Monday, April 14, 2008

Memories of Biography

I became a Mike Wallace fan back in the early 1960s when I was Program Manager of WGBY-TV, the Armed Forces Radio & Television outlet on the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Those were the days before satellite broadcasts. Each week, we’d received air shipments of kinescopes from the mainland, including a wide variety of popular programs from all of the broadcast networks.

That’s when I was first exposed to a documentary film series entitled Biography, produced by David Wolper -- pictured here -- and hosted by Mike Wallace. Documentaries in those days were few and far between, and I was impressed with Wolper’s effective use of archival film footage and still photographs. These were well before the days of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (who would have still been in elementary school). Of course, Mike’s narration added significantly to the authoritativeness of the Biography programs.

While I can’t offer up a link to the old Biography series, I can steer you to a rich collection interviews done even earlier in a series called
The Mike Wallace Interview. This series ended up at ABC, and the University of Texas has managed to persuade the 89-year-old Wallace – who owns the copyright – to allow UT to make 65 of the programs available on the internet. Another nice touch: transcripts of the programs are also on the site at the Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus in Austin.


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