TCMFF: Robert Osborne

On the day before the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival [TCMFF] officially started, the bloggers (and probably some traditional media too) gathered in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel, aka Club TCM. I barely kept it together when Robert Osborne strolled in. I confess I’m a little in awe of him.

Photo by me.

[Osborne, on the other hand, is unflappable. On Sunday, confronted with boos and hisses at Grauman’s (he was talking about new owner TCL’s imminent IMAX conversion), he responded, “Don’t throw anything. Well, if you do, throw a Porsche.” As Porsche was a sponsor at the Festival, Osborne got to drive one all weekend and had just told us he really enjoyed it. Maybe you had to be there.]

Many others have covered this media call so I will relay what I thought was most interesting:

He didn’t know when he took the hosting job with TCM that he would be helping people to heal from illness or get through unemployment, or running a film course. I and many others can attest that he does both.
Osborne wasn’t very enthused about the TCM Cruise in the beginning but “it’s so much fun now.” The people on the cruises sort themselves out by favorite star: “You go into a room, ‘OK now the Bogart people are going to be here at 5 o’clock, the Cagneys are going to be in Studio B at 4:30, the Stanwyck people…’ ”

Poster - Libeled Lady_lowresOn the studio system & the Production Code: “For a long time, the studio system got so smacked down, and even people who were around at the time and had complained about it realize now that it was a great system…it worked very well. I also think that some of the best movies were great because there was a censorship thing….I don’t think the screen’s been improved by the fact that you can do or say anything you want onscreen that you want to say, because it’s now I think in the hands of people that don’t have any taste, and don’t know where the line should be….The [1946] Postman Always Rings Twice is much sexier than the one that was made [in 1981]. They’re doing it right on the kitchen table, and it’s not nearly so interesting. There were certainly bad things about the studio system and bad things about censorship, but there were good things that came out of it. I don’t think there’s anything like wit on film anymore. You see movies from the ’30s and ’40s, like Woman of the Year or Libeled Lady — they didn’t hammer you over the head with the comedy, there were no bodily fluid jokes like we have today. Having a cap on some of that stuff so that people had to sneak around it made it a little more clever.”
He’s philosophical about the Grauman’s conversion, possibly because he’s co-owner of the only movie theatre in Port Townsend, Washington State. They recently upgraded to digital projection. “[Digital] is going to put a lot of small-town theatres out of business. So I’m for anything that’s going to restore theatres or make them more relevant. It’s very sad, because people love to go to the movies, and it’s going to be cut out for a lot of people….we did raise the money in Port Townsend, but only because of the kind of town it is.”
Cher was super-professional during her filming for April’s Friday Night Spotlights. Osborne quipped, “No diva at all. It was a little disappointing actually.” They are both Tauruses, though Cher is on the cusp. I’m just saying.

Osborne interviews Ann Blyth on Saturday, April 27.
Osborne interviews Ann Blyth on Saturday, April 27. Photo courtesy of TCM.

He was looking forward to Funny Girl, The Razor’s Edge, Cluny Brown, and Desert Song at TCMFF; and particularly to talking to Ann Blyth: “You can’t believe she’s in her 80s, and she’s so nice. I want to talk to her about how, when she was so effective as a mean daughter [Vida in Mildred Pierce], that you hated so much, why that never affected her career, and why she was never cast in a part like that again. She was able to not be typecast and that amazes me.”
The “bosses at TCM” were surprised that younger people get into the channel [!!!] but Osborne wasn’t because they stop him on the street. He believes they will pass their love for classic movies on to their children, as so often their families did for them, and “hopefully it will go on forever, and hopefully you will all go on forever.” The feeling is mutual, Mr. Osborne.

I’ll have more from TCMFF soon.