The face of Turner Classic Movies has passed away.
Robert Osborne, who was the first host for TCM when it premiered back in 1994, died at the age of 84 today.
His partner of 20 years, theater director and producer David Staller, told the Los Angeles Times that Osborne died of natural causes in his sleep at home in New York City.
Osborne was a classic film historian who began his career in Hollywood as a contract player for Lucille Ball’s production company, Desliu. It was ultimately Ball herself that urged Osborne to pursue writing. “Lucy ultimately encouraged me to be a writer, not an actor,” Osborne told Mo Rocca on CBS Sunday Morning. “She said, ’We have enough actors.'”
Osborne went onto write Academy Awards Illustrated, one of the first books on the history of the Oscars. “I wrote a book about the Academy Awards, and it became kind of a focal point of any kind of discussion I had as a writer,” he told Rocca.
He went onto join The Hollywood Reporter and hosted films on the Movie Channel from 1986-93. He eventually landed the TCM role when the channel debuted.
Not only was Osborne a film historian, he was also friends with some of the most famous actresses from Hollywood’s golden age such as Lauren Bacall, Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis.
“All of us at Turner Classic Movies are deeply saddened by the death of Robert Osborne,” said TCM’s general manager Jennifer Dorian. “Robert was a beloved member of the Turner family for more than 23 years. He joined us as an expert on classic film and grew to be our cherished colleague and esteemed ambassador for TCM.”
Aside from hosting duties on the channel, Osborne also did events at the TCM Classic Film Festival and TCM Classic Cruise. He took a leave of absence from TCM for health reasons for five months in 2011, and had a reduced presence on the channel in the years since.
“Robert was embraced by devoted fans who saw him as a trusted expert and friend,” added TCM’s Dorian. “His calming presence, gentlemanly style, encyclopedic knowledge of film history, fervent support for film preservation and highly personal interviewing style all combined to make him a truly world-class host.”
— TCM (@tcm) March 6, 2017
“It’s difficult to imagine a planet without him,” added Staller. “He made the choice to call it a day, and he wants everyone to know that he’ll see them at the after party.”