Between the mid-1950s and the 1970s, Arnold Michaelis interviewed some of the most important political and cultural figures of his time. His career as an interviewer began when, as an executive for Columbia Records, he was asked to interview conductor Bruno Walter for a series of radio commercials. The resulting interview was so successful, however, that Columbia decided to release it as an LP. From that first project Michaelis's career as an interviewer began.
According to his New York Times obituary, Michaelis "said that he 'sought to create an atmosphere of informality and cordiality' in his interviews. Within that context, he said, 'you can go anywhere.'" Michaelis said he wanted "to record to for today and posterity, the flavor of the thinking and the essence of the ideas of the men and women whose lives will be studied by future generations." Terence Cardinal Cooke, Adlai Stevenson, Dean Rusk, Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Indira Gandhi are only a few of the men and women Michaelis interviewed in their own homes.
During the late 1950s, Michaelis hosted and/or produced a number of radio programs in New York City, most based around the idea of informal conversation. He also wrote, hosted, and produced Music Magazine, Invitation to Learning, and Of Men and Books.
Michaelis also worked extensively in television. Between 1961 and 1963, he produced (along with Stanley A. Frankel), and hosted Adlai Stevenson Reports, a biweekly program in which Stevenson, then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, commented on current events and interviewed world leaders and other prominent people. The program won Peabody Award in 1963. Its citation said that the program "realizes the full potential of the medium. It gives the public an unparalleled opportunity to hear the key problems of the present-day world discussed and clarified by one of the most distinguished, most eloquent and best-informed men in the world." Also in 1963, he produced in-depth interviews with three heads of state for NET: Yugoslavia's President Tito, Pakistan's President Mohammad Ayub Khan, and Archbishop Makarios, Cyprus's president. Two of the most extensive filmed interviews Michaelis conducted were with Martin Luther King, Jr in 1965, and Richard Rodgers in 1961. He also filmed documentaries in Cyprus, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Pakistan.
Michaelis died in January 1997 at the age of 81.
Radio and TV programs Michaelis produced or hosted include:
- Adlai Stevenson Reports (1961-63)
- Arnold Michaelis Talks With... (TV—per Washington Post 7/5/63, 7/19/63)
- At Home (radio—per NYT 10/16/57, Christian Science Monitor 10/2/57, NYT 10/8/57)
- Chief of State (per Washington Post 11/1/63)
- The Essential Nehru (per Washington Post 5/18/64)
- Face to Face (radio—per NYT 8/20/57)
- For the Love of Music (1977-1982?—tapes in collection)
- In Conversation with Arnold Michaelis (tapes in collection—1958)
- Inside Report on VIP's (tapes in collection—1959)
- Insight with Arnold Michaelis (tapes in collection—1958)
- The Intimate I (tapes in collection—dated 1970s. Same material as earlier tapes?)
- Music Magazine (radio—per NYT 11/19/1954)
- Portrait of Nehru (TV—per NYT 11/15/59)
- 3 shows on heads of state—Tito, Ayub Khan, Makarios (announced NYT 7/14/63)
- Arnold Michaelis, TV Interviewer, 81 (New York Times, January 14, 1997, p. B8.
- Sterritt, David. "Recorded Portraits of the Famous," Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 1973, p. 15.