Private Screenings: Robert Osborne
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As the face of Turner Classic Movies, network host Robert Osborne has interviewed everyone from Debbie Reynolds and Mickey Rooney to producer Walter Mirisch and director Sidney Lumet as part of the network's original series of Private Screenings documentaries. Now, TCM turns the tables on Osborne, casting him as the subject of a very special Private Screenings. Emmy-winner Alec Baldwin, a friend of Osborne's and his co-host for three seasons of The Essentials, hosts this up close and personal look at the actor turned entertainment reporter. More than a tribute to one man, though, the special is a love letter to the classic movie experience.
Osborne has been TCM's primetime host since the network's launch in 1994. Even before then, however, his name was almost synonymous with classic film through his column in The Hollywood Reporter, his The Official History of the Academy Awards books and countless television appearances to talk about his favorite topic, Hollywood Golden Age. With his film history expertise and knack for getting unforgettable stories out of the screen legends he has interviewed, he is justly credited as one of the major reasons for TCM's ongoing success.
Private Screenings: Robert Osborne uses photographs from his personal collection, rare shots of his early acting work (including the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies and the daytime drama The Young Marrieds) and clips from his many appearances on TCM and other networks to capture his love of movies. Among the highlights are some of his favorite interviews from the Private Screenings series, including Betty Hutton opening up as never before because of her affection for Osborne, Robert Mitchum stone-walling his every question and Mickey Rooney getting carried away with anger as he describes being poorly treated by a director over 50 years ago. The special also includes tributes from some of the stars who have become his friends -- including Liza Minnelli, Jane Powell, Robert Wagner and Eva Marie Saint -- and the kind of banter between Osborne and Baldwin that made their appearances on The Essentials fan favorites.
Osborne grew up in Colfax, a small town in Washington, the son of a geography and history teacher. He fell in love with the movies early on, eventually working for both theatres in Colfax. His parents encouraged his interest in show business as long as he got an education that gave him something to fall back on, so he studied journalism in college, a choice that would help put him in the right place at the right time when TCM came along.
Luck is the one factor Osborne credits with his success. While serving in the Air Force in Seattle, he did little theatre at night. One of his roles was the lead in Night Must Fall with guest artist Jane Darwell. She encouraged him to come to Hollywood and even put him up in her guesthouse during his early years there. A visit to thank the producers and directors of a TV Western on which he had guested resulted in an interview with Lucille Ball and a contract with her Desilu Productions. Ball took a liking to the young actor and frequently invited him to her home, where she would screen her movies and TV episodes, all the while commenting on what had worked and what hadn't -- a rare chance to learn filmmaking from one of the industry's best. She also took him to the theatre and nightclubs, introducing him to such luminaries as Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich. It was Ball who convinced him to switch from acting to show business reporting, convinced his love of classic Hollywood would make him the perfect choice to write about the movie industry.
Osborne's luck continued, aided by his ability to connect with Hollywood legends like Olivia de Havilland and Dorothy Lamour. Through the former, he met one of the director's of Dinah Shore's popular talk show, which led to his first television appearances to discuss Hollywood. The latter invited him to a lunch with American Movie Channel executive Brad Siegel, who was so impressed with Osborne's expertise he invited him to sign on as daytime host for AMC. Before that could happen, however, Siegel moved to Turner Broadcasting to help launch TCM and hired Osborne as the network's primetime host.
TCM's peerless library of vintage MGM, Warner Bros. and RKO films has provided the perfect platform from which Osborne can share his love of old movies. To him, there is something magical about the way films from decades past can still move audiences today, whether on television, through home entertainment centers or through screenings like those he hosts for TCM around the country, on the TCM Movie Cruise and at the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood. In his own words, "These sections of time spliced together, running through a machine can have an effect on people that you're talking about it all these years later....That's the miracle of the movies. That that could last."
Cast: Alec Baldwin (Host), Robert Osborne, Robert Wagner, Jane Powell, Barbara Rush, Liza Minnelli, Dianne Baker, Mariette Hartley, Eva Marie Saint, Chita Rivera, Joel Grey, (Themselves)
By Frank Miller