The journalist was the face of the channel from its inception in 1994

By Christian Holub
March 06, 2017 at 03:56 PM EST
Steve Mack/FilmMagic

The Golden Age of Hollywood has lost one of its most faithful chroniclers. Longtime Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne died Monday at the age of 84.

“All of us at Turner Classic Movies are deeply saddened by the death of Robert Osborne,” TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian wrote in a statement. “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. 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 for 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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.”

Born in the small town of Colfax, Washington, Osborne spent his childhood weekends at the movie theater. After college, he tried his hand at acting and made appearances in shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, among others. He even worked for Lucille Ball, who encouraged Osborne to pursue writing. He started with a book about the history of the Oscars, The Academy Awards Illustrated, first published in 1977. Osborne then went on to become an entertainment reporter for outlets like The Hollywood Reporter, where he wrote the “Rambling Reporter” column from 1982 to 2000.

With the launch of TCM in 1994, however, Osborne found his true calling. As the channel’s host, Osborne introduced broadcasts of classic Hollywood films and interviewed stars like Lauren Bacall and Jack Lemmon for the “Private Screenings” series. He also hosted the TCM Classic Film Festival from its inception in 2010 until 2014; he bowed out of the 2015 and 2016 editions for health reasons.

“There really aren’t words to express the enormity of how Robert’s loss is felt inside TCM,” Osborne’s fellow TCM host Ben Mankiewicz wrote in a statement. “His contributions made TCM stand for something more than a TV channel.”