Skip to main content

Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip (American Masters)

Premieres Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 9 p.m.

Walter Winchell, circa 1930

Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip Tells the Story of the Media Personality Who Pioneered Fast-Paced, Celebrity-Focused and Politically Charged Journalism

Featuring Stanley Tucci as Winchell and narrated by Whoopi Goldberg

American Masters – Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip traces the life and career of the syndicated columnist, radio news commentator and television host who pioneered the fast-paced, gossip driven, politically charged media culture that dominates today. At the height of his career, Winchell had a combined print and radio audience of 50 million and the power to make or break careers. He became the most feared and admired man in America, a man who transformed entertainment journalism and championed “Mr. and Mrs. America” in his daily columns and Sunday night radio program. Decades later, an alliance with Senator Joseph McCarthy and feuds with Josephine Baker and Ed Sullivan turned his audience against him and forced him into obscurity.

Featuring Stanley Tucci as Winchell and narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this American Masters documentarybreathes new life into Winchell’s original newspaper columns and broadcast scripts, drawing on rare recordings and a recently digitized collection of his work in the Billy Rose Theatre Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Winchell’s own words comprise nearly a quarter of the script as the film tracks the rise and fall of his career, and his continued influence on today’s media.

“He was not only present at the creation of modern journalism,” concludes biographer and film interviewee Neal Gabler, “in many respects he was the creation.” American Masters – Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip premieres Tuesday, October 20 at 9 p.m. on Southern Oregon PBS, pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app.