Photography: TCM

The beloved Turner Classic Movies host was 84.

Robert Osborne, widely admired as one of the classiest gentlemen ever to make his mark as an engaging and informative television host, started out in show business as an actor. Indeed, he had already landed small roles in a handful of films — and two TV westerns, Death Valley Days and The Californians — before he found his true calling as a chronicler of films and filmmaking.

His must-read “Rambling Reporter” column appeared in The Hollywood Reporter for more than 25 years, and his series of books about the Academy Awards were among the first to detail Oscar history. But Osborne — who passed away Monday at age 84 in New York — reached his widest audience during his 22-year run as primetime host for Turner Classic Movies. He kicked off his career at the cable channel on April 14, 1994, by introducing Gone with the Wind, the very first film presented on TCM, and soon established himself as, in the words of colleague Ben Mankiewicz, “not merely the face of TCM, but its heart and soul.”

Jennifer Dolan, TCM general manager, echoes Mankiewicz’s sentiments in a statement: “Robert was embraced by devoted fans who saw him as a trusted expert and friend. His calming presence, gentlemanly style, encyclopedic knowledge of film history, fervent support of film preservation and highly personal interviewing style all combined to make him a truly world-class host.

“Robert's contributions were fundamental in shaping TCM into what it is today, and we owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.”

Steven Spielberg offered his own appreciative appraisal of Osborne’s contributions to movies and the people who love them: “He got us excited and reawakened to the greatest stories ever told with the most charismatic stars in the world. I will miss all the backstage stories he told us before and after the films. He sure opened my eyes to all that has come before and put TCM solidly on the map while ensuring his own legacy as the man who brought us back to the movies.”

Throughout his career at TCM, Osborne often introduced classic westerns. In these two vintage clips from 2013, he speaks admiringly and knowledgably about a C&I favorite: John Ford’s Stagecoach.

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