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

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Bob Dorian

An actor as well as a magician, he introduced films on the channel long before TCM began.

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," Dorian 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.' "

Survivors include his wife, Jane.