Osborne, who traveled to Atlanta to record his shows, had been TCM’s host since its inception in April 1994. Warm and reassuring, exuding an old-world courtesy, he spoke lovingly of old movies, but always with authority—and a twinkle in his eye. He was an unending source of gem-like facts and anecdotes.
Born in Colfax, Washington, on May 3, 1932, Osborne studied journalism at the University of Washington. He served for two years as a lieutenant in the Air Force in Seattle.
He originally went to Los Angeles to become an actor, making his debut as a stagecoach driver in Death Valley Days in 1954. He was mentored by Lucille Ball after she and Desi Arnaz signed him to their Desilu Studios. He had uncredited parts in two 1960 classics, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and made further appearances in The Beverly Hillbillies and the 1980 movie The Man With Bogart’s Face.
Osborne appeared onstage in The Desilu Review and Generation, which toured nationally with Robert Cummings. In 1968, he acted in the original production of Paddy Chayefsky’s The Latent Homosexual, directed by Burgess Meredith and starring Zero Mostel.
Ball remained friends with Osborne until her death. It was she who suggested he combine writing with his love of classic movies. He joined the Hollywood Reporter in 1977 and became its longtime Rambling Reporter columnist. First published in 1978, Osborne’s book 50 Golden Years of Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards has been regularly updated.
Osborne, who was 61 when he joined TCM, began his reign there by introducing Gone With the Wind.
His life partner David Staller, a theater director and producer, said that Osborne passed away at home in New York. No cause was given.
Beloved by the stars, Osborne is pictured above with Debbie Reynolds and Kim Novak.