John Cameron Swayze

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John Cameron Swayze
John Cameron Swayze News Caravan 1955.JPG
Swayze on the NBC Camel News Caravan in 1955.
Born (1906-04-04)April 4, 1906
Wichita, Kansas, U.S.
Died August 15, 1995(1995-08-15) (aged 89)
Sarasota, Florida, U.S.
Occupation News presenter/reporter
Game show panelist
Years active 1940–1985

John Cameron Swayze (April 4, 1906 – August 15, 1995) was a news commentator, spokesperson and game show panelist in the United States during the 1950s.

Early life[edit]

Swayze was born in Wichita, Kansas, the son of a wholesale drug salesman. He attended schools in Atchison, Kansas, and then the University of Kansas in Lawrence. There he was a fraternity brother of the subsequent film and television actor Frank Wilcox.[1]

Swayze first sought to work as an actor, but his activity on Broadway ended when acting roles became scarce following the 1929 stock market crash.

Career[edit]

Swayze returned to the Midwest and worked for the Kansas City Journal Post as a reporter.

From there he graduated to radio, doing news updates for Kansas City's KMBC in 1940 and, reportedly, an experimental early television newscast. In Kansas City, Swayze broadcast news items prepared by United Press Kansas City bureau overnight editor Walter Cronkite. Four years later, Swayze went farther west, to Los Angeles and Hollywood, where NBC hired him for its western news division before moving him to its New York news operation in 1947.

During 1948, Swayze provided voiceover work for the 'Camel Newsreel Theatre', an early television news program that broadcast Movietone News newsreels.

At the same time, Swayze proposed and obtained a radio quiz program, Who Said That?. The radio version lasted only a year, but Swayze was an occasional panelist in the television version of the program, which was broadcast on NBC from 1948 to 1955. In the series, celebrities tried to determine the speaker of quotations taken from recent news reports.[2]

NBC, meanwhile, made Swayze the host of its national political convention coverage in 1948—the first commercial coverage ever by television. (NBC Television did broadcast the Republican National Convention from Philadelphia during 1940 on a noncommercial, semiexperimental basis.)

Anchor[edit]

In October 1948, Swayze was a permanent panel member of the quiz show "Who Said That?" and was referred to as the anchorman in what may the be first usage of this term on television.[3] Swayze was chosen in 1949 to host NBC's first television newscast, the fifteen-minute Camel News Caravan. He read items from the news wires and periodically interviewed newsmakers, but he is remembered best for reporting on the Korean War night after night and for his two catch-phrases: "Let's go hopscotching the world for headlines" and his signoff: "That's the story, folks—glad we could get together. And now, this is John Cameron Swayze saying good night." In early 1955, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, maker of Camel cigarettes, reduced its sponsorship to three days a week. Chrysler's Plymouth division sponsored the other days, and on those days the program was labeled the Plymouth News Caravan. In time, Swayze's almost manic style seemed frivolous compared to that of Douglas Edwards, whose rival show on CBS, Douglas Edwards with the News, Swayze once outrated but whose anchor sounded sober and no-nonsense. During 1956 Swayze was dismissed in favor of a new anchor team, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. The Huntley-Brinkley Report soon became the nation's top-rated television newscast; Edwards was replaced during 1962 by Walter Cronkite.

Spokesperson[edit]

By that time Swayze—despite a brief anchoring of an evening newscast for the American Broadcasting Company—was widely known for starring in a series of television commercials for Timex where he recited the tagline "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking." Swayze performed in Timex commercials that were mock newscasts before delivering the catch-phrase at the end of the commercials. Swayze did the Timex commercials for over two decades.

He appeared in a Volvo advertisement, driven in an early 1970s two-door model on a muddy racetrack by a professional rally driver.

Swayze also appeared in commercials for Studebaker promoting the automobile company's 1963 model line. He also appeared in a 1984 commercial for radio station WHTZ in New York City, which was broadcast in other markets promoting different radio stations.

Popular culture[edit]

He was satirized by comics Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman, whose first "break-in" novelty record (a mock newscast spliced with current rock and roll music), "The Flying Saucer," satirized him as reporter John Cameron Cameron (played by Goodman). Swayze is mentioned in a lyric of Allan Sherman's novelty song "My Grandfather's Watch," a parody of Henry Clay Work's "My Grandfather's Clock." In 1980 Ray Stevens recorded a novelty song titled "The Watch Song" in which two guys meet up in a bar and fight over an adulterous woman. Ray's character ends up having his wrist watch broken, which hilariously sends him over the edge. He beats up his opponent so severely that the man dies. Ray's character speaks out loud to John Cameron Swayze at various times throughout the song.

John Cameron Swayze made periodic cameo appearances in movies beginning with 1957's A Face in the Crowd. He also hosted and narrated from 1955 to 1957 the long-running television drama series The Armstrong Circle Theatre (1950–1963) after leaving NBC News as well as a daytime television game show for ABC, Chance for Romance.

He is mentioned in one of the scenes of Walt Disney World's attraction Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

Swayze was fairly frequently mentioned on the television series The Golden Girls — for example in season one, episode 9, "Blanche and the Younger Man," broadcast on November 16, 1985, in which Blanche finishes telling the story of when she almost became Mrs. Andy Griffith, and Sophia (Estelle Getty) reminds Dorothy of when Blanche told a similar story about John Cameron Swayze. His Timex commercials are mentioned in the episode "The Stan Who Came to Dinner," broadcast on January 10, 1987, in which Sophia tells of a recurring dream wherein John Cameron Swayze straps a Timex to her chin and tosses her across an icy pond.

In episode 805 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, when the watch of a character in the movie The Thing That Couldn't Die is found in a traderat's nest, Tom Servo exclaims: "John Cameron Traderat."

Swayze is also mentioned in Damian "Junior Gong" Marley's "Pimper's Paradise", in which Marley uses a simile to describe how the main character in the song behaves.

Honors[edit]

In 1950 Swayze received the Alfred I. duPont Award.[4]

Swayze is the first person shown in the montage of former anchorpersons that currently begins the NBC Nightly News.

Personal life[edit]

John Cameron Swayze was the son of Jesse Ernest Swayze and Christine Cameron, aka Camerona (cited by some sources). His father's name is of Norman French origin and dates back to Dorsetshire, England in the early 17th century. He married Beulah Mae Estes in 1935. He died in Sarasota, Florida, on August 15, 1995. He was survived by his widow and two children, John Cameron Swayze, Jr., of Bedford, New York, who anchored weekend news on WCBS Newsradio 880 in New York until October 2010 (under the name Cameron Swayze), and Suzanne Swayze Patrick of Alexandria, Virginia; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.[citation needed]

John Cameron Swayze and the actor-brothers Patrick Swayze and Don Swayze were sixth cousins once removed. Both John and Patrick's father were descendants by seven generations of Judge Samuel Swayze (March 20, 1688/1689-May 11, 1759) and his wife, Penelope Horton (1689/1690-1746). Judge Swayze was the son of Joseph Swasey and his wife Mary Betts. Mary Betts was the daughter of Captain Richard Betts and his wife, Joanna Chamberlayne. Other noteworthy relations descending from the Betts or Swayze lineages are actors William Holden, Tom Hulce and Evgenia Citkowitz, wife of actor Julian Sands.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Biography of Frank Wilcox". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Show Overview: Who Said That?". tv.com. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  3. ^ "If Cronkite wasn't TV's first anchorman, who was?". Futurity. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  4. ^ All duPont–Columbia Award Winners, Columbia Journalism School. Retrieved 2013-08-06.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Originator
NBC evening news anchors (as the Camel News Caravan)
February 1949 – October 26, 1956
Succeeded by
Chet Huntley and David Brinkley
(as the Huntley-Brinkley Report)
Preceded by
John Charles Daly
ABC Evening News News anchor
1960 – 1962
Succeeded by
Ron Cochran