When Turner Classic Movies first opened for business 15 years ago, I was heartbroken. My cable provider, a wretched outfit called Cencom Cable, didn’t carry the channel.
By definition, TCM was a movie lovers’ celluloid dream — a commercial-free outlet with unfettered access to the pre-1948 MGM and Warner Bros. film libraries and the RKO library. TCM was the reason that Ted Turner went into hock up to his eyeballs to buy the MGM library in the mid-1980s.
Not only would it showcase classics from the Golden Age but as my husband was quick to point out, there would be skads of ’30s and ’40s films that we’d never had the chance to see — never even heard of before. The cabler launched on April 14, 1994 (hard to believe what a different era for media that was) with an epic that we’ve all heard of, “Gone With the Wind.”
We weren’t deprived for long. Our cable provider, which by this time I believe had changed, offered us a movie-channel upgrade that included TCM. When we finally flipped the switch,TCM was better than we’d ever imagined. A classy presentation, knowledgeable host in veteran Hollywood Reporter columnist Robert Osborne (he put AMC’s Bob Dorian to shame — and out to pasture) and best of all, the programmers clearly had an appreciation for the treasure trove at their disposal.
Pictured above, Turner Classic Movies’ launch event in Times Square, April 14, 1994. From left, Arthur Hiller, Arlene Dahl, Jane Powell, Celeste Holm, Ted Turner, Van Johnson and Robert Osborne.