TCM host Dave Karger speaks onstage at "A Conversation with Patrizia von Brandenstein" during the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival on April 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for TCM)

With his Latest Book, TCM's Dave Karger Talks with 50 Oscar Winners

Steve Duffy READ TIME: 8 MIN.

Currently on Turner Classic Movies is their annual celebration of all things Oscars. The month-long programming anticipates the Academy Awards ceremony on March 10th, with the TCM hosts introducing nominated films with insightful commentaries during prime time and on weekends.

One of those hosts – Dave Karger – has been most proactive about the Academy since his early days as an entertainment journalist in Hollywood. When he became a correspondent for Entertainment Weekly, he spearheaded more Oscar coverage for the magazine and its website. In 2012 and 2013 Dave was the Academy's official red-carpet greeter on Oscar night, only the third person ever to hold that post. He also co-hosted the 2011 Oscars Digital Experience (produced by The Academy and ABC), which won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media.

Karger was also named one of OUT Magazine's "OUT 100" in 2014, in part due to his 170 appearances on The Today Show over the years, many of which were focused on the Oscars. He has recently turned his expertise and experiences into a new book, "50 Oscar Nights," which offers behind-the-scenes accounts of the ceremonies through the eyes of its winners.

EDGE spoke to Karger recently about why he wrote the book, his love of the awards, and who are his favorite winners.

The cover art for Dave Karger's "50 Oscar Nights," (left). Dave Karger (right)

EDGE: What was the genesis of '50 Oscar Nights?'

Dave Karger: I've always been fascinated by the Oscars. I've written about them, talked about them on TV, studied them for 25 years now, and have been watching them every year for the past 40 years. When the opportunity presented itself to do a book in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies, I thought of this concept of 50 Oscar Nights where I would interview 50 winners from the past 60 years and talk about the day that they won, and all the memories associated with it. I wanted to get their personal stories and some more emotional content than I have normally read in an Oscar book. It was great fun to do, and to reach out to some of my favorite people that I've interviewed over the years and do a different kind of interview, especially this one that was very targeted to one specific project, one specific day, and one specific experience in their lives.

EDGE: Why has the Oscars meant so much to you?

Dave Karger: There's just something about it. I first watched the Oscar ceremony when I was about 12 years old. I was very taken by the ceremony of it. The competition aspect of it fascinated me, and it just all seemed very exciting to me at a very young age. As someone who became a movie lover throughout my teen years, it's just something that I gravitated towards. I like the math of it. I like the tradition of it and the prestige of it all. Also, I'm the guy who loves the movies that are nominated every year. They're much more my speed than an action movie or a superhero movie. These are the kind of movies and performances that I gravitate toward, and the kind of performers I like talking to. I'm in awe of what great actors can do, so it's a joy for me to talk about their creative process whenever I can.

Rita Moreno in "West Side Story"
Source: IMDbPro

EDGE: You had previously met or interviewed 35 of the interviewees included in the book. Who were some of the big names you were excited to speak with for the first time?

Dave Karger: It was cool to interview Rita Moreno for the first time. I had never met her before. I've now interviewed her a couple of times, and she's so much fun. The stories that she shared that she remembered from 60 years ago were astonishing. I'm also a big John Legend fan, and I had never met or interviewed him before, so that was very exciting. Then another person who I had never talked to, even though I work at TCM, is Mel Brooks, and he's 97. His stories and his recall were remarkable. He won his Oscar in 1969, and remembered so many specific things about the experience, and was just so sharp and fun. Those were three highlights. Absolutely.

EDGE: You have some amazing conservations. Is there an Oscar story that stands out for you?

Dave Karger: Jane Fonda's interview surprised me, and I was really impressed with her honesty and candor. There was so much going on in the world, in the country, and in her life at the time of her win. The stress of the role in "Klute" as Bree Daniels, and the political activism she was doing, led to the hostility that she felt from the Hollywood community. The fact that she was sick with a 102 fever, and she was conflicted about what she should say in her speech [added more stress]. She was worried that people were going to boo her. After she left the Oscar stage, she started crying because she felt guilty that her father, Henry, didn't have an Oscar yet, and she did. She spoke about it all so eloquently. That was one interview where I was even more on the edge of my seat than I was for all of them.

by Steve Duffy

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