|Last week I wrote about my favorite movies about the business of journalism.
My favorite film on that list is Allen Pakula’s “All the Presidents Men,” which chronicles the process that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein took while they were with the Washington Post to uncover the truth about the infamous Watergate Scandal that inevitably lead to the resignation of Richard Nixon.
The film begins with a group of men breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s office in the Watergate building in an effort to plant bugs and listening devices. They are caught by a security guard named Frank Wells, who in the film plays himself.
In the morning Bob Woodward, played by Robert Redford, is sent to the courthouse to write about the seemingly innocuous story. While there, he realizes the story is much bigger when the men who have broken into the building already have lawyers and one mentions having previously worked with the CIA.
As he sits at the offices of the Washington Post, Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) notices Woodward writing and starts to pick up his copy and rewrites it. Woodward catches on and agrees with Bernstein’s criticism but doesn’t like how he did it. The two are placed on the story to write it together.
They eventually learn that some of the men worked for the Committee to Re-Elect President Nixon, which was more commonly known as “CREEP.” I have no idea why a political campaign would want that moniker, but that’s just me.
At every turn, Woodward and Bernstein are plagued when employees for CREEP refuse to talk about the story. In reality, they were deathly afraid to get on the wrong side of the key players in the Nixon Administration.
I remember my father, Tommy Bragg, telling me that in the years Nixon was president, “You never said ANYTHING negative about the man. People were terrified of him.”
Interestingly enough, my government teacher in high school worked for CREEP finance and his name is mentioned twice in the film, but he wasn’t ever arrested in connection with the break-ins.
Using a secret informant named Deep Throat, who turned out to be Mark Felt, associate director of the FBI, the two reporters are able to determine sources inside the Nixon White House planned the break in so they could gather negative information about the Democratic party.
Three short years later, Nixon resigned after public outcries and after many of his associates went to prison.
Robert Redford read the book “All the President’s Men” and bought the rights to it for $450,000. He worked with director Alan Pakula to bring the story to cinematic life.
For months before the filming, he and Hoffman spent many hours a day inside the offices of the Washington Post, sitting in on editorial meetings and learning about the job of the reporters.
The film is accurate about the Washington Post to a “t.”
The Post refused to let them film inside their offices, so the film built a scale replica of the offices on two sound stages at the studio that cost $200,000. They also bought 200 desks at $500 apiece from the same supplier who sold the Post their desks and then had them painted the exact same color.
The production went so far as to re-print out of circulation phone books used in the movie. Even the trash you see on people’s desks in the film was saved from the workers of the Post.
The acting by Redford and Hoffman, along with the incredible true story, and the accuracy make an amazing film. Not only was it one of the most salacious crimes in the history of the U.S., but it was also an amazing story about how two young reporters helped to change history.