"All the President's Men"

I’ve seen All the President’s Men several times and was watching it again today. I was grown up and married at the time of the Watergate hearings and I remember John Dean on TV day after day, revealing the unthinkable, blatantly criminal activities that went on in the White House. It was a grim time.

I love newspaper movies, and the thing that gets me about this movie is how much sleuthing, research, and just plain legwork were required of reporters before the cell phone/digital age. A reporter relied on his/her notebook, shoe leather, typewriter, and phone-dialing finger to put together a story. I was also a huge fan of Lou Grant, the TV show about old-fashioned newspaper work.

It’s easy to understand (but still not forgive) reporters/publications today that take shortcuts in research and verification, acquiring information with a few mouse clicks that used to require plane/train/car trips, hours of waiting around in offices, searching for phone booths (and making sure you had plenty of change to use them), and many phone conversations whose only record was the reporter’s notes.

This, of course, was a Hell of a Story, and the film is a nail-biter even when you KNOW how it’s all going to turn out.

Could not agree more. I’ve recommended the book many times on this board, and I love the movie as well. I do think that while there are certainly a lot of shortcuts taken in this era of instant news, there is also some really good investigative reporting going on. I always like to read the Pulitzer prize news stories, particularly the winners of the prize for public service, which tend to be months-long, in-depth analyses of not very sexy issues that have a real impact. These stories just tend to get drowned out by the latest celebrity gossip, or currently by the campaign frenzy.

I’m also a huge fan of Lou Grant, and recently watched the three seasons that are available on Hulu. Even with the absence of cell phones and the internet, it still holds up.

Bit of trivia (I bet you both know) - Lou Grant featured Robert Walden, as reporter Joe Rossi, who played Donald Segretti in All the President’s Men.


Yeah, I noticed that. :slight_smile: Great supporting cast in ATPM-- Martan Balsam, Jack Warden, Meredith Baxter, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, Lindsay Crouse (who later had an ongoing part on L&O as a judge who was murdered by her husband), Polly Holliday (later waitress “kiss my grits!” Flo), and F. Murray Abraham had a small part.

Don’t forget Stephen Collins as Hugh Sloan, and Jane Alexander as “the bookkeeper”.

In the episode of Lou Grant in which Rossi goes undercover in a mental hospital (he is later nominated for a Pulitzer for the article), he uses the name “Carl Woodward”.

And Lindsay Crouse wasn’t murdered by her husband on L&O; he tried to kill her but didn’t succeed.

One question from one too young when Watergate happened. Is “All The President’s Men” a documentary, or historical fiction? I have a pet peeve over people confusing historical fiction for fact. For example, I can’t believe how many people are convinced Oliver Stone solved the JFK murder in the movie “JFK” because that’s how Oliver Stone wanted you to see it!

The movie “All the President’s Men” is neither a documentary, nor historical fiction. It is actors playing the parts of real people, and the events it depicts are true, although some artistic license is taken with conversations, protecting people’s identities, etc.

The movie is not the story of the Watergate scandal itself. It is the story of the investigation of the Watergate scandal by the two reporters who uncovered it, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. Woodward and Bernstein wrote hundreds of articles for the Post during the unfolding of the scandal, and then wrote the book “All the President’s Men” based on their experiences. Watching the movie will give you an accurate picture of what it was like to report the Watergate story. Many of the specific incidents in the movie were reported in the Post at the time they happened.

The one part of the movie that many people thought was made up, or a composite, was the character of Deep Throat, the informant who helped Woodward with the investigation. We now know that Deep Throat was F.B.I. Associate Director Mark Felt, and that the Deep Throat scenes really happened. You can read Woodward’s book “The Secret Man” for more information.

Great movie. I saw it again a few years ago and loved it all over again. My only criticism: having the aftermath play out through a series of teletype news items was a bit of a letdown. I’d rather have seen historical footage of Agnew leaving the Federal courthouse, the House Judicary Committee in session, Nixon waving from the steps of the helicopter, etc., perhaps with a teletype scroll below.

There’s a fascinating contrast between ATPM and the immediate sequel, The Final Days. As both book and movie of ATPM show, the reporters HAD to be right, and get validation and corroboration for every single fact. In TFD, with the story broken, the public image of the presidency shattered and Nixon out of office, they can write in a much more relaxed fashion.

It really IS amazing. Even such basic information as where a person worked, or who lived at a particular address, required hours of snooping and sleuthing. Researching the background of minor public figures required hours in the morgue. Getting copies, even of publicly available documents, could mean hours in the library.

The one beef I have with All the President’s Men is not so much with the book or movie themselves, but with how people react to them. People think that Woodward and Bernstein were the only people investigating the Watergate scandal, and that Nixon had to resign because of their work. That isn’t true.

From the moment the Watergate burglars were arrested, law enforcement began to grind away (despite Nixon’s criminal attempt to interfere), first in Judge Sirica’s court and then in the grand jury investigation superintended by Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski. The House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon based on the grand jury report, not on newspaper articles.

That’s not to say Woodward & Bernstein didn’t do useful work. Their articles played an important part in softening up public opinion, which is always critical in a political scandal. But, the evidence that counted was amassed by prosecutors.

Yeah, that was always my one criticism of the movie. All that running around, meeting Deep Throat in the parking garage, having discussions with Ben Bradlee on his lawn at midnight; and then it ends with a long shot of Woodward and Bernstein hunched over a typewriter, then the teletypes. Kind of an emotional anticlimax.

They weren’t even the only reporters covering Watergate - Seymour Hersh of the New York Times scooped them on at least one big story, if my memory can be trusted.

I always wondered what happened to Hugh Sloan - he came out as the one honest, honorable man at CREEP. Hope he didn’t leave public service, if he was as decent as he was portrayed.

Hugh Sloan

I’m glad he’s done well, but I’m sorry he left public service. He would be one of the very few Republicans I would ever consider voting for.

I’m reading the book right now, and I’m constantly struck by how much easier – or possibly more difficult, depending on the point of view – things would have been in this day and age. Things like "Woodward checked the source’s name against a cross-reference phone directory … " or “… Bernstein couldn’t be reached because he was at a friend’s house that evening.”

But then again, how much more shit could the Plumbers and the ratfuckers have pulled off with today’s technology as well, and how much better could they have hidden it?


Technology is the proverbial double-edged sword, my friend.

I had to watch that movie in class while I was in Journalism school. My favorite bits about it are: watching them type stories on a typewriter. Even in the late 80s, when I was in school, there was a computer on every desk in the newsroom. Typewriters! OMG! The other favorite bit is watching them use dial telephones. And just doing things in a very manual, old-school way altogether.

My favorite scene was when they sent a courier on horseback to ask Mrs. Graham to come in her carriage to the Post newsroom.

In a passage I read today, they were discussing with a source the rigging of a poll regarding mining Haiphong harbor. They spent $4800 issue telegrams to the White House as through from random Americans in support of the proposal.

If they were trying to pull off something like that today, something tells me they might go for the slightly cheaper route of free Yahoo email addresses.

I love the movie.
Per the OP, it is a great nailbiter.

What I find amusing, however, is the fact that there isn’t anything to bite the nails about! Uh…reporters…acting all cloak-and-dagger…OK…where’s the drama?
Can’t account for it, but I love it. Must be the great director and actors.
(BTW, Will we *never *be rid of Jason Robards??? He supposedly died in 2000, but I don’t believe it. I can’t stand him, and I never could. He’ll probably be in the next Batman movie, the Hangover III, and Paranormal 5.)

And maybe the Oscar winning writer William Goldman?