Twenty years ago today, Turner Classic Movies went on the air for the first time with a screening of Gone With the Wind. The network was so small at first that it wasn't even carried in all parts of the country, including Atlanta where the network is based out of. But, as Claude Rains says in Lawrence of Arabia, "big things have small beginnings", and in the past twenty years TCM has grown to be one of the most beloved and popular networks with a fiercely loyal fan base. In addition to the network, the TCM brand and community has become so large and popular that they now have an annual film fest and separate cruise where fans can have the opportunity to gather with fellow classic film lovers to meet each other and get an opportunity to celebrate the love of film with hosts Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, and in some cases the people involved in the making of the films being screened. Each year, these events seem to only get bigger with more and more people coming to discover a love of classic film.
Just yesterday, TCM wrapped it's fifth annual film festival in Hollywood where fans had the opportunity to see some of their favorite films as well as hear some of those film's stars speak about their work.
Jerry Lewis was on hand to speak about his career before a screening of his film The Nutty Professor, and was also honored earlier in the day when he placed his signature and hand prints in cement at a ceremony outside of the TCL Chinese Theatre, perhaps better known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre; an honor that was long overdue for the comedy legend.
On Sunday, Margaret O'Brien was on hand to talk about Mickey Rooney at a screening and last minute tribute for the actor who had passed away just a week before.
You couldn't help but be moved by all of the stories and kind words that she had to say about the late actor; from working with him as a child on the MGM lot to their most recent work together in the yet to be released film The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It was a beautiful tribute for a giant talent that will be sorely missed.
For me, the highlight of the festival was the "Ask Robert" session, where fans got to sit down and ask TCM host Robert Osborne questions about his life and career. The big surprise came when Alex Trebek walked out on stage and it turned in to a sort of "This Is Your Life" tribute where members of Robert's family came out on stage along with TCM co-host Ben Mankiewicz, former "The Essentials" co-host Alec Baldwin, Eva Marie Saint, Robert Wagner, and many others all to honor and thank Robert for the times they've spent with him and for making TCM feel like a family for the past twenty years.
TCM has meant a great deal to me over the years for a lot of reasons. I've loved classic films from as far back as I can remember, and to have a place that I know I can regularly go to enjoy these films on a regular basis makes me feel like I'm at home whenever I turn on the station. TCM is even responsible for bringing me together with my boyfriend, who I met on TCM's second annual cruise almost a year and a half ago. For each of us to finally be with a person who also loves classic films is something we didn't expect but are both very grateful for, and it's all because of TCM.
Happy Anniversary TCM! Twenty years is only the beginning!