Turner Classic Birdman

robert osborne beverly hillbilliesWell, hello there, handsome!

Before I begin, I’d like to call attention my new layout, if you haven’t noticed it already. This terrific blog design is courtesy Kathy at Moxie. They’ve designed several blogs I enjoy, and were kind enough to take my little personal blog as a client. I couldn’t be happier with the new look. I hope you like it as much as I do.

You may have noticed that posts are now wider than they were previously. This has caused some of my photos and post layouts to become rather… interesting. Please bear with me for a few days while I get everything back to normal. And now, on with the show:

Every once in a while I like to get silly. Many of my posts are rather time-intensive and involve finding rare movies, digging up stills from crazy sources and buying books that have been out of print for a few decades, so I like to take a break occasionally. That said, this is a post I’ve wanted to do for a long time, because it’s about one of my favorite people, Robert Osborne.

Osborne began his career in Hollywood as an actor. He was under contract with Desilu studios and was close friends with Lucille Ball until her death, despite the fact that she greatly intimidated him. Osborne has remarked that training as an actor under the studio system was preferable to what actors have nowadays, and mentioned Desilu taught their contract players how to do their own make-up, fence, and other useful actory things. Robert Osborne in The Beverly Hillbillies

In the late 50s and early 60s, Osborne appeared in a few television shows, including the pilot episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies”. The show’s title for the pilot was “The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills”; my husband remarked that they must have hired people with degrees to spice up the title after the pilot aired. A very young (and surprisingly tall) Osborne plays Taylor, an assistant to Mr. Drysdale.

Osborne is the super suave man at the beginning on this post, and in the picture above. I grabbed a couple of screencaps for you, so you can see for yourself that while he may be a very handsome man nowadays, when he was young, he was HOTT, with two Ts, as the kids these days say. Unfortunately, he wasn’t much of an actor. His few lines in “The Beverly Hillbillies” pilot sound as though he’s about to introduce a movie on TCM. Osborne claims Lucille Ball gave him the idea to combine his love of films with his acting training and journalism degree; on his TCM biography page, he said she gave him this advice “especially after she saw me act”.

Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law

I’m happy to say that Robert Osborne does still occasionally show up in unexpected places. Most recently he was the host of an episode of the animated series “Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law”. The episode, entitled “Turner Classic Birdman”, both pleased and confused me when it first aired in August, 2005. I’d changed the channel to Cartoon Network but when Robert Osborne came on, I momentarily thought I’d changed to TCM instead, yet I distinctly heard Osborne say the words “Harvey Birdman”. Once the vertigo cleared up, I enjoyed the show.

“Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law” is a show based on the 1960s Hanna Barbera cartoon characters. Shows are usually 15 minutes long and comprised of original material, however this episode reused old 1960s animation with new voices and plots, much like “Sealab 2021” does. Osborne introduces the episode by telling us that before Harvey became a lawyer, he was a superhero “of all things”. Hee. The real treat was when Osborne returned for the outro, where he says we’ve just watched 1944’s “Double Indemnity”, and ends with this mouthful of a sentence:

birdman-osborne“Later Frank Capra would confess in his autobiography that he fell in love with Stanwyck, and had he not been more in love with Lucille Rayburn, who he eventually did marry, he would have asked Barbara Stanwyck to marry him, after she called it quits with Frank Fay, before she married Robert Taylor.”

Sure, it’s funny, mostly because it’s a run-on sentence that’s not entirely accurate. Bringing up Capra is quite a non sequitur, since he didn’t direct “Double Indemnity” (Billy Wilder did.) But Osborne has said that Capra’s autobiography, The Name Above the Title, is “the best show-business autobiography to date, bar none”, so it’s reasonable for Osborne to comment on it during an outro.

Frank Capra Barbara Stanwyck Adolph Menjou

Capra did direct Stanwyck during “Ladies of Leisure” (1930), and that’s when he fell in love with her. (Capra and Stanwyck are pictured here, during filming of “Forbidden” (1932), with Adolphe Menjou). However, Capra married Lucille in 1932, and Stanwyck didn’t even divorce Frank Fay until 1935. The dates don’t really match up. But that’s okay, it’s a little gift for us film fans who are also “Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law” fans. All 10 of us.


Turner Classic Movie’s Robert Osborne biography page

Ha Ha!…Website: A Harvey Birdman fan page

Atlantic County Cartoons blog entry on “Ladies of Leisure” (1930)

Creative Loafing Atlanta’s interview with Robert Osborne


  1. Wow — Robert Osborne, an actor! You learn something new every day.

    While I’m at it, let me say I like this site a lot…very well done and thought out. I cordially invite people to check out my site, “Carole & Co.,” dedicated to Carole Lombard in particular and classic Hollywood in general. (Recent entries include discussions of the silent-era Lombard, when she worked with Mack Sennett, among others, and also her relationship with Orson Welles, whom she almost made a film for.) You can find it at

  2. Hello VP – yes, I have been to your blog! I’m on LiveJournal myself (user “smashingstars”) and I think I was linked to your journal through one of amy_jeanne’s posts. Your blog is great, and if you don’t mind I’ll add it to my blogroll.

  3. Wow! You’ve got a very fun and informative blog here. I didn’t know Robert Osbourne was an actor, or that he was on an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies (or even “Harvey Birdman”). And a tip o’ the hat to you for linking to my blog post about “Ladies of Leisure”, too.

  4. Hi Dennis! Thanks for visiting. Your Ladies of Leisure post was really quite good, I was pleased to find it. Now that I know how to do a trackback, though, I realize I should have done that for the link to your blog.

  5. surely there are more than 10 of us?

    And THANK YOU for doing a post on Robert Osborne… he is the original International Man of Mystery. It’s somewhat difficult to find information about him online, and I badly want to know how he got his job. (not least because I aspire to it myself! :) jk)

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