With a career spanning more than 50 years, legendary TV personality Dick Cavett is recognized as one of the most cultured and savvy talk-show hosts in the history of television. The Library of Congress announced today that Cavett has donated 2,500 programs of his decades-long talk-show series—showcasing some of the golden moments in television—to the American people.
The collection totals nearly 2,000 hours of programming—about 78 days worth of viewing—and features more than 5,000 guests.
The list of guests, many whom rarely appeared on late-night television, is a testament to Cavett’s appeal as a knowledgeable and thoughtful interviewer. They include Muhammad Ali, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, James Baldwin, Marlon Brando, Ingrid Bergman, Mel Brooks, Truman Capote, Noel Coward, Duke Ellington, Helen Hayes, Jim Henson, Katherine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, John Kerry, Myrna Loy, Norman Mailer, Mickey Mantle, Groucho Marx, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Paul Newman, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Perkins, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Mort Sahl, Charles Schulz, Steven Spielberg, Gloria Swanson, Gore Vidal, Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, Joanne Woodward and many more.
Many rock-and-roll musicians were also featured guests on his shows, including David Bowie, Judy Collins, David Crosby, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell.
“Dick Cavett turned interviewing into an art form,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “He could talk to anyone, and his ability to listen and make the fascinating people who sat across from him more relatable guaranteed his place in television history.”
Cavett’s archive represents a significant addition to the Library’s impressive collections of film and television icons, including Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams, Danny Kaye, Johnny Carson and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
The Dick Cavett Collection will be available to qualified researchers in the Library’s Motion Picture and Television Reading Room in Washington, D.C.
Many of Cavett’s interviews with the famous and sometimes infamous were often filled with humor, startling revelations and high drama, including on-air altercations. Collection highlights include:
A controversial confrontation between writers Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer about Mailer’s misogynistic tendencies and Vidal comparing him to Charles Manson;
The widow of Lee Harvey Oswald talks about her actions immediately after watching John F. Kennedy’s assassination on television;
A humorous conversation with Louis Armstrong reflecting on being in Chicago in the days of Al Capone;
James Baldwin in a 1968 interview candidly talks about the negative perception of black activism and his view that integration is a euphemism for white superiority;
Mickey Mantle shares a startling personal secret about his teen years;
In a 1971 interview, John Lennon and Yoko Ono talk about their relationship and the Beatles;
Arthur Miller describes being blacklisted because of his protests against McCarthyism and the writing of the “The Crucible”;
Lauren Bacall reveals her best-kept secret as a young star in Hollywood—her Jewish heritage;
The interview with Judy Collins, whose censored comments caused a firestorm;
Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí’s unorthodox appearance in 1970 with Lillian Gish and Satchel Paige.