Wednesday, April 20, 2016


“Follow the money.”

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Alan J. Pakula’s ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.

In 1972, the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington D.C. was burglarized. The intruders were caught, and over the course of the next two years, the event would blow up into a political scandal which would lead to a national crisis and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.

The scandal would be brought into the light thanks to the investigative efforts of reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, and in 1974 the two collaborated on a book about the ordeal. That same year, Hollywood’s biggest star, producer and actor Robert Redford, purchased the rights to adapt the book onto the screen. Screenwriter William Goldman, who had just won an Oscar with Redford on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969), was hired to write the script. Due to the length of the book, a decision was made early on to only adapt the first half of the book, which would have the film ending with Nixon taking the Oath of Office for what would be his second term in office (Nixon would resign eight months later, after story broke in The Post).

Once the script was settled upon, Redford settled into the role of Carl Bernstein, while Dustin Hoffman, fresh off an Oscar nomination for LENNY (1974), was cast as Bob Woodward. Redford and Hoffman visited the offices of The Washington Post for months to research their roles, but the paper denied permission to film inside of its newsroom. The production team then took detailed photographs and measurements of the newsroom and built and exact replica; right down to phone books and desks. The set was built in Hollywood, while Redford and Hoffman filmed exterior scenes in Washington, D.C. Also joining the impressive cast was Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander, Jason Robards, Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins, and F. Murray Abraham.

Upon release, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN received universal acclaim. It would be nominated for eight Oscars, winning four; including Best Adapted Screenplay for Goldman and Best Supporting Actor for Robards. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the U.S. Film Registry by the Library of Congress.


ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN was a film which had a lot going for it in 1976. The nation was still reeling from the scandal and was still hungry for more information, and having two of Hollywood’s leading men in the film certainly didn’t hurt. The tone of the film fit in perfectly with cinematic style of the 1970’s; gritty and grounded thrillers in which there are no real heroes or winners by the time the credits roll. Director Alan J. Pakula did remarkable work in contrasting light and dark, honest and corrupt…and underneath the surface of a political thriller and detective story, was a tale about government rotting from within. But the film is also a story about the power of good journalism, and its influence was seen recently in the Best Picture winning SPOTLIGHT, which tackled a similar topic; print-journalists overcoming great odds to reveal the truth. The quote “follow the money” would reverberate through pop-culture, and would eventually resurface countless times in other films and TV dramas. The Watergate Scandal may have been a national crisis, but it gave journalism the chance to shine…and the film would go a long way in inspiring a generation of eager newsmen and women. In our social-media/information-crazed era, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN is the standard by which all that information is gathered…and presented.

“If you’re gonna do it, do it right. If you’re gonna hype it, hype it with the facts.”


1 comment:

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.