Robert Osborne, the urbane, silver-haired film historian who had been the principal host of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel since its founding in 1994 and was a genial ambassador for an otherwise vanished era in filmmaking, died Monday at his home in New York. He was 84.

The network confirmed the death but did not cite a cause.

Former Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales once praised TCM – where stars such as Clark Gable, Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth still reign as celluloid kings and queens – as “the most reliable source of pure enchantment in the cable universe.”

TCM, available in more than 85 million homes, has drawn an intensely loyal following in an era of seeming indifference to the fate of movies and stars from yesteryear. Film revival theaters have all but disappeared. And TCM’s onetime cable rival, American Movie Classics, has ceased trying to live up to its name, instead venturing into programming territory from Will Smith action movies to series such as “Mad Men.”

Besides its magnificent film trove, TCM owed a sizable portion of its growth as a brand to Osborne, an unalloyed cinephile and former acting protege of Lucille Ball’s who once was actress Bette Davis’s date to the Academy Awards. He wrote official histories of the Oscars and was a longtime columnist for the Hollywood Reporte.