Sunday, April 09, 2006

All the President’s Men

We stand by our story - Ben Bradlee

I watched All the President’s Men last night on KQED. I’ve read the book, seen the film several times before, and I vaguely remember watching it in the theater with my parents when it was released. But, that’s what happens when you grow up in Washington, D.C.

For those unfamiliar with the excellent 1976 film, it chronicles the investigative reporting on the Watergate burglary of Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. As the movie unfolds, we watch the young Metro reporters trace a hidden money trail from the bungled break-in in June of 1972 back to the Committee to Re-Elect the President using aggressive reporting techniques and anonymous sources like the famous Deep Throat. Filled with intrigue, suspense and excellent acting, All the President’s Men provides a timely reminder of the initial events that would lead to the imprisonment of the Attorney General, the White House Counsel and the Chief of Staff, and the resignation of the President of the United States.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portray “Woodstein,” with Jason Robards as Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee. All the President’s Men was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, and it won in 4 categories, including Art Direction for the incredibly detailed recreation of the Post newsroom. In February of this year, Warner issued a 2-DVD version with new commentary from Bob Woodward and a featurette on Deep Throat.

The screenplay is adapted from the 1974 Woodward and Bernstein book of the same name, and it does a wonderful job of recreating the intricacies of the initial stories. With any movie, compromises are made, and in this case the last 18 months of the Watergate story are omitted. The movie stops on Inauguration Day in January 1973 and relies on wire headlines for mentions of the Senate hearings, the Saturday Night Massacre, the secret tapes and Nixon's resignation. It is dramatic but not nearly as satisfying as the recounting of these events in the book.

All the President’s Men is among my favorite films, and, not surprisingly the book is even better. I recommend (re-)reading and (re-)watching both. (Amazon links for the DVD and the book)

Bonus links:
An archive of the Washington Post’s Watergate stories
Wikipedia summary of the Watergate scandal
The Woodward and Bernstein Papers