Robert Jolin Osborne (/ˈɒzbɔːrn/; born May 3, 1932) is an American film historian and former actor best known as the primary host for Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Prior to TCM, Osborne had been a host on The Movie Channel.
Life and career
Born in the small town of Colfax, Washington, Osborne graduated from the University of Washington's School of Journalism. He began his career working as a contract actor for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball's Desilu Studios. There, Osborne became part of Lucille Ball's Desilu Workshop, 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" (as Jeff Taylor). Not thinking the show would be a success, he decided not to sign up for the series, instead deciding to focus on acting in television commercials.
Ball suggested that Osborne focus his energies on becoming a journalist, as he would often quip, "especially after she saw me act". After The Beverly Hillbillies, Osborne would focus more on writing and journalism. In 1965, Osborne had his first book published, Academy Awards Illustrated.
In 1977, Osborne began his long-standing stint as a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. The following year, he published 50 Golden Years of Oscar, which won the 1979 National Film Book award. Having joined the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, he was elected its president in 1981, a position he would be re-elected to for the next two years. In 1982, Osborne began a five-year stint as the entertainment reporter/critic on KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles. In addition, he began his Rambling Reporter column for The Hollywood Reporter, published five times weekly.
In 1984, Osborne began hosting for The Movie Channel, as well as winning the Publicists Guild of America 1984 Press Award. 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. Three years later, AMPAS commissioned him to write 60 Years of the Oscar.
In 1994, Ted Turner created Turner Classic Movies as a competitor to American Movie Classics (now known as AMC). Osborne was selected as the host of their nightly broadcasts. For TCM, in addition to hosting four primetime movies seven days a week, he has also been the host of special one-on-one "Private Screening" interviews featuring many familiar actors and directors. Beginning in 2006, Osborne has also co-hosted TCM's The Essentials. His co-hosts have been 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 currently Sally Field.
Osborne has also participated in events at the Paley Center for Media in New York City saluting the television careers of Lucille Ball and Cloris Leachman. He recently served as moderator at the Paley for an evening celebrating the 100th birthday of Academy Award-winning songwriter Johnny Mercer. Beginning in 2005, Osborne has hosted the annual Robert Osborne's Classic Film Festival in Athens, Georgia. The non-profit event is held by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. In 2010, Osborne hosted the very first TCM Classic Film Festival, and has participated in subsequent annual festivals.
In 2011, TCM announced that Osborne would be taking "a short break from his TCM hosting duties for minor surgery, followed by a vacation." Osborne did, however, continue to appear on Saturday nights hosting "The Essentials" with Alec Baldwin. In 2012, Osborne began to share some of his hosting duties with Ben Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz hosts primetime films two nights a week as well as many daytime events. Osborne stated that he will 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.”
Osborne resides in New York City.
Awards and honors
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.
- Academy Awards Illustrated (1965)
- Hollywood Legends: The Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo (1967)
- Academy Awards Oscar Annual (1971–1976)
- Best Actor Oscar Winners (1977)
- Best Picture Oscar Winners (1977)
- Best Actress Oscar Winners (1977)
- 50 Golden Years of Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (1978)
- 60 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (1988)
- 65 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (1993)
- 70 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (1998)
- 75 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (2003)
- 80 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (2008)
- 85 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (2013)
- “Foreword” – Picture Show: Classic Movie Posters from the TCM Archives by Dianna Edwards and Turner Classic Movies (2003)
- In the Picture: Production Stills from the TCM Archives by Robert Osborne, Alexa L. Foreman, Ruth A. Peltason, and Mark A. Vieira (2004)
- “Foreword” – Under the Rainbow: An Intimate Memoir of Judy Garland, Rock Hudson and My Life in Old Hollywood by John Carlyle (2006)
- “Foreword” – Leading Men: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors of the Studio Era by Turner Classic Movies (2006)
- “Foreword” – Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era by Turner Classic Movies (2006)
- “Introduction” – Leading Couples: The Most Unforgettable Screen Romances of the Studio Era by Turner Classic Movies (2008)