Perhaps surprisingly for one such as myself, I’ve just watched the 1976 film All The President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, for the very first time today.
According to the blurb on the DVD case: “In the Watergate building, lights go on and four burglars are caught in the act. That night triggered revelations that drove a U.S. President from office. Washington reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) grabbed the story and stayed with it through doubts, denials and discouragement. All the President’s Men is their story. Directed by Alan J. Pakula and based on the Woodward/Bernstein book, the film won four 1976 Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor/Jason Robards, Adaptation Screenplay/William Goldman, Art Direction and Sound). It also explores a working newspaper, where the mission is to get the story – and get it right.”
Made in the year I was born, All the President’s Men was beaten to the Best Film award by Rocky at the 49th Academy Awards. Two very different films but both excellent, and only one could win the 1976 award.
For me the subject of All the President’s Men is fascinating, but just a couple of things I’ll say now.
Firstly, it’s interesting to see how it used to be in my own lifetime, in terms of technology. I grew up before modern day computers, the internet and smart phones – the last generation to do so. When I was a boy, telephones rang real bells and numbers were literally dialled. Also, before computers came on the scene, as a boy I learned to type on a traditional manual typewriter, and I learned the typing and formal English conventions of the time. It’s the reason why to this day my default setting is to put two spaces after a full stop, and why it grates with me not to put a full-stop after Mr or Mrs (it should be Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones).
Secondly, could a President (or a British Prime Minister) be toppled in similar fashion today? I’m not so sure. I think corruption in politics is arguably worse than in the 1970s, and the press certainly is. Where can we find serious investigative journalism today? There’s not much of it about. And since nothing ever stuck to Teflon Tony, and Monica Lewinsky’s tongue did not bring down Clinton, and that was the ’90s, how much worse are things by now?