robert osborne feb 2009 gi Turner Classic Movies' Robert Osborne honors stars now goneRobert Osborne takes it personally when a Hollywood legend dies.

The year now ending has had many such passings, and the principal host of Turner Classic Movies deems it both a duty and a privilege to mark such milestones, as he did Monday (Dec. 27) by presenting the channel’s festival of films by recently deceased director Blake Edwards (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Pink Panther”).

“With people of Tony Curtis’ age, in their early-to-mid 80s, that’s the time when Mother Nature zaps a lot of people,” Osborne tells Zap2it. “We’re not actually talking about people from the Golden Age of movies, but those who were at the tail end of that. The Humphrey Bogarts and Greer Garsons are gone, but the Tony Curtises and Barbara Rushes are getting to that age where they’re very vulnerable.

“It’s very startling, but as I always say, thank goodness for film … because we still have them. One of the last things Tony did was to come to our Classic Film Festival last April. He wasn’t well, but he was out there shaking hands and doing all that. You just knew the chances were he wasn’t going to make it for very long, and it’s sad, because what such people contributed was so incredible.”

Osborne actually resided near one of them: “Lynn Redgrave lived in my building in New York, and after she went through her first cancer bout, she just blossomed. She was so beautiful and feeling so well, then she’d be more and more pale, and you’d read that she was canceling this or that. She was such a lovely lady, really nice.”

Though he wasn’t acquainted with Jill Clayburgh, Osborne saw her daughter shortly after the “An Unmarried Woman” star’s recent death. Lily Rabe is starring opposite Al Pacino in a New York revival of  “The Merchant of Venice,” and having attended the show, Osborne says “she looks startlingly like her mother. The voice is the same, too. It’s amazing, just like the reincarnation of Jill Clayburgh.”

Now gearing up for TCM’s annual “31 Days of Oscar” event that will span the month of February and several days beyond, Osborne — also an Oscar historian — doesn’t get an advance look at the channel’s traditional December segment between movies that cites film figures who died during the year. However, he reveals one of the secrets of how it’s assembled.

“It has footage of water running down a little stream, and that’s basically so there’s room to fill in if somebody else dies while it’s still being shown. The day Blake Edwards died, he was inserted into that. Some people wonder why longer time isn’t given to the people who are shown, but it’s so there is that space for people you’d want immediately included. I think they do a really good job with that.”

Posted by:Jay Bobbin