20 March 2017 | AlsExGal
Robert Osborne interviews film history...
...sometimes with unexpected results!
I'm giving this one a perfect score because I don't know how the well researched and empathetic host Mr. Osborne could have done a better job both of selecting and interviewing guests.
In all, there were 28 episodes of "Private Screenings". The first 27 were interviews conducted by Mr. Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, over a 15 year period, 1995-2010. Mr. Osborne was truly a profile in courage to continue these interviews considering how two of the early ones went. The first one went well, and how could it not, with Robert Osborne's long time friend Jane Powell as the interviewee.
Two of the most famous, that did not go as planned were in the early years of the show. When Bob interviewed Bob Mitchum and Jane Russell, the extremely ill Mitchum stonewalled Bob at every turn. According to Bob, he was very chatty off camera and the minute they were on film he would give terse grouchy answers. Ms. Russell did her best to try to smooth over things, but I do think I remember Bob saying "I could have killed him.". I do know that Mitchum, sick with emphysema to the point he needed a nurse and an oxygen tank, would raise his hand every five minutes - to go outside and have a smoke! Stay away from the cancer sticks kids, they'll hook you beyond reason and get you in the end.
The other one was the following year, in 1997, with Mickey Rooney. Apparently Rooney got so caught up in a case of reminiscing about a dust up he had with the director of Killer McCoy that he got angry all over again, 50 years later. Rooney was so animated that Bob stayed perfectly still and perfectly silent. He said later that he wanted to smile to try and take some intensity out of the moment, but was truly afraid if he did that Rooney would hit him!
In 2000 Bob interviewed Betty Hutton, once famous Paramount star who had become so reclusive the TCM staff who knew who she was thought she was dead! Bob brought in some tapes of her past performances to familiarize the staff to her talent prior to the interview, and the actual interview was endearing. Bob put Hutton completely at ease so that she really opened up. Bob said later that he thinks that episode of Private Screenings was responsible for Hutton being remembered by many people to the point that her death seven years later made the front page of the New York Times .
The very last Private Screenings was Robert Osborne as the interviewee and his past Essentials cohost Alec Baldwin doing the interviewing. Their chemistry was awesome and illustrated why their years on The Essentials had, IMHO, some of the best discussions I've seen between Osborne and anybody else. It was part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the channel.
Even though Bob was active on the channel for the next two years before taking an extended hiatus from the channel due to his health, unfortunately never to return prior to his death, he never did another private screening episode.
It is hard to get a list in one place - even on this website! - of the Private Screenings episodes. I've put together the list for you. The years are correct, but the order within years in the case of multiple episodes within a year may be incorrect. TCM has a Private Screenings listed for Olivia De Haviland in 2014, but I cannot find confirmation that this interview ever happened. It might have been planned because Bob and Olivia were such good friends, calling one another once a week for years, but Mr. Osborne's health may have prevented it.
In reverse order: Robert Osborne (2014), Liza Minnelli (2010), Ernest Borgnine (2009), Walter Mirisch (2008), Norman Jewison (2007), Jane Fonda (2007), Stanley Donen (2006), Child Stars (2006) former child stars Margaret O'Brien, Jane Withers, Dickie Moore and Darryl Hickman, Angela Lansbury (2006), Sidney Lumet (2005), Lauren Bacall (2005), Patricia Neal (2004), Shirley MacLaine (2003), Debbie Reynolds (2002), James Garner (2001), Rod Steiger (2000), Betty Hutton (2000), Tony Curtis (1999), Leslie Caron (1999), Anthony Quinn (1999), June Allyson (1998), Lemon/Matthau (1998), Charlton Heston (1998), Ann Miller (1997), Mickey Rooney (1997), Robert Mitchum/Jane Russell (1996,) Esther Williams (1996), Jane Powell (1995)
Odd factoid - Jane Fonda was married to Ted Turner when he started TCM in 1994. They had been divorced for several years and TCM belonged to Warner Brothers by the time Bob interviewed her in 2007.