Tag Archives: celebrities

The Top Eight News Anchors of All Time

by Rick Bretz

The past couple of weeks have reminded everyone that during a crisis, Americans turn to news channels and programs to keep them current on the events that move through our lives. Journalists and broadcasters are considered to be the authors of history’s first rough draft. It is this rough draft that historians seek out ten or twenty years from the event to write their potential best sellers. These professionals often get beat up for not getting it right or for omitting facts when the heat is on with five minutes to go before air time. Viewers often look upon them with disdain for inserting their opinions and not covering the whole story.  Today in the 24 hour news cycle, television news is under the deadline pressure to get it right and get it correct–now .  The public doesn’t want it 10 minutes from now but right now in our world of the Smart Phone and travelling laptops and I-Pads.  The following list is my best news anchors of all time.  It was a time when different rules applied and the deadline pressure was at least a few hours–just enough time to get the story nearly right.

1. David BrinkleyNBC and ABC    (NBC-1956-1971 and 1976-1979) (ABC-1981-1998)

My favorite and it’s not even close.  I liked his one-of-a-kind delivery and his dry humor and views on current events.  When he moved to ABC to do his Sunday weekend show, it was required viewing for me.  I looked forward to his closing commentaries every Sunday.  I just knew he was about to say something in those few minutes at the end of the show that would make me think, make me laugh or both.

2. Douglas Edwards-CBS-(1948-1962)

He was a trailblazer.  He set a standard along with John Cameron Swayze for everyone else to meet or exceed.

3. Frank Reynolds-ABC (1968-1970)

You can just tell when someone is a true professional and care about his work.  Frank Reynolds came across on the television as someone who lived and breathed news.

English: Original caption:"NASA Remembers...

4. Walter Cronkite-CBS (1962-1981)

It seems that Walter Cronkite was there for many of the major news events, The Kennedy Assassination, The Vietnam War, the Political Conventions, The NASA moon landings.  The World War II correspondent had seen it all and always struck the right note for a story.

5. John Chancellor-NBC (1970-1982)

He was smooth as silk in his delivery and could write some of the best news commentaries about current topics. He also scores points for narrating Ken Burns’ PBS documentary on Baseball.

6. Harry Reasoner-CBS (60 Minutes) and ABC  (CBS-1968-1970 and 1978-1991)   (ABC-1970-1978)

He was a terrific writer and interviewer for “60 Minutes”.  He anchored the news for ABC during some of the most turbulent years in America’s social history.

7. Max Robinson-ABC (1978-1983)

I admire people who lead the way.  This anchor  and the next person did just that. He was a trailblazer in every sense of the word as the first African-American network news anchor.  He had terrific voice and a great delivery. He made the three anchor format of Max Robinson, Frank Reynolds  and Peter Jennings work smoothly from his desk on “World News Tonight”.

Publicity photo from the Today television prog...
Publicity photo from the Today television program. From left: Gene Shalit, Barbara Walters, and Frank McGee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8. Barbara Walters ABC and NBC (ABC-1976-1978)  (NBC-Today Show-1961-1976) (ABC-Co-host of 20/20-1984-2004)

Another anchor who was a first, the first woman anchor of a network news, ABC Evening News, while co-anchoring with Harry Reasoner.  You had to be tough, working news in those days among the all-male anchor club.  She didn’t back down and she was a true professional,  She  is revered in her field today because of her catalogue of quality work.  She led the way for Connie Chung, Katie Couric and several other women on the 24 hour news channels we see today.

Honorable Mentions– Bernard Shaw-CNN, John Chancellor-NBC, Frank McGee-NBC, Peter Jennings-ABC, Connie Chung-CBS, Chet Huntley-NBC

Do you have your favorites? Leave a comment and tell me why?

Eight Great Presidential Performances

By Rick Bretz

In recognition of the inauguration this week, I have listed what I consider the best presidential portrayals on film and the small screen.  My criteria are simple.  Did the actor capture the spirit of the President’s personality?  And, was I able to watch the presentation without being aware that someone was trying too hard to play that particular president? Most of the performances on this list present a narrow window in a President’s life.  The more difficult portrayals involve playing the person over a lifetime.  A good example of this is Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of John Adams and Barry Bostwick’s performance in the George Washington miniseries. Below is the actor followed by the President portrayed and then the  film or television title.

1.  Kenneth Branagh-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Warm Springs

I was skeptical before making time to see this show that the actor could pull it off.  I was wrong.  Kenneth Branagh captured the force of Roosevelt’s personality and his physical and emotional fight with the crippling polio disease.  He also does a great job of relating to the people who have the same disease while rehabilitating at Warm Springs.  His supporting cast is terrific and he shows us why Roosevelt related to so many people.

2.  Daniel Day Lewis-Abraham-Lincoln-Lincoln

Enough has been written about Lewis’ choice concerning how Lincoln sounds when he speaks compared to other portrayals. If you watch Henry Fonda’s “Young Mr. Lincoln”,  the voice pitch comes close to what Lewis used in Lincoln.  What cannot be disputed is that he does capture Lincoln’s modest confidence and his sharp political mind.

3.  Paul Giamatti-John Adams-Johns Adams

 Paul Giamatti captures Adams from all directions.  He is spot on in his portrayal in many aspects.  His love for his wife Abigail, his mercurial temper, his difficult personality, his love for his family, his ego, and most of all, his sense of duty, fairness, and love for his country. Giamatti’s choices show the president from all sides while weaving his multi-layered personality into the presentation of Adams. He also plays him as he ages from a young man to his death which is difficult to accomplish.

4.  Frank Langella-Richard M. Nixon-Frost/Nixon

 Langella’s acting puts a human face on Richard Nixon in this Ron Howard directed film.  He sparred with David Frost through a majority of the movie and showed Nixon’s toughness, intellect, political savvy and his personality weaknesses.  This performance is remarkable because it keeps the audience interested despite knowing the outcome.  It explains history without getting into the minute details so the audience’s eyes don’t glaze over like sitting in 9th grade history class memorizing dates.

 5.  Jeff Daniels-George Washington-The Crossing

 Jeff Daniels does a terrific job showing people what it must have been like serving under George Washington.  Daniels gives us a performance that shows Washington cool under fire, a master at finding quality people to serve under him and how to manage them, and how to get soldiers to fight for him in the most extreme circumstances. Daniels as Washington shows the General as calm leader looking to find answers instead of assessing blame.

6.  Anthony Hopkins-John Quincy Adams-Amistad

 My favorite scene in this movie is when Adams is supposedly sleeping during a congressional session.  Then the speaker asks him to comment on the previous discussion. Adams speaks up immediately repeating the last exchange and giving his own caustic opinion about the matter and the current session itself.  Hopkins is a master at losing himself in roles and this is one.  His other Presidential portrayal of Richard Nixon is good as well but this one is fascinating especially with the final summation in court at the end.

7.  Randy Quaid, Lyndon B. Johnson, LBJ; The Early Years

 Randy Quaid shows Lyndon Johnson with his loud voice, over-the–top personality and his energy to accomplish his own goals and fix what needs to be fixed.  This is another performance that shows the actor aging through several years from a young man to his days in congress.  Quaid gives an outstanding performance showing how Johnson dealt with people and how Johnson used his force of personality to get his legislation passed when he was a leader in congress.

8.  Henry Fonda-Abraham Lincoln-Young Mr. Lincoln

This movie was released in 1939 and it shows a young Henry Fonda at his best. Fonda gives us the Lincoln personality in the salad days of his lawyer career.  He takes on a case early in the movie that everyone believes is a lost cause.  Throughout the movie, Fonda shows the audience the Lincoln wit and his art for storytelling.  He shows us why Lincoln became President while  using his political savvy and intelligence.  Fonda’s acting also shows us an underlying sadness to his personality and an innate understanding he might be destined for great things.

Those are my favorites.  Do you agree? Leave a comment?

 More great characterizations:

David Morse-George Washington-John Adams; Edward Herrmann-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Eleanor and Franklin; Barry Bostwick-George Washington- George Washington (The Mini-Series);  Bill Murray-Franklin Delano Roosevelt-Hyde Park on the Hudson; Gary Sinise-Harry S. Truman-Truman;  James Whitmore-Harry S. Truman-Give ‘Em Hell Harry; Raymond Massey-Abraham Lincoln-Abe Lincoln in Illinois; Brian Keith-Teddy Roosevelt-The Wind and the Lion