Robert Osborne, 84, host on Turner Classic Movies

robert-osborne-2013-tcm.jpgOsborne in 2013. TCM.

Robert Osborne, the Rambling Reporter columnist for the old Hollywood Reporter who hosted the old films on Turner Classic Movies since the network began in 1984, died Monday in New York, where he lived. His partner, David Staller, said that Osborne died in his sleep of natural causes. He was 84. Osborne had missed the last two annual Turner Classic Movie Film Festivals here, citing health concerns.

Osborne came to Hollywood originally as an actor and signed to work for Lucille Ball at Desilu Productions. He got some small roles, starting as a stagecoach driver in a 1954 episode of "Death Valley Days on television, and parts in "Psycho" and in the 1962 pilot episode of TV hit "The Beverly Hillbillies." A film buff since at least college at the University of Washington, he wrote reference books on the history of the Academy Awards and became recognized as an expert. In 1977 he joined the Hollywood Reporter, writing first from LA before moving to New York, and keeping the gig until 2009. He also was the entertainment reporter for KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles and made regular appearances on the national "CBS Morning Program."

Osborne was hosting shows on The Movie Channel when, in 1984, Turner Classic Movies launched in Atlanta. He introduced the first movie, "Gone With the Wind," and remained as a host for the channel's films and interviews for the network’s Private Screenings series. From his colleagues at TCM:

His network mate on TCM, Ben Mankiewicz, wrote today for the Hollywood Reporter that while he never once shared the Atlanta set with Osborne, he felt as if he knew him because of the reverence the crew had for Osborne.

Let me express how those people felt about Robert: They adored him. And respected him. And looked out for him. To a person, they will tell you their lives are richer for the years they spent with Robert Osborne.

Robert was a big TV star, the signature face of a network unlike any other on television, a channel that actually forged an emotional bond with its audience. For a host in Robert’s position, developing an outsized sense of self worth, a big head, a TV ego, is not only a possibility, it’s practically par for the course. But ask any of those people for a story of Robert losing his composure, or dressing down a member of the crew, or behaving like a prima donna, and you’ll be met with silence. Robert was as you saw him — distinguished, funny, unfairly charming and smart as hell. In 14 years, the worst story I ever heard about Robert was that he thought take-out Chinese food was good for him “because of all the vegetables.”

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