It was in April of 1994 that a rambunctious rabble-rousing media mogul named Ted Turner and husband to Jane Fonda at the time launched Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at a Times Square celebration surrounded by Hollywood legends and former Hollywood Reporter columnist Robert Osborne. A movie buff from Atlanta whose favorite film was Gone with the Wind, Turner bought MGM’s library of 2,200 films made before 1986.

For the same man who launched CNN and was the owner of the Atlanta Braves among countless other projects, TCM was perhaps the closest to his heart. And as it turns out, to movie fans all over the world as well.

In the last 30 years, the franchise has grown to include classic boat cruises, an annual film festival, a wine club, and podcasts with Hollywood legends like Pam Grier and Peter Bogdanovich. But probably more significant than anything, TCM has performed a cultural service by introducing a whole new generation to silent movies and film noir. Through hundreds of interviews with Hollywood legends, forgotten stars like Marie Windsor were brought back to life with refreshed fan bases via a unique hosted format.

Turner Classic Movies

Original host Robert Osborne (Courtesy TCM)

Film historian Osborne performed as host up until 2016 and the channel now boasts a lineup that includes director and president of the Academy of Museum Jacqueline Stewart, who introduced Silent Sunday Nights. Also part of the stable are Dave Karger, Ben Mankiewicz, Alicia Malone, and the dashing and debonair Eddie Muller, whose Noir Alley on Saturday nights has developed a huge cult following and has spawned an explosion of noir film festivals. 

“TCM has been vital to the resurrection of forgotten films,” Muller says. Some restored movies never reach an audience beyond the festival circuit, but TCM reaches hundreds of thousands of viewers at once, which is essential to the mission of film preservationists. TCM has been crucial to the efforts of my Film Noir Foundation, providing valuable underwriting in addition to the vast exposure we couldn’t get any other way. TCM is the guardian of Hollywood’s cultural legacy, as well as an essential platform for mainstream viewers to learn about the full breadth and depth of cinema worldwide. There is no substitute for it and no viable replacement. Without TCM, the history of American movies would be fractured into a thousand little pieces, minus any cogent, coherent curation.”

“I think movies are always more than just mere entertainment, even if they don’t seem so on the surface,” says Malone. “Films can change perspectives and create conversations, and they can also bring us together. Going to a movie theater is a rare experience — for two hours, nobody can contact you, and you can allow yourself to be fully immersed in another world and have a shared experience. I love that you can sit in the dark next to a stranger and laugh or cry at the same time, but also walk out of the film having a completely different take on what you just watched.”

For musical matinee lover Karger, the channel is unrivaled in its commitment to maintaining, restoring and recontextualizing Hollywood history. 

“It’s always very exciting to introduce a film on the network that hasn’t been aired in decades,” he says of TCM, whose fan base keeps growing and getting bigger. “I think it’s important for film fans of any age to understand the history of cinema since it’s always being referred to in present-day film. I know many younger people are turned off by older films or black-and-white movies, but there’s so much to enjoy and appreciate.”

Turner Classic Movies

Current TCM hosts from left: Eddie Muller, Jacqueline Stewart, Ben Mankiewicz, Alicia Malone, and Dave Karger (Courtesy TCM)

For Mankiewicz, who comes from a Hollywood pedigree as the grandson of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, the grand nephew of screenwriter, producer and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, TCM is a nice place for a film to be because that makes it a classic. TCM airs hundreds of films in all languages that wouldn’t show up on regular television, with new oldies periodically making their debuts.

“Hollywood defines America’s sense of self and the country’s story was told through the prism of Hollywood,” he tells L.A. Weekly. “It’s a great and terrible thing.  Our whole image of the American West was framed by John Ford’s westerns. We also completely marginalized huge swaths of people. The idea of women only being interested in getting married and that their place was in the home came out of movies. Hollywood was responsible for a lot of stereotypes. Hollywood has a very critical role to play going forward and it’s just as relevant as ever, even if it doesn’t resemble the Hollywoodland of 1927. Good storytelling is not to be denied; we all still want to escape into a good story. Especially in these polarized times.”

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, TCM will feature special programming throughout April with conversations with staffers who helped launch the channel, Osborne’s 20th Anniversary Tribute, and classics like Turner’s beloved Gone With The Wind and Orson Welles’ masterpiece, A Touch of Evil.


























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