Classic Film Guide

Happy 15th Anniversary TCM!

Where to begin? In honor of TCM’s 15th Anniversary, let me first say “THANK YOU”. Thank you for preserving film’s history for us. Thank you for offering us an escape from the schlock that’s been coming out of Hollywood ever since the summer blockbuster (which seduced its executives) was born and a myopic focus on the “date movie” demographic (and an obsession with a movie’s first weekend’s box office gross) began to rule their every decision, all those years ago. Thank you for a most gracious – and the classiest host on television – Robert Osborne (who I probably should have listed first), his marvelous screen presence, his genuine persona, his unparalleled historical points of reference and encyclopedic film knowledge, his ability to handle demanding divas as well as more fragile starlets, the biggest egos along with the more reclusive, the jerks and the luminous alike, and even Kermit the Frog as deftly and naturally as the most skilled diplomat. Thank you for airing all of your features uncut and commercial-free, something which has surely been difficult to manage throughout the entire tenure given the parent company’s many challenges over the years. Thank you for introducing me to Paul Muni, Fredric March, Warren William and Walter Huston’s leading man days, to Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne and Merle Oberon, to Marie Dressler and Billie Burke, to Charles Coburn, to Fay Bainter and Aline MacMahon, and to dozens of unforgettable character actors, to directors Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges, to movies like These Three (1936), Ninotchka (1939), The Mortal Storm (1940), Ball of Fire (1941), Random Harvest (1942), and most recently A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), and to so many Ealing Studios comedies, to film noir, and for your annual salute to the men and women that have served their country by protecting our freedoms each Memorial Day. And finally, thank you for these past 15 years of unsurpassed excellence!

While my movie journey began when I was a kid with an 8mm camera, it has continued to this day because of TCM. Before I found the channel, I knew all about Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, of Rogers and Hammerstein musicals and most of the Academy Award Best Picture winners, and thought I’d seen all the best Cary Grant, John Wayne and Frank Capra films. But about 10 years ago, suffering from (work-related) insomnia, I got out of bed, went down stairs and turned on the television. Flipping past all of the infomercials I happened upon a black-and-white movie and something caught my interest. Had there been a commercial to interrupt my gaze, I probably would have started channel surfing again. Instead I became enthralled and watched it ‘til its end. I don’t remember what movie it was, but I remember looking it up in the TV guide and finding four stars next to its title. I scanned the guide further and found another ‘four star’ movie on the same channel – TCM – airing later that week, and decided to program my VCR to tape it. I enjoyed watching that one too, and I soon began a weekly ritual of scanning the TV guide every Sunday and preprogramming my VCR to tape any and every ‘four star’ movie that appeared on TCM’s schedule. Though not every classic lived up to this rating, it was usually worth the time it took me to watch it. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough ‘four star’ movies on TCM each week to satisfy my new craving and I had a sense that I was missing taping some really great movies while relying on the ratings of this unknown (TV Guide) critic. So I bought Leonard Maltin’s 2002 Movie & Video Guide (which I still have, though it’s dog-eared and its cover is a shambles) and started looking up every movie on TCM’s schedule, taping it if the former Entertainment Tonight critic gave it 3 1/2 or 4 stars. This guide has been very reliable in that I agree with its ratings most of the time. I’d not only found an escape from my rote routines but had reconnected with my childhood passion.

When I discovered TCM’s message boards – my first post was July 3, 2003 – I was thrilled to find other classic film fanatics and a tremendous wealth of movie knowledge among the participants there. I learned the names of even more actors, actresses, directors and movies to investigate; watching the channel became a nightly event, even if it was just for Robert Osborne’s intros. Participating in TCM’s online community enabled me to connect with likeminded persons that shared my passion for movies with great stories, studio stars, quirky character actors, and even B movies. I became so obsessed with my new hobby – sharing my opinions and checking to see what others had to say several times a day – that I’d eventually written enough on the subject to start this website; it was 2004, the same year that I began subscribing to the channel’s Now Playing Guide. In 2005, I had the thrill of a lifetime: an opportunity to meet Robert Osborne, see him tape intros and outgoes for half a day, and then discuss classic movies with him over lunch (despite his failing voice that week). In 2006, I was fortunate enough to be asked to be one of their first bloggers.

That’s about it – my personal story and recollection of how I came to find the Turner Classic Movies channel, and its subsequent affect on/influence in my life. I’m sure it’s not dissimilar to that of many others of you “wonderful people out there in the dark!”

© 2009 Turner Classic Movies - this article originally appeared on TCM's official blog

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