Robert Osborne

Robert Jolin Osborne (/ˈɒzbɔːrn/; May 3, 1932 – March 6, 2017)[1][2] was an American actor, film historian, television presenter, and author, best known for more than twenty years as the primary host of the cable channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Prior to TCM, Osborne had been a host on The Movie Channel,[3] and, earlier, a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. Osborne also wrote the official history of the Academy Awards, originally published in 1988, and most recently revised in 2013.[4]

Robert Osborne
Osborne at the 2014 Peabody Awards
Robert Jolin Osborne

(1932-05-03)May 3, 1932
DiedMarch 6, 2017(2017-03-06) (aged 84)
Alma materUniversity of Washington
OccupationActor, film historian, television presenter, author
Years active1958–2016
Partner(s)David Staller

Early life

Osborne was born on May 3, 1932, in the small town of Colfax, Washington, where he was raised. His parents were Robert Eugene Osborne, a public school teacher, and Hazel Ida (née Jolin). His older sister was Joan Osborne Beck. He had three nieces.[5][6] Osborne graduated from the University of Washington School of Journalism in 1954.[7]


Osborne began his career working as a contract actor for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball's Desilu Studios.[6] There, Osborne became part of Lucille Ball's Desilu Workshop,[8] in which Ball worked with and nurtured such young performers as Osborne and actress-singer Carole Cook.

One of Osborne's early television appearances was in a 1959 episode of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse called "Chain of Command", starring Hugh O'Brian. He was also featured in the Christmas Day Desilu Playhouse installment "The Desilu Revue" in December 1959. He also had small roles in such TV shows as The Californians and the 1962 pilot episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, "The Clampetts Strike Oil" (in the role of Jeff Taylor). He refrained from signing on for the series, however, thinking the show would not be a success, and instead focused his attention on acting in television commercials.[9]

Ball suggested that Osborne focus his energies on becoming a journalist, as he would often quip, "especially after she saw me act".[10] After The Beverly Hillbillies, Osborne would focus more on writing and journalism. In 1965, Osborne had his first book published, Academy Awards Illustrated.[11]

In 1977, Osborne began his long-standing stint as a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter.[12] The following year, he published 50 Golden Years of Oscar, which won the 1979 National Film Book award.[13] Having joined the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, he was elected its president in 1981, and served as such till 1983.[14][15] In 1982, Osborne began a five-year stint as the entertainment reporter on KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles.[15] In addition, he began his Rambling Reporter column for The Hollywood Reporter, published five times weekly.[15]

In 1984, Osborne began hosting for The Movie Channel,[16][17] as well as winning the Publicists Guild of America 1984 Press Award.[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 later wrote five updates to the volume, the latest being 85 Years of the Oscar in 2013.[3][4]

In 1993, Osborne was in a television commercial for The Psychic Network.

In 1994, Ted Turner created Turner Classic Movies as a competitor to American Movie Classics (now known as AMC).[19][20] Osborne was selected as the host of their nightly broadcasts.[9] For TCM, in addition to hosting four primetime movies seven days a week, he was also the host of special one-on-one "Private Screening" interviews featuring many familiar actors and directors. Beginning in 2006, Osborne also co-hosted TCM's The Essentials. His co-hosts were Molly Haskell from 2006 to 2007, Carrie Fisher from 2007 to 2008, Rose McGowan from 2008 to 2009, Alec Baldwin from 2009 to 2011, Drew Barrymore and finally Sally Field.[21]

Osborne also participated in events at the Paley Center for Media in New York City saluting the television careers of Lucille Ball and Cloris Leachman. Beginning in 2005, Osborne hosted the annual "Robert Osborne's Classic Film Festival"[22] in Athens, Georgia.[23] The non-profit event is held by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.[23] In 2010, Osborne hosted the very first TCM Classic Film Festival, and participated in subsequent annual festivals.[12]

In 2011, Osborne became ill and TCM announced that Osborne would be taking "a short break from his TCM hosting duties for minor surgery, followed by a vacation." Osborne continued to appear on Saturday nights, hosting "The Essentials" with Alec Baldwin.[24] In 2012, Osborne began to share some of his hosting duties with Ben Mankiewicz.[25][26] Mankiewicz hosted primetime films two nights a week as well as many daytime events.[27] 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."[28]

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 pre-show and post-show hosted by Osborne, who also provides onboard narration to the ride.[29] The changes were unveiled on May 29, 2015.[30]


Osborne retired from the air in early 2016 due to ill-health and missed a number of TCM annual events over the next year.[31][32] Osborne died at his New York City apartment in the Osborne on West 57th Street on March 6, 2017, from natural causes at the age of 84.[33][11] Osborne had been in a relationship for the past 20 years with David Staller, a New York City theater producer and director. Staller was the one who confirmed Osborne’s death to the Los Angeles Times.[34]

Reactions to his death included tributes from many in the entertainment industry. The Academy of Motion Pictures 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."[35] 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.[36]

Angela Lansbury wrote a lengthy piece about her friendship with Osborne in The Hollywood Reporter, stating "He was also the ultimate fan — and the ultimate friend — and our friendship will endure in my memory always".[37]

Personal life

Osborne had moved to New York City in the late 1980s. During his lifetime, few details of his personal life were reported, but upon his death it was confirmed that he had been in a 20-year relationship with David Staller of Gingold Theatrical Group; it was Staller who confirmed Osborne's death to the media.[38]

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.[39]

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.[40]

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


Year Title Role Notes
1960PsychoPolice GuardUncredited
1961Twenty Plus TwoSailor with Dance TicketsUncredited
1980The Man with Bogart's FaceReporter #4



  • Academy Awards Illustrated. ESE California. 1965. ISBN 978-0912076041.
  • Hollywood Legends: The Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo. Marvin Miller. 1967. ASIN B0075MDDA0.
  • Academy Awards Oscar Annual. ESE California. 1971–1976.
  • Best Actor Oscar Winners Since 1927. ESE California. 1977. ISBN 978-0912076034.
  • Best Picture Oscar Winners Since 1927. ESE California. 1977. ISBN 978-0912076058.
  • Best Actress Oscar Winners. ESE California. 1977. ISBN 978-0912076027.
  • 50 Golden Years of Oscar. ESE California. 1978. ISBN 978-0912076300.
  • 60 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards. Equation. 1988. ISBN 978-1853361463.
  • Osborne, Robert; Foreman, Alexa L.; Peltason, Ruth A.; Vieira, Mark A. (2004). In the Picture: Production Stills from the TCM Archives. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811844161.


  • Edwards, Dianna (2003). Picture Show: Classic Movie Posters from the TCM Archives. Foreword by Robert Osborne. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811841542.
  • Carlyle, John (2006). Under the Rainbow: An Intimate Memoir of Judy Garland, Rock Hudson and My Life in Old Hollywood. Foreword by Robert Osborne. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0786720344.
  • Turner Classic Movies (2006). Leading Men: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors of the Studio Era. Foreword by Robert Osborne. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811854672.
  • Turner Classic Movies (2006). Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era. Foreword by Robert Osborne. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811852487.
  • Miller, Frank (2008). Leading Couples: The Most Unforgettable Screen Romances of the Studio Era. Introduction by Robert Osborne. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811863018.
  • Arnold, Jeremy (2016). The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter. Foreword by Robert Osborne. Running Press. ISBN 978-0762459469.



  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. 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. Puente, Maria (March 6, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies host, dies at 84". USA Today (online ed.). Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  5. Family information from census records
  6. 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.
  7. "Face of TCM Robert Osborne ('54) inducted into Alumni Hall of Fame". University of Washington. September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  8. Karol, Michael (2004). Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia. iUniverse. p. 307. ISBN 9780595752133.
  9. 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. 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. 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. 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. Bibbiani, William (March 6, 2017). "R.I.P. Robert Osborne, Host of Turner Classic Movies (1932-2017)". CraveOnline. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  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. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  22. "Robert Osborne's 2010 Classic Film Festival". September 23, 2010. Archived from the original on September 23, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  23. "Film Festival overview". September 25, 2010. Archived from the original on September 25, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  24. Lumenick, Lou (July 11, 2011). "Robert Osborne taking leave from TCM". New York Post.
  25. Bobbin, Jay (July 5, 2012). "Turner Classic Movies' Ben Mankiewicz: 'It is a big responsibility' hosting the channel". Zap2it.
  26. Lumenic, Lou (October 1, 2012). "New movie maven". New York Post.
  27. Mckinely, Will (October 1, 2012). "Robert Osborne Taking Time Off from Turner Classic Movies".
  28. Barry, Dan (November 19, 2014). "Up Next, a Classic Who Loves Old Films: Robert Osborne Is the Face of TCM". The New York Times.
  29. 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.
  30. Pedicini, Sandra (May 29, 2015). "New version of Great Movie Ride unveiled at Disney's Hollywood Studios". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  31. Barnes, Mike (June 26, 2017). "Robert Osborne, Beloved Host of Turner Classic Movies, Dies at 85". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  32. McLellan, Dennis (June 26, 2017). "Robert Osborne dies at 85; genial student of films hosted Turner Classic Movies". Los Angeles Times.
  33. Sandomir, Richard (March 6, 2017) "Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies Host, Dies at 84" The New York Times. Quote: "In his West Side apartment at — yes, the Osborne..."
  38. Ring, Trudy (March 6, 2017). "TCM Host Robert Osborne Dead at 84". The Advocate. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  39. "2007 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  40. Announcement of the inaugural Robert Osborne Award. Retrieved March 13, 2018
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