If old movies move you, Turner Classic Movies can probably satisfy your classic film craving. The channel is also one of the few remaining movie networks still employing hosts for film introductions.
With the passing of popular presenter Robert Osborne just over a year ago, long-time TCM host Ben Mankiewicz is now the brand’s most recognizable on-air personality. Eddie Muller continues to introduce weekly film noir offerings, and a parade of guest hosts still appears in specialty programming slots.
But new faces are also appearing. Tiffany Vazquez joined the network as (the now former) Saturday daytime host in 2016, and Dave Karger and Alicia Malone were recently added to the weekend lineup as well as during prime time (currently Monday and Tuesday evenings, respectively).
Originally from Australia, Malone moved to Los Angeles in late 2010 and now says she plans to make the monthly trek to Turner studios in Atlanta to record film intros for upcoming broadcasts. She arrived in America with no job and little funds but said she set her sights on TCM from the outset.
“I worked as a host, producer and editor for the Movie Network, a cable channel in Australia,” Malone said from Atlanta during a recent recording trip to Turner Studios. “Although we didn’t get TCM in Australia, I had heard about the network and knew mostly about Robert Osborne, a larger-than-life figure who transcended countries.”
Confident of her own potential, Malone booked the trans-Pacific flight to Los Angeles.
“I decided to give it all up and move to Hollywood, which was always my dream,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone or have any savings but just had confidence it would all work out. Not trying at all was a scarier prospect than trying and failing.”
She soon began planning her career objectives.
“I wrote down my goal list, which included working with TCM,” she recalled. “Then I considered what skills I would need to become a host and have really spent the last seven years trying to amass those skills.”
With access to TCM broadcasts 24 hours a day in her new home, Malone closely studied the channel.
“I would record Robert Osborne and Ben Mankowitz’s intros, write out scripts, then practice them in front of a camera,” she said. “So there was a lot of planning and preparation. I was determined to be ready in case I ever did get the call.”
That dream call came in early January, although Malone wasn’t a stranger to TCM executives. Three years ago, she actually auditioned for FilmStruck, TCM’s subscription streaming service, and was hired.
“Then last year, I did a little audition for TCM,” she said. “I was actually surprised how nervous I was on that set for the first time. I guess I was just overwhelmed because there was a real chance my dream might come true.”
She was wandering alone around a New York museum when the call came from the network’s vice head of talent.
“I think I cried and screamed,” she said. “I was looking around and thinking ‘Who can I tell I’m so excited?’ But I sort of had to keep it under my hat until the official announcement, although I did tell my mum back in Australia.”
Now a presenter for what classic movie fans call their “dream job,” Malone says there’s more to hosting than just on-screen duties.
“A lot of preparation is required, including watching the films and doing all the research to make sure you have the background knowledge,” she explained. “Even reading a teleprompter is a skill you really have to learn.”
Not surprisingly, congratulations have been pouring in from family and friends, including Tiffany Vazquez, whose Saturday hosting slot was filled by the other new TCM host.
“Tiffany’s been such a great supporter of mine and was one of the very first people to write to me with congratulations when she heard the news,” said Malone.
Now that her dream goal has been reached, all that remains is to win over viewers who can be tough critics on new hosts.
“I hope when audiences see me on screen they will get the sense that I really do care about these films and that I am both a fan and an expert who loves talking about them,” she said. “I’ve spent my life watching classic movies and learning about them as much as I can.”
Malone’s first book, “Backwards and in Heels,” published by Mango Media Inc., looks at women in Hollywood and was released last year (see www.aliciamalone.com).
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for more than 650 newspapers and magazines. See www.tinseltowntalks.com.