By Io Montecillo
“Whether you agree or disagree with what you will hear, we feel that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast.”
Mike Wallace rose to prominence in 1956 with the New York City television interview program Night Beat, which soon developed into the nationally televised prime-time program The Mike Wallace Interview.
Well prepared with extensive research, Wallace asked probing questions of guests framed in tight close-ups. The result was a series of compelling and revealing interviews with some of the most interesting and important people of the day, including Justice William O. Douglas, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pearl Buck, Salvador Dali, Oscar Hammerstein and Henry Kissinger. The interviews dealt with the issues of the times, including civil rights and the Cold War.
In the early 1960s, Wallace donated to the Ransom Center the show’s interviews on 16mm kinescope. The 30-minute interviews can be viewed online. Most of the episodes have not been seen on television since they aired.
Starting many of the interviews with “What you are about to see is unrehearsed and uncensored,” Wallace quickly became recognized for his tough questions and the forceful style for which he is still known today. Through the online videos, one can watch Wallace aggressively question his subjects, including Margaret Sanger about her support for birth control.
Almost half a century since their original broadcast, these interviews not only remain compelling and serve as a time capsule from the mid-twentieth century, but they also continue to resonate with many of the issues still being addressed today.