“I love my husband first, and then Robert Osborne second,” said Eva Marie Saint during a surprise guest appearance.
Friday afternoon during the second day of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival turned into a sort of surprise party of TCM’s primetime host Robert Osborne.
Osborne sat before an audience, prepared to start a question and answer session called “Ask Robert.”
The questions began: What movies do you think should have been nominated for an Academy Award but weren’t? Will TCM ever film a special on Leslie Howard? How often are you in Atlanta?
After half a dozen questions, Osborne’s microphone supposedly malfunctioned. Then entered “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek with a microphone to remedy the issue.
“This isn’t your retirement party, Robert,” Trebek said. “We are here to celebrate 20 years of you and TCM.”
Following Trebek, celebrity guests and family members appeared in a “This is Your Life”-like fashion, sharing memories with a genuinely surprised Osborne.
“We’ve been keeping this a secret for three months!” said actress and Osborne’s close friend Diane Baker.
Eva Marie Saint, Diane Baker, Alec Bladwin, Bill Cosby (on video), Cher (on video), Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Ben Mankwicz, Michael Feinstein and Osborne’s cousins and nieces –coming from as far as Connecticut– honored the film historian.
In the last 20 years, Osborne has recorded roughly 30,000 film introductions for Turner Classic Movies.
A blooper reel was shown of Osborne doing his introductions and family photos of Osborne when he was a child and at more recent family reunions was shown.
Pianist and singer Michael Feinstein performed “The More I See You” sung by Dick Haymes in “The Diamond Horseshoe” (1945), which Osborne said in an e-mail was his favorite song.
“This is totally unexpected,” Osborne said, obviously overcome with happiness. “My God, what a treat!”
Even when the celebration was for him, Osborne began to share career highlights and features about each guest.
“This isn’t about me, it’s about you!” Saint playfully scolded him.
During the celebration, Osborne said every time he does an introduction to a film, he is talking to three people: his elderly aunt who loves movies, a young friend who wanted to learn about movies and a friend who knew everything there is about movies.
“I wanted to say something that would interest all three of those people,” Osborne said.
At the end of the 90 minute celebration, sparkling cider was passed out in the audience, and everyone toasted to Osborne.
“The job is yours as long as you want it,” said TCM officials as they toasted to 20 years of Turner Classic Movies and Robert Osborne.
What did they have to say?
“Try to say Robert Osborne without smiling. I love Robert. I love my husband and then I love Robert Osborne . He is the best interviewer I have ever had. Of all my leading men (Cary Grant, Paul Newman), Robert is my favorite.”
-Eva Marie Saint, actress
“Every time I have made a transition in my life, from starting as an actress to going on to be a professor, you have been there to guide me. When I was making the move to teaching, I told you I wanted to give back to the young people. Isn’t that what you are doing on TCM?”
-Diane Baker, actress
“Robert Osborne is a handsome, honest human being with a great voice. I don’t believe he has ever had a false moment.”
–Bill Cosby, in a video message, who was a supporter of TCM when it first started
“What you see is what you get. Robert is really very funny. He still goes to his high school reunions. When he talks to you, he talks to you like you are the only person in the world he wants to talk to.”
“This is the longest relationship with a man I’ve ever had.”
-Cher, in a video message
“Robert and I have many of the same tasks, but we work at different times. I don’t get to see Robert often and I don’t know if he knows how important he is to me.”
– Ben Mankiewicz, TCM host