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Bob Dorian, Presenter of Classic Movies on AMC, Dies at 85


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Bob Dorian, the amiable TV host who introduced cable viewers to movies of yesteryear back when AMC was known as American Movie Classics, died June 15 in Florida, his family announced. He was 85.

Dorian started out as an actor and a magician (the Amazing Dorian), and his voice was heard on a tape recorder that resurrects a demon in Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1981).

He also had a recurring role on one of AMC's first original series, Remember WENN, which premiered in 1996 and was set at a fictional Pittsburgh radio station in the late 1930s, and appeared in the Woody Allen films The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) and Hollywood Ending (2002).

Ten years before Turner Classic Movies, American Movie Classics launched in October 1984 as a premium cable channel that licensed and aired old films uncut and without commercials 24 hours a day. Execs were looking for announcers to introduce the features, and a producer recommended Dorian, he recalled in a 2009 interview.

"Among the people they were looking at at the time were two Broadway actors, a well-known TV film critic and a few others who were more involved in writing as a profession," he said. "After call backs, I heard the powers that be had been thinking of pairing the TV critic and me as a sort of Siskel & Ebert duo. Interestingly, one of the AMC execs said, 'Wait a minute. The critic might not be too crazy about some of the films we've brought in. This guy Dorian likes everything!' That was it."

Dorian served as AMC's primetime host, and Nick Clooney (George's father, singer Rosemary's brother) and Gene Klavan introduced pictures during the daytime.

In 1998, AMC began inserting commercials into the films and then broadened its focus beyond features, eventually leading to original series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Dorian left the network in 2001.

Born Robert Vierengel in Brooklyn on April 19, 1934, he said he always loved the movies.

"As soon as I could go by myself, I would imitate the people. I thought I was Cary Grant, I thought I was Jack Benny or whoever it was," he told the Baltimore Sun in 1995. "When I was 9, I went for my first suit. I wanted a black suit, and my father said, 'Why do you want a black suit?' I said: "It looks like a tuxedo. I'll look like Fred Astaire.' "

The Hollywood Reporter

 

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Sorry to here this. I mourn the old AMC. :( My cable didnt carry it until just before they added TCM, so I watched mostly TCM when I had both, but I miss the choice, esp. as AMC showed so many Paramount films.

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Bob Dorian was a capable actor and a fine host. Unfortunately, during the time he was hosting American Movie Classics much of the research provided him was being done by a late friend of mine whose sources were invariably his vast collection of studio pressbooks. Needless to say, Bob gave out with an inordinate amount of apocryphal information!

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18 hours ago, Hibi said:

Sorry to here this.

???

Did I wind up on FACEBOOK by mistake;) 

Anyway, I wonder about iNet info sometimes, or probably my jenky memory.   

I recall watching episodes of REMEMBER WENN sitting on the couch with my kids BEFORE my ex and I split up.  And that was in '86. Was then that I moved in with Alicia, who shortly became wife #2, and we were living in Southwest Detroit which didn't HAVE a cable service available, so........

Yeah, I liked Dorian as a host on the old AMC, and thought too, he would have been a good fit for TCM.  You know, to take a bit of the load off Robert Osborne.  

Sepiatone

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The tribute article is wrong or maybe misleading about one thing:

" In 1998, AMC began inserting commercials into the films and then broadened its focus beyond features, eventually leading to original series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Dorian left the network in 2001. "

It was like flipping a switch when AMC went from classics to modern films and programming. In September 2002 they were still showing "It Happened One Night". In October they were showing "An Officer and a Gentleman" from 1982.  It was so drastic that AMC lost a lawsuit in which cable providers said that they had signed AMC on because it was a classic movie channel only for them to abruptly become....CENSORED. I think the settlement worked out had AMC playing classics during the day for the next five or so years.

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35 minutes ago, calvinnme said:

The tribute article is wrong or maybe misleading about one thing:

" In 1998, AMC began inserting commercials into the films and then broadened its focus beyond features, eventually leading to original series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Dorian left the network in 2001. "

It was like flipping a switch when AMC went from classics to modern films and programming. In September 2002 they were still showing "It Happened One Night". In October they were showing "An Officer and a Gentleman" from 1982.  It was so drastic that AMC lost a lawsuit in which cable providers said that they had signed AMC on because it was a classic movie channel only for them to abruptly become....CENSORED. I think the settlement worked out had AMC playing classics during the day for the next five or so years.

They still occasionally played classics like Shirley Temple films and Public Enemy as late as 2011 or 2012. Unfortunately, I never saw the channel in its Golden Era but Dorian seemed like a nice man all the same. RIP

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2 hours ago, calvinnme said:

The tribute article is wrong or maybe misleading about one thing:

" In 1998, AMC began inserting commercials into the films and then broadened its focus beyond features, eventually leading to original series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Dorian left the network in 2001. "

It was like flipping a switch when AMC went from classics to modern films and programming. In September 2002 they were still showing "It Happened One Night". In October they were showing "An Officer and a Gentleman" from 1982.  It was so drastic that AMC lost a lawsuit in which cable providers said that they had signed AMC on because it was a classic movie channel only for them to abruptly become....CENSORED. I think the settlement worked out had AMC playing classics during the day for the next five or so years.

I remember they had the "making of" kind of specials. And had showings of films with running commentary running below when showing certain films. First the commercials were only between films. When they started interupting the films themselves with commercials, that's when I stopped watching.

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Can anybody give me some idea of the content available on AMC back in the day? I don't guess I ever lived anywhere that it was on my cable system until it had become the Inside the Actors Studio channel. What studio's movies did they have access to? Does anybody have samples of a day's programming? Did they have nightly or monthly themes like TCM?

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39 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Can anybody give me some idea of the content available on AMC back in the day? I don't guess I ever lived anywhere that it was on my cable system until it had become the Inside the Actors Studio channel. What studio's movies did they have access to? Does anybody have samples of a day's programming? Did they have nightly or monthly themes like TCM?

I don't recall Inside the Actor's Studio ever being on AMC. It was on Bravo. 

AMC in the old days was pretty much like TCM now. They showed commercial-free, unedited films from the studio era. They showed many films from the Fox, Paramount and Universal libraries, as I recall. They also had Stars of the Month. I can recall Deanna Durbin being one, as I was totally unfamiliar with her work before then. I also recall Tyrone Power being star of the month, as I watched most of those. There were hosts before and after most of the movies. The only ones I recall were Bob Dorian and Nick Clooney. I liked them both.

AMC was available on my cable (which was Time-Warner back then, now Comcast) when I first got cable, which was in mid-1987 or so. I didn't get TCM until 1997 or so. At first I much preferred AMC, as they showed more films from the 50's and 60's, as well as earlier stuff, while all TCM seemed to show were musicals and comedy programmers from the 30's and 40's. Of course that changed, as AMC switched formats, and I started to see more varied stuff on TCM. 

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2 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Can anybody give me some idea of the content available on AMC back in the day? I don't guess I ever lived anywhere that it was on my cable system until it had become the Inside the Actors Studio channel. What studio's movies did they have access to? Does anybody have samples of a day's programming? Did they have nightly or monthly themes like TCM?

I've seen monthly guides for the old AMC for sale on eBay. They are collector's items. 

They definitely featured more films from Universal and Paramount. And often their Star of the Month would be a Universal or Paramount contract player.

TCM borrowed a lot of ideas from the old AMC, and it carries those ideas forward today. Without the old AMC, there would be no Turner Classic Movies today.

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5 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Can anybody give me some idea of the content available on AMC back in the day? 

Every Saturday morning they showed a classic monster picture, which is how I saw many of the universal horrors.

I also have personal recollections of seeing- and videotaping- LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, THE GLASS KEY and LAURA on AMC.

Lots more stuff than that, but those I recall

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I want to say also that AMC would repeat titles throughout the week, i.e. show a movie two or three times – but I was OK with that since their selection was pretty good.

In ye older days, the way that I saw most of my classic movies was on AMC, TNT, oddly enough Cinemax, or the video store.

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50 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

I want to say also that AMC would repeat titles throughout the week, i.e. show a movie two or three times – but I was OK with that since their selection was pretty good.

In ye older days, the way that I saw most of my classic movies was on AMC, TNT, oddly enough Cinemax, or the video store.

In the earlier cable days( at least in MY region) it was TMC( The Movie Channel) that would more often show older, "classic" type fare.  Until anyway, AMC started up.  

Sepiatone

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36 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

In the earlier cable days( at least in MY region) it was TMC( The Movie Channel) that would more often show older, "classic" type fare.  Until anyway, AMC started up.  

Sepiatone

Yeah, in the Southeast, we NEVER got the MOVIE CHANNEL, although I always wanted it though.

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Robert Osborne was considered for host of AMC. I think he may be one of the writers mentioned in Dorian's Obit. I think the story is Ted Turner or whomever hired RO said you could be another host on AMC or you could be THE guy at TCM if you wait. So RO waited for it to hit the air. Weren't we lucky he did?

I still have tons of the AMC Guides. I should pull them out of storage and see what's what. I haven't looked at them in years!

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26 minutes ago, yanceycravat said:

Robert Osborne was considered for host of AMC. I think he may be one of the writers mentioned in Dorian's Obit. I think the story is Ted Turner or whomever hired RO said you could be another host on AMC or you could be THE guy at TCM if you wait. So RO waited for it to hit the air. Weren't we lucky he did?

Great piece of history!  On a somber note it is final now that there is no chance Dorian might make it to TCM.  In the back of my head I had wondered of what the possibilities might have been.  He looked like a good presenter on some of those old uploaded intros, but I have to keep reminding myself that is how he was 30 or so years ago, not how he would have been recently.
 

26 minutes ago, yanceycravat said:

I still have tons of the AMC Guides. I should pull them out of storage and see what's what. I haven't looked at them in years!

Uh-oh

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Yes, I remember reading somthing about RO being lured away from AMC. I thought maybe he worked there behind the scenes, but it appears not. I was familiar with him as I knew he wrote a column for the Hollywood Reporter.

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