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Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz and TCM programmers share what goes into perfecting TCM

By Daniel S Levine,

Before the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival began in Hollywood on Thursday, hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, who were treated like royalty there for four days, shared stories about what has kept the network alive for 20 years. Programmers Charle Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy also spoke about getting the festival together and picking the right movies for the network.

Osborne was first. He has been hosting TCM since day one and went into detail about his relationships with Lucille Ball and Jane Darwell, who both helped him start working in Hollywood. He has called Ball one of his mentors and you can hear him talk about that in the video below.

One of the repeated themes between Osborne and Mankiewicz was that they both acknowledged how TCM’s audience isn’t as old as they expected. Sure, most young people aren’t that interested in the classics, but those who are have shown an unexpected level of love. Mankiewicz noted how important that network has been a “treasure trove” for young filmmakers, especially those that can’t afford to blow stuff up in their films. They can learn how story can drive a film, not just action.

When asked what makes the classics so different from films today, Osborne cited writing as a main issue, noting that we don’t have as much respect for writers as we used too. There’s almost too much of a desire for reality in cinema today. No Country For Old Men, for example, made Osborne “want to put a bullet in my head.” Even tough classic dramas have optimistic endings, but not today’s cinema.

We asked Mankiewicz if he was surprised that younger stars like Bill Hader, Anna Kendrick and Jason Lee had signed up to do introductions for the festival. He was not, noting that they're fans of the films to. Kendrick said that The Women was one of her favorites, so she wanted to introduce it. Mankiewicz showered her with praise, saying that she would have been a big Hollywood star if she was born in the 1920s.

Mankiewicz noted that TCM has a following like no other network. Sure, AMC, FX, Showtime and HBO have great content, but no one loves the network. TCM fans love what the network does and they make the fans feel a part of it, especially with the festival. Tabesh and McGillicuddy said that social media has finally allowed them to connect with fans and the festival gives them a snapshot of who is watching the network.

Also, for those curious, Osborne’s favorite films (at least at the moment he was asked) are A Place In The Sun, Razor’s Edge, Sunset Boulevard and This Is Spinal Tap. But there’s very few he doesn’t like and he enjoys showing off the obscure.

Osbourne and Mankiewicz noted how important the network has been to many viewers. The films have helped people through illness, divorce and other drastic changes in life and the two never tire of hearing stories like that from viewers.

images and video courtesy of Daniel Levine

 

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