Robert Osborne Gets Absurd

3-D movies, the ones that live on and on and why we watch the same movies over and over again. Here’s part two of my interview with TCM’s Robert Osborne.

Q: This past year we’ve seen a rise in 3D movies and even more advances in the field of special effects but can a technologically advanced movie win an Oscar or does all of that just get in the way?

Robert: I think they add to the movie experience a lot of times like with Avatar, the 3D did. And I think it’s great showmanship and it helps to add to the box office and gets people excited about the movies for a while. But I think there’s nothing more important than a good story, because every time it’s the story that’s going to hold people and bring them back to it again. You’re watching Jaws, not for anything except the story, basically. That story is what grips you. How it’s told and how it excites you and makes you gasp and all of that. If the story is not there then you it’s a much riskier thing.

We’ve had a lot of movies with a lot of great actors in them and there’s no story and it’s not a very good film. You can have the most powerful actors in the world or the most attractive. If your story is not there, boy you’re in trouble. A great example of that is a movie called Paris When it Sizzles with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden at the peak of their careers and they’re absolutely wonderful, and it’s one of the worse movie you’ll ever see.

Q:  Why do you think that certain movies just resonate year after year?

Robert: I don’t know what that is, but it’s a miracle. One of the miracles for me is Gone with the Wind. The fact that it was made in 1939, it’s frozen in time, frozen on film. Everything about the world has changed since 1939. Our morals have changed, the way we behave, the way we dress, the way we think, the way we operate. Everything has changed. That movie has not changed, and yet we react to it in the same way people did in 1939; and that’s the magic of the movies. And you can’t do that deliberately. You can’t make a movie deliberately to last, because you don’t know what the formula is. But it is interesting. What fascinates me also is that a film like say, The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland, which was a big success in its time, but then was totally forgotten until now. Olivia de Havilland let us know she gets a lot of mail in Paris, where she lives, about her films and she gets more and more fan mail about The Heiress then she does now about Gone with the Wind. All these years later and this film is having such an effect on people whose parents weren’t even born when it came out. So it’s just one of the miracles, I think of, that some resonate; and then some who were very popular in their time don’t hold up at all. They’re very dated.

Q:  What I always find fascinating is that there are certain movies, that I’ve seen a hundred times, like Jaws and To Kill a Mockingbird, yet every time I see it playing on TV I stop on the channel and start watching it.

Robert: And you can’t leave it then.  I think there’s something psychological about that. I can have a copy of Sunset Boulevard on DVD on my shelf. If it comes on television it’s more magical to watch because I know other people are watching it at the same time. It’s that old communal thing again. It’s why movies are so wonderful to see in a theater, because you’re enjoying them with other people. They all laugh at the same time you do. We lose that with the DVD experience and a lot of that because we see it by ourselves. So when you’re watching Some Like It Hot or Sunset Boulevard or anything on TV, you know it’s going out and there are other people watching it. That makes it a little more interesting to us, I think.

Q: Now it’s time to get absurd. What’s something you’ve hung on to since you were a kid?

Robert: Hung on since I was a kid? Well, actually a Mickey Mouse doll. Yeah. A little Mickey Mouse I had when I was a kid and I still got it. I really have it now because I think it’s worth a lot of money. It was an original Mickey Mouse.

Q:  That’s wonderful and so appropriate for you, I think.

Robert:  Maybe so because I have ears just like Mickey’s.

You can catch Robert Osborne dolling out all sorts of great behind-the-scenes stories and movie trivia every night on Turner Classic Movies. If you missed part one of our interview, click here and be sure to check out TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar festival which continues throughout the month of February.

Robert Osborne and John Badham at the 2010 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California. 4/25/10 ph: Mark Hill


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