TCM host Robert Osborne previews new season of “The Essentials” with Alec Baldwin

This Saturday, Emmy winning “30 Rock” actor Alec Baldwin returns to his second favorite job on television: co-hosting his third season of “The Essentials” on Turner Classic Movies with his pal Robert Osborne. This time around, the pair picked 30 “must-see” films that will air throughout 2011 on Saturday nights, concluding with the holiday classic “Miracle on 34th Street” on Christmas Eve.
The new season starts Saturday at 8 p.m. with 1967’s “Cool Hand Luke,” a prison flick that earned Paul Newman an Oscar nod.
“The comfort level that had been established between Alec and myself really deepened this year shooting the third season,” Osborne told us during a set visit recently. “As Alec has pointed out, that first year, he felt that he had to compete with me a bit. He wanted to prove that he knew a lot about movies. And then, he said in the second year, he just gave up on that because I knew so many details that he didn’t. But what Alec brought to it is something I can’t and that’s insights from an actor’s standpoint. He can tell you what is coming off the screen and what the director is doing with the actors. It became two great friends talking. Once you’ve got that comfort level established, it’s just golden. I would rather work with Alec than with anybody. Plus, he’s funny and we laugh a lot. It’s wonderful when you’re working long hours to work with someone who makes it so enjoyable.”
One of the less well-known picks this season is 1949’s “Letter to Three Wives” that netted little gold guys for Best Director and Best Screenplay. “I wasn’t entirely sure that Alec had seen the film,” Osborne says. “It’s a very witty, very charming film. I think for people who haven’t seen it, it will be a very pleasant surprise.”
Another Osborne pick for the new season of “The Essentials” is the 1936 drama “Dodsworth,” a film that has become a favorite of TCM viewers and attendees of the annual Telluride Film Festival. The film stars Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton and is based on a Sinclair Lewis novel about an industrialist and his frivolous wife who retire to Europe where their marriage ends.
“It’s great to see that people are getting to know this movie,” Osborne says. “I realized the power of it when they invited me to Telluride to introduce it a few years ago. They didn’t traditionally show old movies at that time at Telluride so this was something new for them. We asked [Hollywood producer] Sam Goldwyn Jr. to come to discuss it from his dad’s perspective. It did so well that it drew huge crowds. So they showed it a second time and it had an overflow crowd. So they showed it a third time and it became the hit of the festival! Sam Goldwyn turned to me after and remarked how amazing it was that a film made in 1936 could have such power. It’s a film that nobody knows, sounds boring and has Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton in it who are not dynamic names to modern filmgoers. You see Ruth Chatterton’s picture and think ‘Not interested.’ It’s a little miracle because all those wonderful scenes set in Italy were done on a backlot at the Goldwyn studios. It’s a movie that just gets you and entertains you at the same time.”