This is a post I never wanted to write. Death is inevitable, but for those of us who entrench ourselves in the classic film world are even more aware of it. The people we love have been dead for years or are old enough that prepping for their demise is a constant fear. TCM fans live on the edge of a knife, and it’s moments like these I sometimes wish I could just stick to watching modern cinema. But I’m not writing this out of bitterness. To celebrate Robert Osborne’s life and death is to look at my own classic film education.
I can’t tell you the first movie I watched that contained a Robert Osborne intro to me. To me, he’s like the town of Brigadoon. He’s always been there, and once his presence was acknowledged, it was like I’d known him forever. Robert Osborne was both a trusted authority on classic cinema, and the grandpa I didn’t have. (I’d like to believe my own grandfather and Robert are getting acquainted right now.) We sat at his feet and listened to the knowledge he imparted on the works of John Ford, the acting style of Gene Tierney, and the comedic stylings of Lucille Ball. To know him through the television was to enter a world we could only dream about. Robert knew the figures he talked about, and to hear him talk was to, for a moment, enter that world ourselves. We got a bit of his stardust on us, and it’ll last forever.
I, unfortunately, never met Robert at the TCM Classic Film Festival. He walked past me on the red carpet, and my inaugural festival coverage saw me in the same room as him. Even standing ten feet away from him I was mesmerized. His was the face of TCM! He stood out more than any celebrity I could ever meet, and knowing he won’t be at the festival, not because of illness but because he’s gone forever, hurts. I’m sad now, but I’m prepping to be heartbroken as I reminisce with friends in a few weeks down in L.A. about the man who ushered our awakening of classic cinema. The TCM Film Festival this year is going to hurt. But I can’t be too sad. Knowing we’re going to lose people only reminds us of their importance, right? Robert Osborne gave me the greatest gift in the world, knowledge. Knowledge of great stars and great movies. Several classic film fans and myself will be toasting in his honor. I urge you all to watch TCM this week, and remember the films that he helped you appreciate. I’d like to believe there’s a rollicking good party up in Heaven tonight, with Robert Osborne as the Master of Ceremonies.