TCM Backlot Guest Programmer Humberto Martinez gets ready for his closeup

Earlier this year, the TCM Backlot hosted its first ever TCM Backlot Guest Programmer contest where the winner would be flown to Turner Studios in Atlanta, Georgia to present a night of films alongside host Ben Mankiewicz. The lucky winner is a radiologist in South Florida whose warm personality and love of films makes you instantly feel like family. His name is Humberto Martinez.

TCM Backlot Guest Programmer winner Humberto at his home theater

As a fellow Backlot member, I entered the contest and in doing so, you can see each of the entries. I must admit that when I saw Humberto’s I immediately said, “that’s the guy who’s going to win.” I said that because Humberto is what makes and what we all love about TCM. Humberto is a classic movie fan with a passion and friendliness that radiates off the screen. I felt like I already knew him in that 90 second clip. He has this wonderful energy that made the clip so fun to watch. It turns out that Humberto is my neighbor. He doesn’t exactly live next door, but lives about ten minutes away from me so we were able to connect before his big TCM debut.

Humberto invited me to his home theater that he opens up to residents and his students every Friday. It’s his haven for his classic movie memorabilia but also the place for him to share his passion. When I arrived, he was standing at his door proudly wearing his TCM Backlot shirt and he told me quietly that whoever comes into his home must know that his home is their home and that hosting and talking about film is what he loves. That man in the Backlot video giddy discussing film is just as infectious in real life. Humberto took me to his home theater which is adorned with both classic and contemporary movie posters. Memorabilia including plates from Gone with the Wind and Casablanca are adorned throughout as well as a lot of Disney posters, pictures and figurines. Humberto was right, I felt at home.

Humberto filmed his TCM intros with Ben Mankiewicz on March 24th. He received a call from Yacov Freedman, the manager of the TCM Backlot club, that he had been a finalist. Shortly after Robert Osborne passed and Humberto believed the offer was over that there was no way TCM would be able to pull off the contest. This speaks to the professionalism of TCM. They knew they had a job to do and worked through their grief to select the winner of the contest. When Humberto found out he won, he couldn’t believe it.

He was flown to Atlanta, Georgia like a star. The morning he arrived at TCM, he was handled like a VIP getting wardrobe and makeup treatment. He tells me he got goosebumps sitting in the chair when his makeup was getting done because he was in the same room used by Robert Osborne during his tenure. When he arrived on set, he felt the warmth of the studio lights and there it was, the TCM set right in front of him. Everyone on the set was as lovely and friendly as he imagined. But what he didn’t imagine was that he would be assigned a person who would fill his cup for him with whatever drink he wanted during the duration of the shoot. So that’s what life is like on the other side of showbiz?

Humberto called the shoot an “out of body experience.” The day after he thought he dreamed the whole thing because it was an experience that exceeded his expectations. It almost didn’t happen as smoothly. The night before he had an allergy attack due to the feather pillows in his hotel room. He says you’ll notice he has a coarse to his voice during his introductions and promises he sounds much better in real life. And I can attest to that too. He considers himself very lucky to have been given this opportunity and wishes every fan can have the chance.

Catch Humberto Martinez’s Guest Programmer night Wednesday, May 24th on TCM beginning with Pal Joey at 8:00 PM followed by The Eddie Duchin Story and Bye, Bye Birdie.

 

The “bad boy of film stock”: The nitrate experience at TCMFF

The Egyptian Theater where the nitrate prints were shown at TCMFF

Watching a film on nitrate has to be seen to be believed. I had heard about the beauty and exclusivity of nitrate for years. It’s been referred to as the “bad boy of film stock” for its ability to allow cinematographers to capture imagery that is vivid and luminous but it’s also flammable which adds to its allure. Nitrate’s fandom has had a bit of a revival as of late with the Nitrate Picture Show film festival in New York and Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater recently underwent a renovation to be able to show these rare prints. Those of us who had passes for the TCM Classic Film Festival were in luck when the addition of nitrate prints to the program was a late announcement for the fest. It didn’t hurt that the lineup of films presented on nitrate were INCREDIBLE! The lineup consisted of the following:

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Laura

Black Narcissus

Lady in the Dark

I was lucky to attend each of the nitrate screenings and they did not disappoint! The first screening was 1934’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. Although I own it as part of a Hitchcock box set, the film has eluded me for years. I was excited to have the chance to see it for the first time on nitrate. To add to this special treat—Martin Scorsese was announced as the presenter. My reaction was something like this:

Scorsese’s introduction was everything you love and expect from this genius filmmaker who at heart is a big classic movie fan just like the rest of us. His love of the art form radiated all the way up to the balcony of the Egyptian where I was sitting. When the film began, I could already see what the fuss surrounding nitrate was about. The black and white cinematography was very rich. The textures made certain scenes pop out in a way that almost rivaled 3D that made the climatic scene all the more intense. It made me even more excited for the next film, which happens to be one of—if not my absolute—favorite film, Laura.

The opening scene of Laura in Waldo Lydecker’s apartment.

I’ve seen Laura more times than I can count. It’s the film I always say made me fall in love with classic Hollywood and film noir. The print we saw was the one that was distributed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Oscar consideration in 1944. The print felt like watching it for the first time. It was breathtaking. The opening scene with the tour of Waldo Lydecker’s apartment made me look at his possessions in a way I hadn’t seen before. Nitrate shined a luminosity to his art collection that added to his character’s sophisticated and lavish lifestyle. Laura is already a gorgeous film. It won the Oscar for black and white cinematography. The nitrate stock elevates the film to places I didn’t think were possible. These small details made it an intoxicating experience. The spirit of Laura Hunt through the haunting painting permeated throughout the picture. In the scene where Detective McPherson goes through her possessions and you see him gradually falling in love with this murder victim, the nitrate projection gave it a more haunting undertone to match its reputation as a film noir classic. Gene Tierney’s porcelain beauty never looked better. Can you make one of the most beautiful actresses ever even more breathtaking? Yes, actually, you can. This was a festival experience I’ll always remember.

The hauntingly seductive Black Narcissus

It may not have received its own billboard on Hollywood Boulevard but Black Narcissus was one of the most anticipated screenings at the festival. Photos of the film show its beauty but nitrate truly does it justice. Black Narcissus on nitrate is like watching a painting come to life. In an NPR interview, the Egyptian Theater’s manager described this screening as “a spiritual experience for people who love cinema.” I could not agree more. I felt like I was transported to another world. During the entire film’s running time, nothing else mattered. I was under this film’s spell. Unfortunately I got a little lost in the film because of just how beautiful it was. I had a hard time making sense of some parts of the plot. I was that overwhelmed by it! The scenes where the character Sister Ruth descends into madness sparkled in a way that made me gasp. It was a reminder of just how much film is reliant on the work of everyone. Kathleen Byron does a great job as Sister Ruth but the cinematography showcases the power of the Himalayan scenery on her character. Byron works internally to show her madness and the nitrate brings it out externally.

The final film to be shown on nitrate and the final film I saw at TCMFF was Lady in the Dark. In my earlier post about the festival, I expressed my disdain at this film’s plot, however, that doesn’t take away from how gorgeous this film was. It was a visual ecstasy. The film features several hypnotic dream sequences including Ginger Rogers wearing a beautiful red ‘mink’ dress and Ray Milland donning a purple sequined suit with a matching top hat. Are you not sold on this??? I left this film appreciating Edith Head’s costumes on another level. The nitrate really brought out details that I didn’t pick up on in other films.

Anyone who is a classic movie fan should seek out the Nitrate Picture Show. Cellulose nitrate was used exclusively until Kodak stopped making it in the 1950s and replaced it with a sturdier film stock. The term silver screen comes from nitrate because actual silver was embedded in the material it’s made of. For me—I felt completely spoiled by this addition to the TCM Classic Film Festival as it was a part of my first festival. We need to celebrate these precious and rare prints. They are crucial to our film history. Thinking about some of these prints disappearing forever is such a scary and devastating thought. To learn more about nitrate, visit the George Eastman Museum’s website here.

How a screening of ‘Born Yesterday’ at TCMFF restored my faith in humanity


It had been a while since I’ve seen Born Yesterday but it’s a film I enjoy for a variety of reasons. It’s a very smart comedy, Judy Holliday is irresistible, and William Holden! When I saw that it was one of the banner films for this year’s Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival I was very excited. Initially I thought what a great pick for a comedy theme since this it features the first ever comedic performance by an actress to be recognized with an Academy Award for Best Actress. But then I realized this film is just as important today as it was when it was released.

Playwright Garson Kanin wrote Born Yesterday during WWII. Kanin was serving in the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor to the CIA) making propaganda and war effort films. Having observed corruption in Washington, DC firsthand, Kanin was inspired to tell a serious expose about the influence of special interest groups on politics.

Born Yesterday is about a ruthless, loud mouthed, scrap metal tycoon (Broderick Crawford as Harry Brock) who arrives in Washington to buy a Congressman or two in hopes of boosting his business. His entourage includes his former showgirl girlfriend who he believes is nothing more than a dumb blonde (Judy Holliday in the role of Billie Dawn). To make her more presentable in high society, he hires a reporter (Paul Varrell played by William Holden) to educate her. Immersing herself in American history with Paul as her guide, Billie (and the audience) comes to realize the power of manipulation at the hands of those who take advantage of vulnerable people for their own personal gain.

Before it was put on film, Born Yesterday was a hit on Broadway, with Holliday originating the role of Billie Dawn. Holliday was practically an unknown at the time and the studio wanted Rita Hayworth to star in the film version. Hayworth was unavailable. Holliday got the part and an Oscar.

Born Yesterday is one of the most important comedies to come out of the studio system. It shows us how creatives were unafraid to stand up to the greed they saw in the world with their art. Los Angeles-based movie critic Tara McNamara introduced the film at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. She did an excellent job explaining the film’s relevance and enduring appeal. The film’s subtle take on corruption, lobbyists and outside influence in Washington is seen through its main characters. Harry Brock represents corrupt lobbyists while Billie Dawn is essentially the American people. The message: if we don’t educate ourselves on what’s happening, we’ll end up being the ones taken advantage of.

The film was widely referenced during the 2016 presidential election with many pundits comparing Harry Brock to President Donald Trump. When I saw that Born Yesterday was one of the banner films for the festival, I was excited but a part of me wasn’t so sure I wanted to see it. The film features some very real themes and also a moment that is truly horrific. Born Yesterday plays like a tragedy compared to today’s current events as we continue to see the Harry Brocks of the world manipulate and rise to power. And yet, I’m glad I watched it with this audience. During some of the film’s more serious moments, you could feel the audience’s empathy for Billie Dawn. When William Holden’s Paul says the line, “A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in,” the audience cheered and clapped loudly. It was a beautiful moment that reminded me there are still good in this world and people who believe the government is for and of the people.

This isn’t to say that the makeup of the crowd were people who voted against Mr. Trump or to make any sort of political statement. I didn’t take some poll here and can not make that assumption. The fact that I don’t know the political leanings of the people in the audience is what makes TCMFF unique. Here things like race, gender, or social status—things meant to divide us—are ignored and we are all brought together by our shared love of classic film. No one judges or disrespects, everyone is there to celebrate the films we love so dearly. That’s the real beauty of film and the community TCM has fostered.

The film version of Born Yesterday was released in 1950—67 years ago—with a prescient message we should have paid attention to. As long as the Billie Dawns and Paul Verralls of the world continue to stand up for what’s right, we’ll finally see the progress we so desperately crave.

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In appreciation of the ‘Golden Boy’

 

William Holden was one of the biggest box office draws in the 1950s yet most of what you read about him today focuses on his love affairs and untimely death at the age of 63. A lot of what you read about the men and women of classic Hollywood can be difficult. Many stars dealt with demons as they navigated the pressures and difficulties of fame. But for some reason Holden can not escape the tawdry details of his life even in death.  Any time I mention him on Twitter or in person, someone immediately wants to discuss either one of his affairs or his heavy drinking. It’s upsetting because it negates the work of a talented actor who changed our ideas of heroes and masculinity. Perhaps it’s because Holden made acting look so easy with his subtlety that he’s taken for granted?

Whatever the case may be, it’s time to change the conversation to celebrate his work. On this day in 1918, Holden was born in O’Fallon, Illinois. He would have been 99-years-old had he lived. Joining me in a special audio discussion about Holden’s body of work and enduring legacy are actress and author Monika Henreid, founder and host of the podcast Wrong Reel James Hancock, and blogger of Cinema Crossroads Julia Ricci.

After listening, here are the William Holden films you should check out:

Golden Boy (1939, Dir. Rouben Mamoulian)

Apartment for Peggy (1948, Dir. George Seaton)

Sunset Boulevard (1950, Dir. Billy Wilder)

Born Yesterday (1950, Dir. George Cukor)

Stalag 17 (1953, Dir. Billy Wilder)

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955, Dir. Henry King)

Picnic (1955, Dir. Joshua Logan)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, Dir. David Lean)

The Wild Bunch (1969, Dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Breezy (1973, Dir. Clint Eastwood)

Network (1976, Dir. Sidney Lumet)

Read more analysis and tributes to William Holden as part of the William Holden blogathon hosted by Wonderful World of Cinema.

The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival from the eyes of a newbie

The 8th annual TCM Classic Film Festival has come and gone. I can’t believe it went by so quickly! I was immersed with nothing but classic film these past four days that I didn’t even know some of the headlines of the weekend including the passing of beloved comic Don Rickles. I found out about that on my way to a screening when I saw a memorial growing on his Hollywood Walk of Fame star. Over the course of the festival I saw 13 films, red carpet arrivals, and two special presentations.

Turner Classic Movies does so much to keep classic films alive and make them accessible to audiences of all ages. I saw people of all races, genders, and ages bonding over their shared passion of film. This year’s theme was “Make ‘Em Laugh: A celebration of comedy in the movies” and the timing could not be any more perfect. As current events continue to anger and disappoint many of us with each passing day, this was a welcomed escape. Rare films were also screened during the festival from different genres and time periods including Lady Sings the Blues, Red Headed Woman, Panique, and of course, the nitrate prints! There are so many things to talk about but for now, I’d like to share some of my favorite memories of the weekend.

In the days leading up to the festival I prepared myself by packing snacks, a blanket, a poncho, and comfortable shoes, essentially the works for four days running on a lot of excitement but very little sleep. However, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional experience of sharing a theater with hundreds who love something you hold very close to your heart. I’ve written before on how I experienced bullying in my youth because of my love of classic movies. I often watch these films alone and I never thought about how isolating that can be. The first film I saw was the 1934 version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much on Thursday night. There was already excitement about this because it was being presented on nitrate film stock. But that’s not all. A few hours before the film was scheduled to start, it was announced that Martin Scorsese would be on hand to present. 10-year-old Diana’s heart burst in that moment. Before watching any of his films, I knew of Scorsese because of his film preservation work. He always appeared as the main talking head on this subject and his passion made me aware of the fact that so many films of cinema’s earliest years are lost and the importance of preserving them. I was so inspired by him that I, myself, seriously considered going to school for this only to find out programs didn’t exist at the time. Seeing him talk about nitrate in the same room made me well up. It was a full circle moment in a sense. I just could not believe I am at a place in my life where this is possible.

Seated for Black Narcissus with Patrick, Priscilla, Julia, and Kaci

During the screening of The Man Who Knew Too Much, people clapped when the film’s title appeared, when they saw the names of the cast, and of course Alfred Hitchcock. I wasn’t expecting this and didn’t know this is a common thing that happens at each screening. I’ve been at films where people have clapped at the end but that has been rare and in films I don’t believe deserve it. It actually happened during the wreck that was Jurassic World! But for an audience to show its appreciation for a lesser known Hitchcock classic, I WAS ALL ABOUT IT! I’m already an emotional person. Heck, Saul Bass’ end titles of West Side Story never fail to turn me into a puddle. It’s overwhelming to love something so much that brings this reaction out of you. But to know that hundreds of others feel the same way and you are united by this powerful force is just a beautiful show of the human condition. This is the power of film. The ability to get lost in art and connect with people you don’t even know.

One of my favorite screenings was The Palm Beach Story in the TCL IMAX Theater. The Palm Beach Story is one of my favorite films and I think Mary Astor steals it from everyone involved. The IMAX is one of the biggest theaters holding 1,125 people and a few of them were members of Astor’s own family. They were recognized by author Cari Beauchamp before the film. They stood up and we cheered and applauded. When Astor makes her first appearance in the film which happens more than 45 minutes in, the crowd roared with applause. During production of this film Astor did not feel comfortable with her fast-paced dialogue and snooty inflections but for anyone who has watched this film before knows, her hard work paid off in a comedic performance that I consider one of the best. To see so many people applaud her with members of her family there was such a sweet moment.

The TCMFF Backlot Trivia Tournament

Because this was my first festival, I was overly enthusiastic and wanted to experience as much of the festival as I could—that even included the Backlot Trivia Tournament. I love being a part of the TCM Backlot. Yacov Freedman has done a great job cultivating a community that adds more to the TCM fan experience. In the Facebook group, “Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival,” I put a call out to see if anyone I know or didn’t know was interested in forming a team. I was able to rally two bloggers I adore on Twitter and two people I’ve never met before. I had no idea what to expect but we instantly bonded.

The Holden Girls (and Dave)

Our trivia team’s name was The Holden Girls (and Dave) because we weren’t anticipating a male to join us but he was all in. I ended up making everyone special buttons and created a William Holden ‘fan’ (a photo of him on a stick with one side having him smiling for answers we got right and another photo of him upset for answers we got wrong).

We won the first round and went onto the semi-final where we ended up losing but there were no hard feelings as a good fight was put on. Even though our run in the tournament was over, each of us had four new friends. We all kept running into each other at various screenings and we might even reunite next year.

A triple feature of William Holden films

It felt like it was fate that my first TCMFF featured not one—but three William Holden films and ones I consider his best to boot. I was lucky enough to see each of the films: Born Yesterday, Stalag 17, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. I loved seeing these films on the big screen and feeling the love the audience has for Holden.

The William Holden ‘fan’ lasted the entire festival.

Peter Bogdanovich’s impressions

Legendary director Peter Bogdanovich is a master storyteller both with his camera and in person. At Club TCM, he shared stories about other legends Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles with impressive impersonations of both men. My favorite stories were the ones involving Welles. When Bogdanovich told Welles he didn’t like The Trial, he agreed but also said, “How dare you diminish my small treasure.” Another story involved the two men eating sandwiches in which Welles told Bogdanovich, “You don’t gain weight if nobody sees you eat.”

Sean Connery prancing around in a red mankini at midnight

For years I’ve been told if you ever go to the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, make it to a midnight movie. I love all movies and don’t discriminate when it comes to ‘so bad it’s good’ films. This year’s midnight film was Zardoz, the Sean Connery film where he wears a red mankini. I’ve been aware of this meme-able image for quite some time but I never actually read up on the film. I had no idea what this film is about going into and after watching it I can honestly say I still don’t know what this film is about. There was a lot of excitement for this one that a group from San Diego made Zardoz-themed cookies for the screening.

The Zardoz cookies by #FilmGeeksSD

Watching the film started out with a lot of laughs but as it went on I think the weight of the day got to us because I could feel that everyone just wanted it to be over. It wasn’t the most pleasant train wreck to watch, in my opinion, it was just a train wreck. When the house lights came on, everyone in my row looked so confused and I still haven’t been able to make sense of it. However, I’m glad I went! I survived my first TCMFF midnight movie and feel like I earned some sort of right of passage here.

The Best in Show reunion

John Michael Higgins! Fred Willard! Bob Balaban! Jim Piddock!

All four lovely actors were on hand to introduce Best in Show, one of my favorite comedies. Best in Show was probably the most recent film shown at TCMFF. I thought it was a perfect choice as it has been so influential to comedy for its mockumentary style and wry humor. The cast was just as funny during a Q&A before the screening as they were in the film. There was a great sense of camaraderie between all four men and they shared some great stories about the film’s production.

Lady in the Dark or as I like to call it ‘Mansplaining: The Musical’ on NITRATE

The Major and the Minor starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland is one of my favorite comedies. Its plot is unbelievable and could never happen in real life but the charming chemistry between the two leads sells it. When I heard Lady in the Dark would be shown on nitrate, I knew I had to go to see this reunion. The film was made a few years after and I was excited to see if Rogers and Milland still had the magic. Unfortunately, Lady in the Dark is one of the most disappointing films I’ve ever seen. It starts off promising with Rogers as a successful head of a magazine. I originally thought, “Ginger Rogers is portraying a magazine executive in the 1940s and Ray Milland works for her, how progressive!” This film is actually one of the most insulting and misogynistic films I’ve ever sat through. Milland is a complete jerk as a lower level employee who desperately wants Rogers’ position because he feels he deserves it and shouldn’t have to work for a woman. Normally sentiment like this is implied in classic cinema but in this film, it’s blatantly stated through disturbing dialogue. Milland’s Welsh charm disappears completely and he has no redeeming qualities which makes it a difficult watch. However, this film was presented in nitrate for a reason: it’s beautifully photographed. A rich Technicolor palette gives way to some dazzling (albeit bizarre) dream sequences featuring some frightening bunnies and Milland in a sequined suit.

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Ray Milland in a purple sequined suit must be seen to be believed.

I was disappointed that this film ended up being such a mess not making use of the chemistry Rogers and Milland so successfully displayed in The Major and the Minor but I’m glad I saw it because it is a very rare film and I can live to tell the tale.

I’ll have more coverage of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in the coming days so stay tuned!

Ready for their closeup: Fashion at the TCM Classic Movie Film Festival

One of the best parts of the TCM Classic Film Festival was the fashion! Fedoras, big hoop skirts, furs, hats, all made you feel like you were actually being transported to golden age Hollywood. Thanks to Instagram, retailers have taken note. Pinup fashion is making a comeback but the festival also brings out collectors of vintage fashion whose threads tell stories of a time gone by. Below are some of my favorite looks featuring quotes from the subjects telling me their memories of TCMFF 2017.

“My style icon is Rita Hayworth. She’s my favorite,” – Vanessa (@pinksewing on Instagram)

“I love this dress because I love polka dots. My favorite part of the festival is the people,” Bobbette Dorrigan Cockrell

“We love classic movies and dressing up. This festival is perfect for us.”

“A highlight for me was Laura on nitrate. You could really see the difference. Clifton Webb is amazing. Dana Andrews has the best fedora style. That opening line! It throws you off completely and you don’t know what to expect,” – Kristoffer Thompson (@attractionsales on Twitter)

“Who doesn’t want to feel like a glamorous star on Hollywood Boulevard?” – Maureen Lee Lenker (@themaureenlee on Twitter)

“Watching In the Heat of the Night in the same room as Sidney Poitier! I’ll never forget it.” – Nickie Dobison Saucedo

“I love William Powell. He’s so dapper and handsome. He makes everything cool. He can trip on the floor and it still seems so cool. Also, you can tell he loves women in a respectful way. You can’t beat that. That’s class,” – Lauren Cordero. Follow her William Powell Instagram account @class_act_williampowell

“After your first fest, these people become family. Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened.” – Chris Sturhann

A close up of Chris’ amazing hat.

“When I’m here, I’m with my people,” – Karie Bible (@cemeterytourguide on Instagram pictured right with Beth Ann Gallagher @missbethg)

“Growing where you’re planted” and other lessons Robert Osborne taught us

As classic movie fans descended on Hollywood Boulevard for the 8th annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, feelings of excitement, love, and anticipation filled the air. The Hollywood Roosevelt, the main headquarters of the festival, is decked out in the warm hues of this year’s banner images claiming this section of Hollywood and Vine as “TCM town” for the weekend. It all adds to the anticipation of the next three days yet there is an empty feeling all of us are trying to shake: this is the first festival since the passing of Robert Osborne.

The first official TCMFF event I attended was “Remembering Robert” a panel featuring long-time colleagues sharing stories about the man all of us loved but many of us never even met. I’ll admit I was hesitant to attend simply for the fact that I did not want to be a sobbing mess but then I realized this was the chance to learn about the man Robert Osborne was by the work family who knew him best.

Remembering Robert panel

Sean Cameron, Vice President of production at Turner, Gary Freedman, a TCM producer, Ann Wilson, Osborne’s longtime director and producer, actress and longtime friend Diane Baker, and Charlie Tabesh, TCM’s head of programming who worked with Osborne for over 20 years. Each of them shared beautiful stories about Robert that humanized him in ways I didn’t expect. I learned the Robert Osborne you saw on tv was even more warm, thoughtful, and caring in real life. “He was always considering the other person, all the years I knew him, ” Diane Baker said. We learned Robert was in ill health in his final weeks of life but made a point to reach out to those he loved to say goodbye. One of the last things he told Baker was, “No sad songs for me. I’ve had a great life. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful life so don’t be sad.” It’s inspiring to hear Robert Osborne lived life on his terms and was able to fulfill his dreams, a sentiment he passed on to his friends, colleagues, and even us fans. Robert Osborne died the way he lived with the utmost dignity. He had control over his life and left on his terms. He took producer Gary Freedman under his wing and became a mentor. Freedman told us the best advice he ever received came from Robert when he told him, “Grow where you’re planted.”

As a colleague, Robert was a man who helped lift everyone up. He may have been the face of TCM but he didn’t act like it. Programmer Charlie Tabesh shared how he treated everyone with respect.

“Robert had a monthly ‘Bob’s Picks’ (block) that we worked with him every month to get his collections. For the most part, and really to his credit, he knew so much more about classic movies than we all did but he didn’t really interfere for programming. He took what was programmed and was respected it,” Tabesh said.

As TCM fans, we expect nothing less from Robert. On the channel you saw his compassion and interest in everyone he interviewed from Hollywood legends like Shirley MacLaine to even Kermit the Frog. We did learn that one person actually ‘intimidated’ him and it’s someone you may not expect. It was Judge Judy. Robert was a big fan of her show. And while interviewing Hollywood legends was his job, he was just a fan like the rest of us. Legendary French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo was a guest at one of the earliest TCM Film Festivals. One of Robert’s colleagues told us that after the interview, Robert was giddy as a kid exclaiming, “I can’t believe we got Jean-Paul Belmondo!!” Classic movie historians, they’re just the rest of us!

I express my deepest condolences to Robert’s colleagues and Diane Baker. Despite this tragedy, it’s beautiful to see how they are following his example. Even during this difficult time, they are sharing their love of film and Robert with all of us this weekend. Every staffer I’ve spoken with has been unbelievably warm and friendly. Robert would be so proud.

For more TCMFF coverage, follow me on Twitter at @thedameupstairs and on Instagram at @flickin_out