On April 13, 2019 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Kevin Brownlow was presented with the 2nd Robert Osborne Award. Last year’s recipient was Martin Scorcese. The ceremony was held on the Saturday night of the 10th annual TCM Classic Film Series, before a screening of a new digital restoration of Brownlow’s film It Happened Here. TCM posted a video of the acceptance on its YouTube channel.
You just may have noticed a jump-cut in the middle of the video. This was probably a difficult edit to make, considering that Mr. Brownlow used this award speech as a moment to make an important point – impassioned, really – about film rights and access regarding silent film.
What he said really impressed me, and the fact that he said it — and how he expressed it — moved me.
One of the biggest challenges in presenting a silent film show or producing a DVD or Blu-ray release is the hurdle of rights and the costs associated with clearing them. Kevin Brownlow’s “Hollywood” series was released on VHS and Laserdisc decades ago, and the costs of clearing all the clips used in all the episodes is what is in the way of the landmark series about the silent era being re-released on DVD and Blu-ray,
Brownlow’s complete speech has also been posted to YouTube. I’ve transcribed it and I post it here with the intent of helping Kevin’s message get out beyond the four walls of the Egyptian theatre. The full video is embedded at the bottom of this post.
“I’m terribly flattered to follow Martin Scorsese and to accept the Robert Osborne award. I was always very impressed by Robert Osborne. In fact, I was always taking notes at the front of a film whenever he appeared. And, I couldn’t be more warmly received.
I am sure Robert Osborne will forgive me, but I’ve a lot of Irish in me, and I’m about to be rebellious.
Where is the “Hollywood” series?!
It’s been forty years. Everybody in it has died. Do the lawyers in the front office still demand impossible figures? They earned a lot – they earned enough, more than enough, the first time ‘round. Why don’t they just say “Put that series out! We won’t charge anything. It’s our tradition.” ?
(cheers and applause)
Thank you very much. We could do a scene from “Napoleon” here, and charge the front office of M-G-M.
But [holding up the award] this is enough. Thank you very much. I’m deeply grateful, and I love TCM.”
(cheers and applause)
Here’s the full speech, from a YouTube video taken and posted by Jack Fields.