To review Mike Wallace’s career is to be presented with a panoply of the most fascinating characters of our times. The Daily Beast collects some of the master interviewer’s extraordinary encounters.
Over a career of revealing interviews, Mike Wallace sat down with some of the most famous figures of our times. From the 1950s until nearly the very end of his life, Wallace was known as an interviewer who explored uncharted territory with his subjects, getting them to expose themselves in front of the camera like no other newsman. Here are some of his best interviews.
1. Frank Lloyd Wright – 1957
In the 1950s on his show The Mike Wallace Interview, Wallace went one-on-one with a variety of distinguished subjects, including an elderly Frank Lloyd Wright. In an interview recorded in two parts at the beginning and end of September 1957, Wallace interrogates the master architect on his art, his politics, and his religion.
2. Henry Kissinger – 1958
The year after he spoke with Wright, Wallace sat down with a young Henry Kissinger, then an upstart advocate for nuclear deterrence and later secretary of state under President Richard M. Nixon. At the time, Kissinger was associate director of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard, and Wallace prodded Kissinger into putting the jargon of the Cold War into layman’s terms.
3. Ayn Rand – 1959
Wallace got to the source of Objectivism, “a new and unusual philosophy which would seem to strike at the very roots of our society,” in an interview with little-known Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand. The author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead spoke about her philosophy, describing it as a rational and moral approach to the achievement of happiness.
4. Malcolm X – 1964
A year before the activist’s death, Wallace spoke with Malcolm X about the Nation of Islam and his position as a leader in the black Muslim community. In the interview, X talked about the possibility of threats on his life as he spoke out against Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, saying, “I probably am a dead man already.”
5. Maria Callas – 1974
As the world-renowned soprano’s voice failed later in her career, Wallace walked the diva through her storied career. Callas spoke candidly about her life and loves, from her relationship with her mother to her affair with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. “What is at the center of your life today, Madame Callas?” Wallace inquired.
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