Walter Cronkite

  1. Peter Finch, Network, 1976. 
    “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore…”  Both director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky came from the golden age of US TV – and pulled no punches in detailing where the medium was going (down the drain. Indeed, their fictional USB fourth network became, well, Fox.  After tenuous thoughts about real TV News anchors (John Chancellor and the venerable Walter Cronkite),Paddy had a wish list of real actors  for the unhinged news anchor Howard Beale: the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.” Henry Fonda  found it “too hysterical” (his daughter Jane was up for Faye Dunaway’s Oscar-winning role), Glenn Ford,  Cary Grant, Gene Hackman, William Holden (he played news exec  Max Schumacher, instead), Walter  Matthau, Paul Newman, James Stewart (appalled by the script’s bad language!). Plus George C Scott , who refused because he had once been “offended” by Lumet! (Yet his final film was Lumet’s final film, Gloria, 1998).   Lumet had just the one name – and this proved to be Finchy’s farewell, winning the first posthumous Best Actor Oscar. Lumet was with Peter when he died. They were in the Beverly Hills Hotel, awaiting  a joint interview,  when  Finch collapsed and died soon after in hospital, never regaining consciousness from his heart attack.  His performance won the first posthumous acting Oscar. (Ironically, the second was also for an Aussie, Heath Ledger, for The Dark Knight… 33 years later).
  2. Howard K Smith, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977.      “Walter is one of the few big stars I have met who wasn’t a disappointment,” said co-producer Julia Phillips. “Old Iron Pants” (he could stay live non-stop for hours: the Moon landing, the JFK assassination, without leaving his chair) was invited by Steven Spielberg to play – what else, a TV news anchor. Cronkite was keen on the film, on Spielberg (he’d watched the Jaws shoot at Martha’s Vineyard), but CBS disapproved (wisely) of their news stars acting. ABC was the only network (then) allowing it. So, Smith did another of his cameos; Spielberg had originally avoided him “for that very reason.”   CUT to 1992 and a dertain exec producer named Spieberg manages to persuade the now retired Cronkite to voice Captain Neweyes in the Amblin toon, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story.
  3. Martin Mull, OC and Stiggs, 1983. On David Letterman’s chat show eight years later, Mull revealed that fcirst choi ce ofr his Pat Coletti role had been the retired CBS news anchor.  MGM ordered a teenage comedy but Altman satirized the breed (well, the story started in National Lampoon). Dennis Hopper sent up his Apocalypse Nowwar photographer among a cast of folk aching to work with director Robert Altman: Jane Curtin, Tina Louise, Melvin Van Peebles, Ray Walston, etc. The result was released – or escaped – in 1987.


 Usual occupation: TV News IkonBirth year: 1916Death year: 2009Other name: Casting Calls:  3