Charles Collingwood (1917-1985)
At first, Charles Collingwood seemed an odd choice for a foreign correspondent, looking more like a mannequin in a tailor shop window: impeccably dressed with a collar so high it looked like it would choke him. Ed Murrow nicknamed him "Bonnie Prince Charlie," because of his blond curly hair, good looks and extravagant lifestyle. But Collingwood was the kind of reporter and the kind of man that Murrow wanted in his inner circle. He was fearless, courted adventure and always seemed to be where the story was.
A Rhodes Scholar, Collingwood left Oxford and joined the UP in 1939 the same day as Howard K. Smith. Little did both men know that they would become protegees of Edward R. Murrow, winding up as part of the elite group known as Murrow Boys. Collingwood's first broadcast came as a surprise to him. Murrow telephoned one day and said that he had a dinner date with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands and could Collingwood do that night's broadcast?
Collingwood wrote and rewrote his script, passed it by the censors at the BBC and finally, one minute before the broadcast, "Ed slid into the seat opposite me." The broadcast went off perfectly, but, relieved that it was over, Collingwood forgot the final sign-off. Murrow leaned in to the microphone, "This is Charles Collingwood in London; now back to Robert Trout in New York."
On D-Day, Collingwood was one of the first correspondents to land with the allies on Utah Beach, lugging his huge recording device along with him to report on the landing. He was also the first to announce the liberation of Paris, on August 22, 1944, a full three days before the actual liberation occurred.
Collingwood, assigned to the Twelfth Army, found out from General Omar Bradley that the Free French Resistance was about to rise up and liberate the city. In order not to miss this important scoop, Collingwood sent a recording with news of the liberation to CBS in London so it would be ready when the city was actually freed. "The 2nd French Armored Division entered Paris today after the Parisians rose as one man to beat down the terrified German troops who had garrisoned the city ..."
Unfortunately the technician at CBS did not read the label that said to hold the recording and immediately aired it. The liberation was reported throughout the world prematurely. There were still thousands of German troops in Paris and the resistance fighters who were fighting and dying did not appreciate that the world was told it was a done deal. This gaffe could have been disastrous for Collingwood's career, but under Murrow's protection, it was forgiven. Paris was actually liberated three days later on August 25th.
After the war, Collingwood joined the elite core of CBS journalists and effortlessly made the move into television. He replaced Murrow on the celebrity interview show Person to Person. Along with Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid, he was one of the leading network correspondents and the first US correspondent to enter Vietnam in the 1960’s. As White House correspondent, he hosted the televised Tour of the White House given by Jacqueline Kennedy.
He married twice, first to actress Louise Albritton from 1946 until her death in 1979, and then to former ballerina Tatiana Jolin.
In later years, alcohol and illness took its toll on Collingwood and, although he was still employed by CBS as a "Special Correspondent", he was seldom given any assignments. His drinking got worse and eventually he died of cancer
At his funeral in 1985, after all the eulogies and compliments from the CBS top brass, an outraged Bill Moyers was heard to say: "if they loved him so much, why the hell didn’t they put him on the air."
Where do you get your news?
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