Osborne was interested less in exposing than celebrating his movie heroes, some of whom had become close friends, like Olivia de Havilland, Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis. "You're like the actress whisperer," Rocca said.
"I love those people!" he laughed. "They were so interesting to be around. These were people that once ruled the world. And now they had no power anymore. Nobody cared."
But his friendship with Davis got off to a bumpy start. On one of their first meetings, Osborne had just seen 1977's biggest blockbuster.
"I said, 'Have you seen the new 'Star Wars' movie?' She said, 'I hate that kinda movie.' And I said, 'Oh, but it's really good. I think you'd really enjoy it.' And she turned to me with full volume and said, 'I told you, I HATE that kind of a movie!' And I said, 'I can't believe you would say something so stupid as that.'
"Well, her head zipped around and looked at me, and I thought, 'She may kill me.' And then I looked at her, and I knew I had her. And that's what she was waiting for: A challenge. And we were friends from then on!"
By the time Turner Classic Movies launched in 1994, there was no other contender for the host. Robert Osborne had spent his life rehearsing for this role. I was preparing for my ideal job that didn't exist," he said.
His favorite interview: former movie musical star Betty Hutton, who -- by the year 2000 -- had not appeared on camera for nearly 20 years. But she opened up to Osborne.
"She was terrified she was going to disappoint people, that they wouldn't remember her," he recalled. "And it's the thing I'm proudest of, I must say, because we had this vulnerable woman who had been such a big star tearing her heart out talking about it."
"My private life has been hell, really hell," Hutton told Osborne. "But my professional life was so wonderful because the audiences understood I was working from my heart."
For Robert Osborne, movies are life ... only better.
"I think we have to have dreams," he said. "We need a little Carmen Miranda with all her tutti frutti hats. And we need some Fred and Ginger dancing. We need Gene Kelly hanging off that lamppost. We need to be taken into a fantasy world, and not be afraid to go there occasionally."
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