Robert Osborne
Osborne at the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards in 2014
Robert Jolin Osborne

(1932-05-03)May 3, 1932
DiedMarch 6, 2017(2017-03-06) (aged 84)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Washington
  • Film historian
  • television presenter
  • author
  • actor
Years active1958–2016
PartnerDavid Staller

Robert Jolin Osborne (/ˈɒzbɔːrn/; May 3, 1932 – March 6, 2017)[1][2] was an American film historian, television presenter, author, actor and the primary host for more than 20 years of the cable channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Prior to hosting at TCM, Osborne had been a host on The Movie Channel,[3] and earlier, a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. Osborne wrote the official history of the Academy Awards, published in 1988.[4]

Early life

Osborne was born on May 3, 1932, in Colfax, Washington. His parents were Robert Eugene Osborne, a public school teacher, and Hazel Ida (née Jolin).[5] Osborne graduated from the University of Washington School of Journalism in 1954.[6]

Osborne served two years in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Seattle, where he acted in local theater. After appearing in a play with Oscar-winning actress Jane Darwell, Osborne followed her suggestion and moved to Hollywood in the 1950s.[7]



Osborne began his career working as a contract actor for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball's Desilu Studios.[5] Osborne became part of Lucille Ball's Desilu Workshop.[8]

Osborne appeared in a 1959 episode of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse called "Chain of Command", starring Hugh O'Brian. He was featured in the Desilu Playhouse installment "The Desilu Revue" in 1959. He had roles in television shows The Californians and the pilot episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.[9]

Ball encouraged Osborne to focus on becoming a journalist.[10] In 1965, Osborne had his first book published, Academy Awards Illustrated.[11]


Osborne began working as a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter in 1977.[12] In 1978, he published 50 Golden Years of Oscar, which won the 1979 National Film Book award.[13] He served as president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association from 1981 to 1983.[14][15] Osborne worked as the entertainment reporter on KTTV in Los Angeles from 1982 until 1987.[15] He published the Rambling Reporter column for The Hollywood Reporter from 1982 to 2009.[15][16]

In 1984, Osborne began hosting for The Movie Channel. He won the 1984 Publicists Guild of America Press Award.[17][18] 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. In 1988, AMPAS commissioned him to write 60 Years of the Oscar. He wrote five updates to the volume, the latest being 85 Years of the Oscar in 2013.[3][4]

Turner Classic Movies

Osborne in 2007

In 1994, Ted Turner created Turner Classic Movies (TCM) as a competitor to American Movie Classics (AMC).[19][20] Osborne was selected as the host of its nightly broadcasts.[9] He hosted "Private Screening," featuring interviews with actors and directors. In 2006, Osborne began co-hosting The Essentials with Molly Haskell (2006 to 2007), Carrie Fisher (2007 to 2008), Rose McGowan (2008 to 2009), Alec Baldwin (2009 to 2011), Drew Barrymore and Sally Field.[21]

From 2005 to 2010, Osborne hosted the annual "Robert Osborne's Classic Film Festival," a nonprofit festival hosted by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.[22][23]

Osborne hosted the annual TCM Classic Film Festival from 2010 until 2014.[12]

Osborne continued 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.[24][25] Mankiewicz hosted primetime films two nights a week, as well as many daytime events.[26] Osborne stated that he would 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."[27]

In 2013, Osborne presented the Honorary Academy Award to Dame Angela Lansbury at the Fifth Governors Awards.[28] Osborne introduced Lansbury by saying he thought it was "one of the best decisions the Academy has ever made". In Lansbury's acceptance speech, she made it known that she chose Osborne to present the Oscar to her, stating, "the one person who really knew about my early work was Robert Osborne". She also thanked Osborne and TCM, saying, "Thanks to Turner Classic Movies and Robert, those great films are shown and studied and discussed by students everywhere, as well as seen by a huge general audience, so thank you TCM and thank you Robert for keeping me alive all these years."[29]

In 2014, as part of an exclusive programming deal with Disney, TCM agreed to become the sponsor of The Great Movie Ride. The attraction underwent a refurbishment in 2015, with the addition of a new preshow and postshow hosted by Osborne, who also provides onboard narration to the ride.[30] The changes were unveiled on May 29, 2015.[31]


Osborne retired in early 2016 due to ill health and missed a number of TCM annual events over the next year.[32][33] He died from natural causes at his New York City apartment in The Osborne on West 57th Street on March 6, 2017, at the age of 84.[11]

Reactions to his death included tributes from many in the entertainment industry. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement saying, "The affection he had for the Oscars and the Academy was wholeheartedly reciprocated, and we are grateful for his friendship and indelible contribution to film history and our community."[34] Others in the industry who mourned Osborne included Alec Baldwin, Eva Marie Saint, Liza Minnelli, Cher, Larry King, Leonard Maltin, Patricia Arquette, Bryan Cranston, and Patton Oswalt.[34]

On the day of Osborne's death, The Hollywood Reporter published a statement by Angela Lansbury: "He was also the ultimate fan — and the ultimate friend — and our friendship will endure in my memory always".[35]

Personal life

Osborne lived in New York City in the 1980s. He was in a 20-year relationship with David Staller, a New York City theater producer and director.[36]

Favorite films

In an interview in 2009, with the Screen Actors Guild Foundation,[37] Osborne stated his favorite films included:

Osborne also mentioned modern films he loved such as Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993), and The Departed (2006), as well as Christopher Guest's Best in Show (2000).


Year Title Role Notes
1960 Psycho Police Guard Uncredited
1960 Spartacus Guard Uncredited
1961 Twenty Plus Two Sailor with Dance Tickets Uncredited
1967 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Junior Executive Uncredited
1977 AFI Tribute to Bette Davis Self Television Special
1978 Dinah! Self 2 episodes
1980 The Man with Bogart's Face Reporter #4
1996-14 Private Screenings Host 28 episodes, TCM
2005-16 Guest Programmer Host 145 episodes, TCM
2006-12 The Essentials Host 105 Episodes, TCM
2005 Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law Himself Episode: "Turner Classic Birdman"
2015 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Himself Episode: "Kimmy's in a Love Triangle!"

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.[38]

In January 2016, Osborne was given the inaugural William Cameron Menzies Award from the Art Directors Guild, recognizing his 35 years as a film historian, columnist, and critic championing visual entertainment.

In March 2018, Turner Classic Movies announced the establishment of the Robert Osborne Award, to be presented at the annual TCM Classic Film Festival "to an individual whose work has helped keep the cultural heritage of classic films alive and thriving for generations to come." The inaugural recipient was film director Martin Scorsese for his work with The Film Foundation, which Scorsese helped found in 1990.[39]

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences honored Osborne by including him in their In Memoriam montage during the Oscars telecast.

The Robert Osborne Award

In 2018, the TCM Film Festival created the Robert Osborne Award.[40]

The winners include:

The Robert Osborne Collection

In 2021, the American Film Institute launched the Robert Osborne Collection. The online collection features a variety of Osborne’s famous film introductions on [41]

In popular culture

Osborne made several cameo appearances as himself including on the Cartoon Network animated series Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law where he introduced the 2005 episode "Turner Classic Birdman". Osborne also made a cameo appearance in the Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode "Kimmy's in a Love Triangle!" introducing the fictional 1938 film "Daddy's Boy!" on Turner Classic Movies.

Osborne was also spoofed on Saturday Night Live with Darrell Hammond portraying him in 2006 and Jason Sudeikis playing him in recurring sketches from 2010 to 2012.[42]






  1. ^ Sandomir, Richard (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies Host, Dies at 84". New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  2. ^ Barnes, Mike (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Beloved Host of Turner Classic Movies, Dies at 84". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  3. ^ a b King, Susan (November 4, 2013). "Robert Osborne: a classic gentleman". Los Angeles Times (online ed.). Retrieved March 6, 2017. Osborne's hosting gig on TCM has made him a superstar among classic film buffs.
  4. ^ a b Puente, Maria (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies host, dies at 84". USA Today (online ed.). Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Barnes, Mike (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Beloved Host of Turner Classic Movies, Dies at 84". The Hollywood Reporter (online ed.). Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  6. ^ "Face of TCM Robert Osborne ('54) inducted into Alumni Hall of Fame". University of Washington. September 24, 2015. Archived from the original on May 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  7. ^ McLellan, Dennis (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne dies at 84; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  8. ^ Karol, Michael (2004). Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia. iUniverse. p. 307. ISBN 9780595752133.
  9. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (August 14, 2005). "Turner's Classic Host Robert Osborne Brings Film Gems to Life on TCM". Washington Post.
  10. ^ "Robert O. Bio". Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Sandomir, Richard (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies Host, Dies at 85". The New York Times. p. A25. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Dagan, Carmel (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, TCM Host and Film Historian, Dies at 84". Variety. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  14. ^ Roberts, Jerry (2010). The Complete History of American Film Criticism. Santa Monica Press. p. 327. ISBN 9781595809438.
  15. ^ a b c McLellan, Dennis (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne dies at 84; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  16. ^ Dagan, Carmel (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, TCM Host and Film Historian, Dies at 84". Variety. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  17. ^ "Robert Osborne (1932 - 2017)". Legacy. March 7, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  18. ^ "Robert Osborne, TCM Host and Film Historian, Dies at 84". Cape Cod Times. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  19. ^ Mitchell, Kim; Granger, Rod (April 18, 1994). "Turner launches TCM". Multichannel News. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  20. ^ Grahnke, Lon (April 10, 1994). "Classic Films Find New Cable Outlet In Turner Empire". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  21. ^ "Robert Osborne Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  22. ^ "Film Festival overview". September 25, 2010. Archived from the original on September 25, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  23. ^ "Robert Osborne's 2010 Classic Film Festival". September 23, 2010. Archived from the original on September 23, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  24. ^ Bobbin, Jay (July 5, 2012). "Turner Classic Movies' Ben Mankiewicz: 'It is a big responsibility' hosting the channel". Zap2it. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  25. ^ Lumenic, Lou (October 1, 2012). "New movie maven". New York Post.
  26. ^ Mckinely, Will (October 1, 2012). "Robert Osborne Taking Time Off from Turner Classic Movies".
  27. ^ "Robert Osborne is the face of TCM". The New York Times. November 23, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  28. ^ "2013 Governors Awards". March 14, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  29. ^ "Robert Osborne dies at 84". The Gay Star News. March 7, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  30. ^ Elliot, Stuart (November 25, 2014). "Disney Pairs Up With Turner to Promote TCM and Great Movie Ride". The New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  31. ^ Pedicini, Sandra (May 29, 2015). "New version of Great Movie Ride unveiled at Disney's Hollywood Studios". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  32. ^ Barnes, Mike (June 26, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Beloved Host of Turner Classic Movies, Dies at 85". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  33. ^ McLellan, Dennis (June 26, 2017). "Robert Osborne dies at 85; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies". Los Angeles Times.
  34. ^ a b "Robert Osborne dies, Hollywood reacts to TCM host death". Deadline. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  35. ^ "Angela Lansbury remembers Robert Osborne". The Hollywood Reporter. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  36. ^ Ring, Trudy (March 6, 2017). "TCM Host Robert Osborne Dead at 84". The Advocate. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  37. ^ "Conversations with Robert Osborne". Youtube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  38. ^ "2007 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  39. ^ Announcement of the inaugural Robert Osborne Award. Retrieved March 13, 2018
  40. ^ "Kevin Brownlow To Receive Robert Osborne Award At TCM Classic Film Festival". Deadline. February 21, 2019. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  41. ^ "AFI Launches Virtual Gallery of Robert Osborne's TCM Intros (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. April 30, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
  42. ^ "The Wizard of Oz - Saturday Night Live". Youtube. Retrieved January 31, 2023.