Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Robert Osborne (1932-2017)

Growing up in a small town, being a film fan wasn't a natural endeavor to take.  I had parents that liked movies, of course-I don't think I would have gotten here entirely by myself-but it wasn't something that they encouraged in the same way that we were a "family who reads," and they certainly weren't experts on the subject.  No, it was outlets like almanacs or the Academy Awards or the AFI that served as ways for me to branch out into the world of cinema without a guide, save perhaps for one man: Robert Osborne.  The man who spent decades introducing classic cinema to a generation of film fans died yesterday at the age of 84.

I don't know if I can put into words what Osborne meant to me.  When I heard the news on Twitter, I could feel tears welling in my eyes and had to step into the bathroom for a moment to compose myself.  Osborne, a bit player in Desilu productions, mentored by Lucille Ball, was most famous for his work as a film ambassador for The Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies, giving brief snippets each night for so many years about a variety of Golden Age movies.  Few people felt like they actually loved and respected the movies as much as Osborne, and he handled interviews with the grace and care of an actual cinephile, not someone who was doing this just for a paycheck or who only loved the movies you're "supposed to love."

Osborne for many years was the only person in my life that talked about movies the way that I did, perhaps because I was always copying how he spoke.  No, I didn't know him, but the way he chatted about films and gave up nuggets about stars like Mitzi Gaynor and Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake-it felt like he was in your home, sharing a quick story before the lights rolled down and the movie began to play.  I wouldn't be the person I am today without Robert Osborne.  You certainly wouldn't be reading this blog if it weren't for him.  He shaped the way I think about the movies, as wonderful little odysseys from an era and a time, and for that I will be forever indebted to him.

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