Robert Osborne on TCM's 20th Anniversary
Further good news: as we approach our 21st year, many exciting plans and surprises are in the works for the days, weeks, months ahead. Looking back, it's been quite a wild ride since April 14, 1994, when Ted Turner stood on a podium on an island in the middle of New York's Times Square and threw a switch that launched the channel nationwide.
The first movie shown? Gone With the Wind, Ted Turner's favorite movie, which for sentimental reasons will also be our 20th anniversary attraction this April 14. On the podium with TT that day in 1994 was a mix of classic film stars (Van Johnson, Jane Powell, Celeste Holm, Arlene Dahl), also the then-president of Hollywood's Motion Picture Academy Arthur Hiller and yours truly, knees shaking. It was the year Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, when Bill Clinton was in his second year as the 42nd president of the U.S., when Friends made its debut on television, and the current movies in theaters included Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction and Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was two months after our launch that the world watched O.J. Simpson in the famous/ infamous low-speed car chase on the L.A. freeways, and a year in which major earthquakes jolted and damaged both Los Angeles and Japan.
Curiously, for the first five years TCM was on the air, no cable company carried it in Atlanta, where TCM was and is still home-based. That meant 99 percent of the people working on the channel had no way to see the results of their daily efforts for those 60 or so months, frustrating for all....
Meanwhile, I'm hardpressed in 2014 to name the moments I've most enjoyed during the past 20 years, because there have been so many. One, however, would be near the top of the list: Kermit the Frog as a Guest Programmer in 2007, especially when he pretended to be the Hunchback of Notre Dame, hunch and all, asking for "Sanctuary...sanctuary." I was less enamored with one G.P. celeb (male) who couldn't disguise the fact he hadn't seen the movies he'd chosen, thus throwing an awkward wrench into his appearance-- one reason why almost all of our Guest Programmers are now celebs who let us know they are keen on classic movies, rather than our making the first overture.
Also very high on my list of unforgettables would be the 2000 "Private Screenings" interview with dear, adorable, kind, needy, complicated Betty Hutton; and in 2012, beautiful Kim Novak letting us into parts of her life she'd never talked about before. Nor will I ever forget meeting Jean-Paul Belmondo, Peter O'Toole and Cher for the first time at our TCM Classic Film Festivals in Hollywood, and the list goes on.
And, I'm happy to say, so does Turner Classic Movies. Thanks again to you for celebrating Birthday No. XX with us, and we hope you'll want to stay close at hand for (at the very least) the next 20 as well.
by Robert Osborne