The Mike Wallace Interview celebrates its 60th anniversary today. The controversial ABC interview series debuted on April 28th, 1957. The first episode saw Wallace talk with actress Gloria Swanson. The following week, he sat down with Ku Klux Klan leader Eldon Edwards. Over the next 15 months, Wallace interviewed more than 70 people, including Steve Allen, Senator James. O Eastland, Dagmar, Frank Lloyd Wright, Margaret Sanger, Kirk Douglas, Diana Dors, Jean Seberg, Pearl S. Buck, Rudy Vallee, Oscar Hammerstein II, Anthony Perkins, Salvador Dali, Aldous Huxley, Adlai Stevenson, Pat Weaver, Henry Kissinger, and Arthur Larson.
My article about The Mike Wallace Interview can be found here.
It didn’t take long for Wallace to get himself into trouble. During the May 19th episode, mobster Mickey Cohen unleashed a bitter tirade against Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker. ABC scrambled to contain the fallout, offering Parker air time to respond to Cohen’s attack. ABC vice president Oliver Treyz read an on-air retraction the following week. Lawsuits were filed and complaints made to the FCC.
The Cohen dispute was just the beginning. During a December interview, Drew Pearson claimed Senator John F. Kennedy did not write Profiles in Courage. ABC responded with another retraction. In March 1958, the network announced the end of The Mike Wallace Interview. The following month, the Fund for the Republic offered to pay production costs for a special 13-week series of interviews. ABC agreed to donate air time.
On June 15th, ABC yanked an interview with Henry Cabot Lodge shortly before airtime, bringing the series more controversy. The Fund for the Republic sponsored six more episodes, the last of which aired on September 14th, 1958.
Between April 1957 and September 1958, ABC aired 71 episodes of The Mike Wallace Interview. Of these, 61 episodes can be viewed online courtesy of The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Five other episodes are available as audio only. There’s also a transcript for one episode. The Ransom Center does not have a copy of the Mickey Cohen interview. However, Archival Television Audio, Inc. has the audio in its collection. For more details about which episodes survive, refer to my status guide for the series.
While researching my article about The Mike Wallace Interview, I watched six episodes featuring the following personalities: Diana Dors, Jean Seberg, eonard Ross, Donald Keyhoe, Eldon Edwards and Drew Pearson. You can read my thoughts here.
Do you remember The Mike Wallace Interview? Have you watched any of the episodes available through the Ransom Center? Hit the comments with your thoughts and don’t forget to read my article about the show.