A very tongue-in-cheek look at the power of the press, with a sideways glance at the past, All the President’s Men, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, gets most of its mojo from the superb screenplay by William Goldman (who also penned scripts for The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Misery and A Bridge Too Far.
The story follows two journalists (Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward of The Washington Post) as they search for the truth in uncovering the Watergate scandal that engulfed and ultimately terminated the presidency of Richard Nixon.
Goldman’s script echoes the travails of another drama which focuses on a political leader from the south who also thought he was immune to criticism or oversight.
Robert Penn Warren first published his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, All the King’s Men, in 1946. His narrative traces the rise and fall of a ruthless and cynical politician from the state of Louisiana. The book draws its title from the well-known nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty.
By connecting the two stories, Goldman reminds us that power in a free society derives from the consent of the governed. It’s a very seamless and effective analogy that propels the action forward to its ultimate resolution.
We would be wise to re-visit these exceptional films from time to time. Often art reflects reality more accurately than we might imagine. Karl Marx once noted that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.