Robert Osborne, the host of Turner Classic Movies’ primetime block since the network’s debut in 1994, died of natural causes in his New York home on Monday at the age of 84.
Before joining the channel 23 years ago, Osborne was a chronicler of Hollywood cinema who penned the authoritative 1978 book 50 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards and periodically updated the work.
Osborne broke into Hollywood on sitcoms such as The Beverly Hillbillies and worked with Lucille Ball on The Desilu Revue. However, he didn’t really begin chronicling Hollywood until joining The Hollywood Reporter in 1977, where he wrote the “Rambling Reporter” column from 1982-2009.
During his time with TCM, Osborne interviewed actors such as Angela Lansbury, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Mitchum, and co-hosted the TCM “Essentials” series with the likes of Carrie Fisher, Alec Baldwin and Drew Barrymore. He hosted the TCM Classic Film Festival from 2010-2014 and even helped sponsor a nonprofit film festival in his name at the University of Georgia.
Osborne lived in New York but would fly to Atlanta to shoot his TCM appearances for the network. Now the entire arrangement is something of an outlier, as other channels have moved away from having hosts give anecdotes and info about the films before they start.
From a living-room set, Osborne would introduce himself with the simple, “Hi, I’m Robert Osborne,” before dishing on the movie in question. “You feel like it’s not just a guy up there reading copy that people prepared for him to read,” film critic Richard Schickel told The Washington Post in 2005.
In the same piece, Osborne reaffirmed his love with film that had carried him for most of his life. “All I ever wanted to do was go to movies,” Osborne said. And from the homey set of TCM, Osborne got to do just that.
Find TCM’s video tribute and official statement on Osborne’s passing below.