Our Family Mourns, with the Millennial Out in Front
My 19-year old son made this heartfelt post on Instagram last night after learning of the death of Robert Osborne, the longtime public face of Turner Classic Movies (TCM):
Hearing of this man’s passing today hit my whole family pretty hard – Robert Osborne was, as the LA Times perfectly summed up today, “everyone’s favorite movie date”. Hosting the bulk of Turner Classic Movies’s weeknight programming, he always presented the perfect cure for a rough day at work or school or just in general – the best and most beloved movies America’s rich cinematic history has to offer. Sometimes it was a movie already heralded as a masterpiece (i.e. Casablanca, Roman Holiday, In the Heat of the Night, etc.), and sometimes it was something you’d never heard of before but were bound to love (The Louis Pasteur Story, The Day of the Jackal, etc.).
And regardless of the movie, you always felt a sense of a shared experience with the TV knowing that Robert would be there at the beginning to tell you a bit about it, and again at the end to make a few closing remarks and perhaps share a quick funny story or two.
This man shaped both my parents’ admiration for the power of movies, and by introducing me to TCM as a child, they allowed him to do the same for me.
Godspeed, Mr. Osborne.
Oh my. I feel this on so many levels. TCM has truly been a bedrock platform for my son’s childhood, with Robert Osborne its magnificent maestro.
Superficial, and Yet…Not
Movies are so trivial, you may say. Why is the young man so upset about the death of a movie-describer? Well sure, movies are not on the same level as these topics: religion, philosophy, civic responsibility, political movements and unrest, historical milestones, war, social mores, filial devotion, deep friendship, great loves and sacrifice…but oh, I guess they are, actually. Movies are a reflection of us, of our culture, in all its brilliance and trivial insignificance and intransigence. Movies cover every one of these important areas of life, and can at the same time reflect our most idealistic and our most base instincts and beliefs. For example, my son mentioned “In the Heat of the Night”; was there ever a better movie to expose the stupidity of institutional racism? Robert Osborne’s introduction of this movie is a thing for the ages. With all of his movie intros and outros, he helped us understand the context of the time in which they were made, and their historical and current cultural significance.
Family Bonding; Movies as Connection
I was a single mom for a time. My one little boy-child and I watched movies together on TCM on a nightly basis – when there wasn’t a school event, a baseball game, rehearsal for a church play or a family event. Fred and Ginger were frequent companions, Errol Flynn was a familiar face, and we even named a cat after William Powell in My Man Godfrey. My son can wax poetic about the virtues of The Philadelphia Story vs. the remake, High Society; the same with regard to Fred Astaire vs. Gene Kelly. He paid me one one of my favorite compliments ever: “Mom, you remind me of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”(that would be the Marilyn Monroe character, and yes, I’m vain enough to think that is a compliment).
The kid is a man-child now and off to college to study jazz composition. I think of movies, randomly, and text him. Have you seen The Graduate? Yes, saw it at Grandma and Grandpa’s last summer. The Night of the Hunter? Yes, watched it with Dad. Sunset Boulevard? Yes, Aunt Julie showed it to me the last time I was in Virginia. The kid definitely gets his movie appreciation from both sides of his family.
Guys and Dolls is one of our favorites, and when I sent him a text with this clip during his first semester of college, he said: “Recognized it before i even hit play! #askmehowdoifeel”, which is a reference to the song from the movie, If I Were a Bell. (This would be the point where I should acknowledge that my own love for movies comes from my Dad, who introduced me to all of these classics the first time around. Thanks, Dad!)
Goodbye, Mr. Classy
Ben Mankiewicz gave a brief farewell to Robert Osborne tonight before the start of the movie I’m watching right now, Anne of 1000 Days. He described Robert Osborne as a man who loved movies, actors, and fans, who had “class, wit and charm”. Yes. Below is a short tribute, in advance of a longer one TCM will air later this month.
What We Mean Is…
It is really hard to explain why we are so sad about losing Robert Osborne. We didn’t know him. He didn’t know us. But. His introductions to the movies that became the vernacular of our lives shaped our understanding of them, and their meaning. Movies become shorthand for power-packed pellets of meaning: how many times have you quoted a brief line of a movie to make a point?
- “We don’t need no stinking badges!”
- “Tomorrow is another day.”
- “At long last, have you no sense of decency?”
- “There’s no place like home.”
- “You can’t handle the truth!”
- “We’ll always have Paris.”
- “There’s no crying in baseball.”
- “Go ahead, make my day.”
- “May the Force be with you.”
Robert Osborne translated these truisms and anachronisms for us when he explained the meaning of classic films, and made them accessible. He also just seemed like a very nice guy. To quote my son the millennial, “Regardless of the movie, you always felt a sense of a shared experience with the TV knowing that Robert would be there at the beginning to tell you a bit about it, and again at the end to make a few closing remarks and perhaps share a quick funny story or two.”
Are You a Classic Movie Lover? Win a Prize
Do you share our love of classic movies? We will send a copy of the book Turner Classic Movies Essentials to the first follower to correctly identify the movies from the ten quotes above in a comment.
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