCM Classic Film Festival, held each spring in Hollywood.
Osborne’s journey to success has included actor, author, columnist, film historian and TV host. As for his marquee role on TCM, the charismatic classic film expert says he truly enjoys sharing his knowledge with viewers in a job that’s perfect for him, “I think this is what I was destined to do.”
Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Veronica-Dudo/193258274047563