Robert Osborne, the urbane longtime host of Turner Classic Movies who authored a definitive books on the history of the Oscars, has died. He was 84. He had been off the air with an undisclosed health issue for most of 2017, and TCM announced the news in a statement emailed to media outlets (see below).
“Robert was embraced by devoted fans who saw him as a trusted expert and friend,” TCM General Manager Dorian said in a statement. “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 world-class host.”
Osborne also was a veteran of the showbiz trades, having written the “Rambling Reporter” column for The Hollywood Reporter for more than a quarter-century until 2009.
The silver-haired Osborne was the face to TCM, serving as the cable channel’s primary host since its launch in 1994. Before that, he did the same for the Movie Channel from 1986-93. He also had served as main host for the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles for several years and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Outside of his TV work, the Colfax, WA, native is famous for being the unofficial biographer of the Oscars. His first book was 1965’s Academy Awards Illustrated, and he published The Official History of the Academy Awards — a year-by-year chronicle of the Oscars — in 1989. It has been updated every five years since, with 85 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards being released in 2013.
“He was just a class act,” said Deadline’s Anita Busch, who worked with Osborne for several years at THR and was his boss when she was editor of the paper more than 15 years ago. “Truly a wonderful and gentle man who not only appreciated but shined a well-deserved light on the contributions of both filmmakers and the stars that built this business.”
Mother Dolores Hart, a nun and former actress, said she had “absolute appreciation” for Osborne and that he treated her with respect and kindness. In fall 2014, Osborne had her on his Turner Classics Movies show as a guest programmer and he referred to her “as part of the TCM family.” Hart said a mass for Osborne will be held at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT.