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ROBERT OSBORNE: Taking TCM, Classic Movies & TCM Film Fest to New Heights

Robert Osborne, TCM Film Festival 2014 Press Conference
Robert Osborne, TCM Film Festival 2014 Press Conferencedebbie lynn elias

As his lifelong friend Carole Cook notes, it’s “showing a lot of class” when one watches TCM and her pal Robert Osborne, and equally so when Robert Osborne joins her on May 10th at the 30th Annual S.T.A.G.E. Goes to the Movies to benefit APLA. In Cook’s eyes, “It’s all about Bob Osborne” no matter what the case. “ TCM and Bob have taken [classic movies] to a new height.”

There’s a love fest and friendship between Robert Osborne and Carole Cook that transcends movies, although it starts with movies, and most notably now, TCM. According to Cook, “[When Bob first started, and he always laughs at this so I’m not telling out of school - at that time, our dream was for Bob to be the curator of one day, ‘The Hollywood Museum’. I mean a big new museum. It’s just terrible that Hollywood doesn’t have a mammoth museum to preserve and showcase its movies and the movie industry.” Thankfully, one is finally being built, much to everyone’s joy, but 45 years ago, there was nothing. “I’d say, ‘Bob, we’ve got to get a big museum. This is the home of movies.’ I know movies started in New Jersey and all that, but people think of Hollywood as films. . . I always told Bob our dream was for Bob to become the curator of ‘The Hollywood Museum’ when it was built.. . Well, I will say, ‘Bob you outdid our dreams. You took a lot of information and made a career out of it with TCM.’” And as Cook giddily notes, “He laughs. He always says, ‘Carole Cook says I took a bunch of information that nobody knew what to do with and made a career.’ And a good one, may I add.”

“Good one” is an understatement as 20 years later just look what TCM has become. Fans around the globe gather in front of their tv’s and now on social media apps, talking and celebrating movies, while TCM Classic Film Festival has become one of the hottest tickets in Hollywood! Having just wrapped TCM Film Festival 2014, fans are clamoring for information on at least the dates for the 2015 festival. On gentle prodding, Osborne notes, “I don’t think they’ve set them. As a matter of fact I’m having dinner with Charlie Tabesh [TCM programmer] in a couple of weeks and one of the things is that he’s hoping to have a date for the festival at that time.”

What many don’t realize is the logistics involved in putting together a festival like TCM. Expounding, Osborne explains some of the moving parts of the endeavor. “[I]t depends not only on Turner’s schedule, but basically on when they can get the Chinese Theatre, when they can get the Egyptian Theatre, the El Capitan now is on the list, and the others, and also to make sure that there’s not some big convention so that many of the rooms in the Loews and the Hollywood Roosevelt are not taken. It’s coordinating all that.”

But for Robert Osborne, one of the greatest joys with TCM is that the fans know they are getting quality - quality films, quality festival, quality programming. “We’re very lucky because now we’re selling out [TCMFF] before we even announce any of the films or any of the celebrities that are going to be attending. That’s a great compliment. It’s also wonderful for Charlie Tabesh because it means that he doesn’t have to book movie titles that are marquis names to pull people in; that people will know that if he’s booked it, it’s gonna be something they’ll want to see or that they should see.”

It’s only been a short five years since TCM Classic Film Festival was launched but in that short amount of time, the word has spread, so much so that fans the world over are requesting themes, or celebrations of character actors or those deserving “second look” films. “[B]efore that, when you’re trying to get people to come to the festival, you had to book titles that they know and they therefore will come and see. You can’t have a whole program of “Hobson’s Choice” and obscure little movies and get them excited. You had to have the “Casablanca” and “Singin’ in the Rain” and that kind of stuff. But now [the fans] know that if we’re showing it, it’s gonna be something they’re gonna want to see so the titles can be much more obscure, which is great.”

The 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival “wish list” has already begun” with beach party movies being requested, especially since Jimmy “Moondoggie” Darren has said he’s coming to TCMFF 2015, or tributes to character actors like Mary Boland, Harry Davenport or Charles Lane.

Osborne lights up even more when hearing things like this and you can almost hear the wheels turning with his own ideas. “I think that’s a great idea. . . The great thing about it is that you’ve got Fred and Ginger. You’ve got Quentin Tarantino. You’ve got Sergio Leone. You’ve got George Cukor. You can give everybody a taste of whatever they want but you can’t overdo any of it or then you’re in trouble. . .You really have to have something that’s going to please everybody.” Notable is that “TCM gets requests from all over the country. I’m sure that as many as you get about James Darren and a beach movie, they get just as many for Quentin Tarantino movies. That’s the wonderful thing. Everybody’s got something different that they’re passionate about. It’s what makes movie-going great. There’s so many different kinds of movies. . . I think it’s great to just have this wonderful mix.”