#22) All the President’s Men (1976)

all_presidents_men

#22) All the President’s Men (1976)

OR “Watergate-gate”

Directed by Alan J. Pakula

Written by William Goldman. Based on the non-fiction book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

Class of 2010

The film’s post-Oscar noms trailer

The Plot: It’s 1972 and there’s a break-in at Washington D.C.’s Watergate complex. Rookie Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) is sent to investigate, and learns that a few of those convicted have CIA connections. Under the guidance and support of editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards), Woodward is paired up with fellow reporter Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and the two continue their research. What they find may be the biggest scandal of the 20th century, as well as the reason why we now have to add the suffix “-gate” to any political controversy.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises Pakula’s “taut directing” and calls the film “a rare example of a best-selling book transformed into a hit film and a cultural phenomenon in its own right”.

But Does It Really?: Oh yes. Not only is it a great representation of ‘70s politics during the actual decade, but it is also a surprisingly suspenseful film. It’s a lot of talking and a lot of dry politics (plus it’s a story that everyone knows the ending to), but between Pakula, Goldman, and cinematographer Gordon Willis, the film keeps you at attention trying to figure out just how Woodward and Bernstein pulled this all off. A great reminder that the truth is a very powerful thing, and no one – NO ONE – is immune to it.

Everybody Gets One: This is the only appearance on the Registry for future Oscar nominees Hal Holbrook & Jane Alexander, future Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, TV stars Meredith “Mrs. Keaton” Baxter, Polly “Flo” Holliday & Dominic “Junior” Chianese, stage actors Penny Fuller & John McMartin, former actor/current scumbag Stephen Collins, and Watergate security guard Frank Wills (For real, that’s the actual Watergate security guard playing himself).

Wow, That’s Dated: Well, journalism as a high-profile, respected profession, am I right folks? But seriously, there are the usual things like rotary/pay-phones. But I think the most impressive dated part of this is all the research they had to do without the aid of the Internet. Which is a shame because I found this Wikipedia page that would have saved them a lot of time.

Seriously, Oscars?: In a very competitive year that included “Taxi Driver”, “Network” and “Rocky”, “All the President’s Men” was nominated for eight Oscars and won four; Adapted Screenplay for Goldman, Supporting Actor for Jason Robards (a perfectly fine performance from someone who didn’t make a lot of films), Art Direction (I presume for its detailed recreation of the Washington Post office), and Sound (For essentially the first and last 30 seconds of the film). Despite nominating Robards and Jane Alexander (for a performance that clocks in at around 5 minutes), the Academy failed to nominate either Redford or Hoffman. In addition, the Oscars continued their proud tradition of snubbing Gordon Willis.

Other notes

  • That has got to be one of the best opening shots in any movie. Now that’s how you start a film!
  • How did Martin Balsam get the credit “Special Appearance by”? And why are so many actors listed in the credits as “Guest Stars”? This ain’t “The Love Boat” for crying out loud!
  • Bob Woodward wishes he were that handsome in real life.
  • Seeing as how this is a blog about the National Film Registry, I feel obligated to mention that a scene in this film takes place at the actual Library of Congress.
  • This film features a mini-reunion of 2 Angry Men: Jurors #1 & #7 (Martin Balsam & Jack Warden, respectively). Also, Balsam co-starred with Jason Robards in one of my favorite movies; 1965’s “A Thousand Clowns”. It seems like every time these two got together, one of them won an Oscar.
  • I appreciate that this film does not give a crap about either Woodward or Bernstein’s personal lives. Pakula and Goldman (as well as Redford and Hoffman) recognize that this story is much bigger than any of them.
  • A scene was written but not included in the final cut in which Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham questions Woodward. The story goes that for this one scene they tried to get such heavy-hitters as Lauren Bacall, Patricia Neal, and Geraldine Page to play Ms. Graham. I wonder what happened?
  • Side-note; the potential casting of Lauren Bacall as Katharine Graham intrigues me because she had been divorced from Jason Robards for about 6 years at this point in time. Layers upon layers that never were.
  • Did you know that Richard Nixon delivered his famous “I’m not a crook” speech at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World? It’s not directly connected to this film, but it’s a weird fact that I feel bears repeating.

Legacy

  • Hmmm…. journalists trying to take down a corrupt president. Something seems…nope, there’s nothing wrong here.
  • This film gave us the phrase “Follow the money” (something the real Deep Throat never actually said), as well as mainstreaming the phrases “non-denial denial” and the ever-popular “ratfucking”.
  • Woodward and Bernstein’s follow-up book, “The Final Days”; essentially the post-Watergate events from Nixon’s point of view. The book was eventually turned into a TV movie starring the always-dependable Lane Smith.
  • The 1999 film “Dick”; which suggests that Nixon was actually taken down by Kirsten Dunst and pre-fame Michelle Williams.
  • Hal Holbrook’s critically acclaimed solo show “Deep Throat Tonight!”
  • Chris Carter has said that this film was a major influence on that there “X-File” show.
  • Best Picture Oscar Winner “Spotlight”, which features Ben Bradlee’s son as a major character and definitely emphasized the “All the President’s Men” parallels during its Oscar campaign.

Further Viewing: “All the President’s Men Revisited”; a documentary on Watergate 40 years after the fact, with some observations from Redford and Hoffman about the film. Stay tuned towards the end to see Ben Stein cry.

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