Mike Wallace is not only here in this excellent doc, he is always with broadcasters who want to be better.
Mike Wallace is Here
Director: Avi Belkin (Winding)
Cast: Mike Wallace et al.
Runtime: 1 hr 30 min
By: John DeSando
“That’s not an interview, that’s a lecture!” Mike Wallace analyzing a Bill-O’Reilly interview as they watch a tape of it together.
Mike Wallace’s entrance into a room would be announced as if he were a rock star; and indeed, he was one as a hard-boiled broadcast journalist, as well known as some of the well-known figures he toughly interviewed like Salvatore Dali, Betty Davis, and Vladimir Putin, to name only a few. He set the standard in the twentieth century for asking the questions others were afraid to ask.
Although the informative and entertaining Mike Wallace is Here could be judged a puff-piece of celebration, like its subject, the documentary regularly looks at the underside: for a high-profile interview, it was discovered a producer had provided him with most of the questions; during a severe bout of depression, he tried suicide; Morley Safer called him a “prick” at his interview with Wallace; and much more.
This documentary does a credible job of taking us through his early years as a pitchman for Parliament Cigarettes and other commercials that eventually prepared him for serious broadcasting, most of its groundbreaking honesty married to savvy production, to the point that 60 Minutes became the most-watched news magazine in the world. When he asked Larry King why he had a reputation as a patsy, no one should have been surprised at Wallace’s candor. That’s who he was.
Sometimes this uncompromising doc has moments of soap-opera sentimentality as when star Wallace disagrees with his legendary producer and CBS about not publishing their candid interview with Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco whistleblower. Hero Wallace refuses to buy into the network’s caving into fear of litigation.
If you are looking for a contemporary hero with Greek-tragic properties, then see this expertly-edited song of praise for a broadcaster who deserves his place next to Walter Cronkite for integrity and charisma.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com