TCM Film Festival Day 1: Press Day

Robert Osborne had no idea he would touch so many lives through movies.

“People have said TCM has helped them get through divorce, unemployment or illness,” TCM’s primetime host said Friday. “I never thought I would be a nurse.”

Osborne, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and TCM programers Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy opened the floor to questions during the film festival’s press day.

Robert Osborne at press day during #TCMFF

Robert Osborne at press day during #TCMFF

“Movies are a necessity to our lives,” Osborne said.

Osborne told about how he got his start in Hollywood with Lucille Ball and lived with character actress Jane Darwell when he first moved to California.

“When I asked Lucy who her favorite leading man was, she said she didn’t care about those. She was more interested in the character actors,” Osborne said. ”

Osborne was originally interested in acting, but it was Ball who encouraged him to write a book with all of his film knowledge. Nostalgia wasn’t big at the time, and she felt he should utilize it.

He also said Ball wasn’t funny in real life like we see on the “I Love Lucy Show” or in her films.

“Lucy was a great lady. But she wasn’t funny,” he said. “She didn’t think funny or do funny things.”

When he met Ball, she was going through her divorce with Desi Arnaz.

“She loved him, but it just wasn’t working,” he said. “Desi was really the genius behind I Love Lucy but never got the recognition. I guess that’s why he would step out with other women.”

When Osborne was starting out as an actor, he got to be friends with Diane Baker and Robert Wagner who were also starting out at the time.

Young contract players were encouraged to watch big stars film their movies. He was able to watch Orson Welles in “Compulsion,” Gary Cooper in “Ten North Frederick” and Marlon Brando in “The Young Lions.”

‘Festival means something to people’

“This festival means something to people in their hearts and souls,” Mankewicz said. “TCM got them through, and I take that incredibly seriously.”

No other channel has a loyalty like TCM, Mankewicz said.

“I don’t feel like fans are as connected to HBO or ESPN,” he said. “Our fans care about TCM and feel like they are a part of the network.”

The festival is a way for channel and fans to connect and give back, Mankewicz said.

“I don’t even think we make much money on the festival,” he said. “It does raise the profile for TCM but it’s more to connect with our fans.”

TCM’s audience is much younger than most people think. Sixty-six percent of TCM’s viewers are 18 to 49, said Mankewicz.

“I thought this would be more of a nostalgia thing, but it’s very young people,” Osborne said. “You may see some older married couples in their 60’s, but it’s mainly younger people.”

As viewers get older though, the TCM won’t start showing newer movies.

“We aren’t going to start showing movies from 2004,” Mankewicz said. “We are never going to stop showing the movies that we watching right now.”

Ben Mankewicz at Press Day

Ben Mankewicz at Press Day

Questions from the media:

Q for Robert: Who have you wanted to come to the festival?

A: We really wanted Olivia de Havilland to be here. She is 97 and sharp as anything but the trip from Paris is too much for her. She visited her niece in Malibu and it took her a year to recover. She really wanted to be here this year. We have a Private Screenings set up with her in November in Paris and we were there, but she got pneumonia and we had to cancel. We rescheduled and were going to do it in New York but she had another flair up with pneumonia.

Q for Robert: What are your favorite movies?

A: “A Place in the Sun,” “Razor’s Edge,” “Sunset Blvd.” and “This is Spinal Tap.”

Q for Robert: Where do you get your style?

A: “Its confession time: I have no style, it’s all picked out for me.

Q for Robert: Will there ever be a character actor as the Star of the Month? 

A: We have been trying to do that more character actors, but they really need to have one or two films where they are one of the main characters.

Q to programers: What star would you like to see at the festival?

A: Doris Day is at the top of our list.

**More to come from Friday’s adventures! Don’t forget to follow me at @HollywoodComet, @StarJPickens or on Facebook at