A haven for films on TV celebrates a milestone
Ted Turner’s favorite film, “Gone With the Wind,” was the first attraction when Turner Classic Movies launched 25 years ago.
The former cable mogul no longer owns the channel, but its mission to deliver movies uncut and uninterrupted continues. The Oscar-winning 1939 saga of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara (Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh) also will be a major element as the home of the phrase “Let’s Movie” marks its silver anniversary Sunday, April 14, the same day the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival ends in Hollywood.
“It’s a pretty great gig when your job means you have to watch three or four classic movies a day,” attests principal TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, who now has on-air allies in Alicia Malone, Dave Karger and “Noir Alley” specialist Eddie Muller.
“We have great chemistry, and I like them very much,” Mankiewicz says. “When Robert (the late TCM founding personality Robert Osborne) was hosting, as we increased the number of movies that were hosted, I took some of the burden off him – so I’m thrilled to be able to have the workload lessened slightly. It’s still the greatest job in the world, but somewhere along the line, it stops being easy.”
For many viewers, TCM is much more than a channel. It’s a passion and even a state of mind, as verified by the success of such related events as the annual Classic Film Festival, the TCM Classic Cruise and TCM-themed bus tours in New York and Los Angeles … plus the “Backlot” initiative that unites fans. And to whet the palette literally, there’s even the TCM Wine Club.
Also the author of two books on women in film, Malone got early training for TCM by recording a movie host in her native Australia. “I wore out my tapes,” she claims, “but I knew every word of those intros from back to front.” Her longtime friend Karger – an entertainment-journalism veteran – adds, with a nod to TCM’s history, ”If I can just try to emulate Robert Osborne for the rest of my life, I think I’ll be in OK shape.”