20TH ANNIVERSARY – TCM HOSTS ROBERT OSBORNE AND BEN MANKIEWICZ
By Valerie Milano
Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/15/2014 – “The Best Years of Our Lives, Betty Davis always said that was the best movie ever made and I think it is a great movie.” Robert Osborne told his fans as the TCM Classic Festival started on Thursday, April 10, 2014. He went on to answer some questions from the media and his fans and the one that got The Hollywood Times attention was “What is your favorite movie?” This was his answer and explaining as to why.
“My three favorite movies are A Place in the Sun, that knocked me out, because I was in college when I saw it, something about that whole story and Montgomery Cliff was someone I idolized at that point. I also love Sunset Boulevard, one of my great favorites, and this sounds strange, and we are showing it this year at the festival, This is Spinal Tab, one of my all time favorite movies. That never ceases, it just lays me on the floor, those guys are so funny, so it is kind of a mix, but there are very few films I don’t like, I can find something interesting about it and I think that is kind of my job at TCM, to take a movie that you don’t know and maybe it’s an okay movie, not a great movie, but it is worth maybe seeing. But if you know where Jimmy Stewart life was at that time when he made it and what was going on in his life, the studio or what was going on in the world and you understand the context in what you are seeing at that time, to me makes it an interesting movie. Even if I see a movie a hundred times, you see a reason to watch it again. I might not always watch the whole thing, but certainly I keep up on it. I am just so very grateful to Ted Turner and the current people that are running Time Warner, because they get it! We had a long time when there were a lot of people running Time Warner that didn’t get it, certain classic movies. They get us, Steve Koonin, who basically runs it now, and we are very lucky, because his parents love the channel, so he is not going to tamper with it. He really understands it and gets the value of it and what it means to people. People contact him, like those that say we have gotten them through chemotherapy, having trouble with a hospital stay, unemployment or a bad illness or a death in the family. We are a nurse as well, but I think it is great entertainment, it is like having a shelf full of books. “You will never be lonely if you have a shelf full of books.”
Ben Mankiewicz was asked about the theme of the festival this year, which is “Family in the Movies: The Ties that Bind.” Not only the TCM family but you are part of the Mankiewicz family, which has its own Hollywood mystique, so what is the greatest gift that family at TCM and the family of Mankeiwicz has given you?
“Well the TCM family, that includes people that hired me and all these particular and passionate group of fans, certainly fans of no other television network in the world, they’ve given me a whole different career than I thought I would have and a different identification, which changed the direction of my life. I am enormously grateful, is an understatement. It changed everything for the better. Look my name is not Ben Spielberg, granted, TCM fans knew the Mankiewicz name. Joe’s last really significant film was Sleuth and he wasn’t working much between Cleopatra and Sleuth and certainly not working well. Herman died in 1953, I don’t know that if America was clamoring for a continuation of that legacy.”
Ben Mankiewicz went on to say that he was not foolish enough to think that Turner Classic Movies, when he made the first round of cuts and when he became a finalist, that that was not a little mark in his favor. He is grateful for his family for that too. He said he did not know his grandfather, who died in 1953, but he always thought that his grandfather had such contempt for the business. That he loved writing and he loved talking to people about things that mattered. “Herman would say, so let me get this straight, they are paying you x amount of dollars to talk about other people’s movies? You are a genius.” He told us about his father and uncle selling the Oscar for Citizen Kane, which there where various family reasons for that, mostly because his Dad was not sentimental. It was so much to insure that his father had to put it in a safe deposit box. At that point the market was perfect to sell something like that and they did.
Ben Mankiewicz was asked are they any interviewees that leave him star-struck. His reply was “yeah tons, first off all I have been truly intimidated before interviews with two people, Max Von Sydow, who turned out to be the nicest guy in the world, but I think he was faking it, you know he was, just look at him. Peter Bogdanovich, somehow found myself terrified and he had a cold and it was so nice and so I ended up enjoying that tremendously and Saturday, Jerry Lewis. Let’s not pretend that I am literally scared, that I have over prepared and I might miss something, that I have too many things in there and I will miss something. I got star struck in Telluride by Clooney, but I was like, George Clooney, and he was like there he is, nice to meet you Ben and I said nice knowing you.
Ben Mankiewicz spoke briefly about the passing of Mickey Rooney. He told us that he was on a cruise ship two years ago when Rooney was 91 years old and Rooney had done a three shows and he fell and was slightly sick and the doctor told him to stay in bed and he asked to see Ben Mankiewicz and they talked for 90 minutes in his room, Rooney was really sad and his eyes were moist and he kept saying, “I’m so sorry Ben and I am so sorry Robert, that I let you guys down.” So Ben Mankiewicz told him, “let us down, you are 91 and you just did three shows and that is awesome and no one is going to say anything, and by the way, I am going to go down there and tell them how torn up you are and they are going to give you a standing ovation without you even being there.” Ben Mankiewicz said that Rooney talked about his life and things that was in the news at the time and how much he enjoyed being on the boat and talking with people and how Rooney loved the response he was getting.
Ben Mankiewicz went on to say how much it meant to have spent that time with Rooney on that cruise ship. He told us about an interview that he did after Rooney dies this past Monday, that they say this about so many stars, that they overuse the word “legendary” that they do over at TCM and everyone else does, but you see Rooney on the big screen, you can’t take your eyes off him and it doesn’t matter who else, like Judy Garland on the other side of the screen or Spencer Tracey, and I find myself watching him. For a guy of his height and his looks to steal scenes, it’s more that versatility, he had a magnetic talent and he got Ava Gardner, for crying out loud, so I tweeted the day that he died “Mickey Rooney – Ava Gardner remember kids, anything is possible.”
The Hollywood Times was able to get a question into Ben Mankiewicz, asking him how does he prepare for an interview for someone like Jerry Lewis, who he said he was terrified to have to interview him. For me, and I am sure it’s key for a lot of people, you don’t shy away from enormous preparation. You prepare yourself, because when you give yourself a trove of information then you can say something off the cuff, I am always afraid that I will say something to Jerry Lewis, because I am also preparing for Richard Dreyfuss, that I will tell Jerry Lewis that I loved him in the “Goodbye Girl,” we all laughed. He said to always pay attention to the program and keep yourself out of embarrassing situations.
Is sure was a great way to start off the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival with these two host and The Hollywood Times and all the fans are looking forward to the entire four days of classic movies and interviews. Please check out the website for all the festival dates and times.
About Robert Osborne
Robert Jolin Osborne (born May 3, 1932) is an America actor and film historian best known as the primary host for Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Prior to TCM, Osborne had been a host on The Movie Channel. Born in the small town of Colfax, Washington, Osborne graduated from the University of Washington’s School of Journalism. He began his career working as a contract actor for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s Desilu Studios. There, Osborne became part of Lucille Ball’s Desilu Workshop, in which Ball worked with and nurtured young performers such as Osborne and actress-singer Carole Cook. One of Osborne’s early television appearances was in a 1959 episode of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse called Chain of Command, starring Hugh O’Brian. He was also featured in the Christmas Day Desilu Playhouse installment The Desilu Revue in December 1959. He also had small roles in such TV shows as The Californians and the 1962 pilot episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, “The Clampetts Strike Oil” (as Jeff Taylor). Not thinking the show would be a success, he decided not to sign up for the series, instead deciding to focus on acting in television commercials.
In 2010 he hosted the very first TCM Classic Film Festival. The 2011 Film Festival took place April 28 to May 1 in Hollywood, with the 2012 festival to take place in the spring.
In 2011, TCM announced that Osborne would be taking “a short break from his TCM hosting duties for minor surgery, followed by a vacation.” Osborne did, however, continue to appear on Saturday nights hosting “The Essentials” with Alec Baldwin.
In April, 2013, a new program was introduced on TCM, called Friday Night Spotlight, where every Friday night, a different celebrity takes viewers through a collection of films focusing on a specific topic. Osborne resides in New York City.
Osborne won the Publicists Guild of America 1984 Press Award. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Art University in 2005, and was awarded a star at Vine Street on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. In 2008, he received the National Board of Review’s William K. Everson Award. (Wikipedia)
About Ben Mankiewicz
Benjamin “Ben” Mankiewicz (born March 25, 1967) is an America radio and televison personality, known for his work as a TV journalist, news anchor, and film critic. He attended Gorgetown Day High School, Tufts University, and Columbia University.
Mankiewicz was born in Washington, D.C. He is the son of Holly (née Jolley) and Frank Mankiewicz, the cousin of the screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, grandson of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, and great-nephew of screenwriter, producer, and director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz. He is the brother of NBC News reporter Josh Mankiewicz. His cousin is filmmaker/television producer Nick Davis. His father is Jewish and his mother is a Mormon.
Mankiewicz married Lee Russo during 2013 TCM Cruise on Thursday Dec. 12, 2013. Robert Wagner, film actor, walked Russo down the aisle. They have one child.
Mankiewicz began his professional career as a reporter and an anchor for WCSC-TV (a CBS affiliate) in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1998, he joined WAMI in Miami, Florida, where he served as anchor of The Times, a daily news magazine show and the station’s highlight program.
He is a regular fill-in and co-host of the progressive YouTube talk show The Young Turks, along with Cenk Uygur, and hosts TYT Sports and What The Flick, two spinoff shows on The Young Turks Network. On weekends, he presents classic movies on the American cable television channel, Turner Classic Movies. From 2004–07, he hosted TCM’s Cartoon Alley, shown weekly on Saturday mornings.
In 2008, he and Ben Lyons replaced Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper on the syndicated TV program At the Movies. In August 2009, Lyons and Mankiewicz were replaced by Michael Phillips from the Chicago Tribune and A.O. Scott from The New York Times.
Mankiewicz makes cameo appearances in the movies The Bling Rink (2011) and White House Down (2013). (Wikipedia)