All the President's Movies - What Nixon Saw and When He Saw It

Discussion in 'Politics & Current Events' started by Owen Gohl, Jul 1, 2005.

  1. Owen Gohl

    Owen Gohl Member

    Jun 21, 2000
    Although this is about movies it seems more appropriate to post it on the Politics board as it's primarily about Nixon, and Nixon was nothing if not political.

    I have not read "Nixon at the Movies: A Book About Belief", but I recently ran accross the list of over 500 films Nixon saw during his presidency. Here it is:

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/239683.html

    Apparently the author's argument is by reviewing Nixon's taste in films we can learn both a lot about Nixon and a lot about ourselves. I don't know if I buy that theory but I certainly found the list interesting. I haven't analyzed it in any detail (presumably the book does that), but a number of things stood out.

    1. Patton (three viewings) - Probably everyone knows the story about how watching this supposedly inspired Nixon to go into Cambodia. His first viewing was on April 4, 1970 and the operation began in late April, so there might be something to that theory though I still think it's a stretch. In any case, Nixon clearly was fond of the flim as he saw it again on April 25 and June 12.

    2. No Foreign Language Films - I don't think there's a film on the list in a language other than English. Although foreign films weren't shown as often then as they are now, surely Nixon would have had no difficulty obtaining a copy of one. I doubt his presidency would have been much different if he had been familiar with the works of Eisenstein or Visconti or Truffaut, but apparently no one sought to introduce him to anything beyond Hollwood, aside from a handful of British films.

    3. Within Hollywood, A Wide Range - Although his tastes were restricted almost exclusively to American films, he watched a much wider range of films than the average man in his late 50s or early 60s. While there are a many war and adventure films on the list, there are also plenty of musicals, comedies, epics, westerns, and even a few documentaries. He watched the current releases and classics; the triumphs and the turkeys; the good, the bad, and the ugly (including The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on August 21, 1971).

    4. Films About Power - He watched quite a few films about presidents and politicians - Wilson, The Last Hurrah, Beau James, Sunrise at Campobello - and films about leaders - The Shoes of the Fisherman, Cromwell, The Cardinal, Richard III. Perhaps he was trying to draw lessons from these though it's impossible to say for sure.

    5. Very Few Repeats - I went through the listing quickly but except for Patton I think the only films he watched more than once were Lawrence of Arabia, The Way We Were, and Around the World in 80 Days.

    6. Totally unrelated to the choice of films, I was surprised at how much time Nixon seemed to spend away from the White House. The majority of the films were viewed at Camp David, San Clemente, or Key Biscayne.

    All in all a very interesting list and presumably an interesting book, especially if you believe we are what we watch. I truly wish we had lists of every president's viewing going back as far as Wilson who, when he referred to The Birth of a Nation as "writing history with lightning", became the first presidential film critic.
     

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