Re: [Videolib] all the presidents movies

Steve Fesenmaier (
Fri, 08 Aug 2003 13:23:25 -0400

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All the Presidents Movies – with Ken Hechler

About six months ago I received a call from Ken Hechler. He told me that
Bravo wanted to interview him about the films that influenced President
Truman. He gave me a list of films including Frank Capra’s 1948 film,
“State of the Union,” starring Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn. The
other titles were Capra’s most famous “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and
a Bob Hope comedy, “The Princess and the Pirate.” Ken watched the films
and flew off to DC the next week for his interview. Last night by sheer
good luck I switched on the three-hour series – which will be repeated
twice more – see schedule below – and saw Ken talking about Truman’s
films. According to the show, Truman was at least partially motivated to
run for president by this very film – “State of the Union.” I once
worked with a Gazette reporter to do a survey of WV leaders, political,
sports, etc. on their fav films. Like the LA Times article below says,
one’s fav films tell a lot about a person.

Sat, August 9 1:30 PM West Wing Weekend:
All the Presidents Movies - Part 1
Sat, August 9 2:30 PM West Wing Weekend:
All the Presidents Movies - Part 2
Sat, August 9 3:30 PM West Wing Weekend:
All the Presidents Movies - Part 3
Fri, August 15 1:00 PM /Events_&_Specials/All the Presidents Movies -
Part 1
Fri, August 15 2:00 PM /Events_&_Specials/All the Presidents Movies -
Part 2
Fri, August 15 3:00 PM /Events_&_Specials/All the Presidents Movies -
Part 3

All the Presidents' Movies
The first documentary to reveal what played in
America's most exclusive screening room. By
uncovering the secret film logs of the White
House screening room we'll learn the
movie-viewing habits and preferences of the
American Presidents and locate these selections within the fabric of our

history. Learn who watched the most movies and who the least. And find
what President was the first to screen an X-rated movie. This Bravo
special gives us a guided tour into the presidential screening room by
other than Paul Fisher, the White House projectionist for 33 years.
Follow the
many changes to the screening room as Hollywood luminaries from Francis
Ford Coppola to Steven Speilberg gave their artistic input over the

7/6pm Thursday, August 7
Venture inside the White House screening
room and discover the
favorite films and unusual viewing habits
of Presidents from
Eisenhower to George W. Bush. What war film
did Nixon watch
before invading Cambodia? Which President
screened the first
X-rated film? Find out in this three-part
original documentary special.


Bravo channel is screening a documentary called "All The President's
Movies". It is a look at the movie tastes of the
various US Presidents.

Bill Clinton's favourite movie was, apparently, "American Beauty"
(It's about a middle aged man who is infatuated with a teenage girl.
He comes to his senses just before he has sex with

George W Bush's favourite is Austin Powers.
(Apparently he does an excellent impersonation of "Dr Evil", the
power hungry baddy who wants to rule the world.)

The things our movie tastes say about us.
They’re the presidents’ elect films
A documentary on Bravo checks the movie-watching habits of our chief
By Lewis Beale, Special to The LA Times

With hindsight, it seems obvious that the one Hollywood movie screened
most often at
the White House over the past 50 years is “High Noon.”
Director Fred Zinneman’s 1952 classic is, after all, the quintessential
“the buck stops
here” film: a strong-willed leader, unable to achieve consensus about an
danger, takes matters into his own hands and saves the day. It’s a
politician’s ultimate
“The film can be seen as a metaphor for the president,” said Burt
Kearns, co-executive
producer of “All the Presidents’ Movies,” a documentary about the
film-going habits of
the chief executives, airing Thursday night on Bravo. “The main
character of ‘High
Noon’ is a glamorous figure, a man who does what he has to do. He’s a
man alone,
who has to do the right thing. He’s what you think the president would
imagine himself
to be.”
George W. Bush has screened it at the White House; Ike screened it three
times; Bill Clinton has seen it 20 times
during his life. The list goes on.
The “High Noon” fixation of the Oval Office’s occupants is just one of
the fascinating tidbits in the three-hour
program, which ranges from the early days of cinema to today.
And it’s a thematic touchstone for Bravo, which is using it to kick off
what the network is referring to as “West Wing
Weekend,” which will include White House-set films like “Absolute Power”
and “The American President.”
It all builds up to Sunday’s off-network premiere of NBC’s acclaimed but
recently troubled hit “The West Wing,”
whose star Martin Sheen narrates “All the Presidents’ Movies.” Bravo is
introducing “The West Wing,” with a
marathon of the first six episodes, starting at 11 a.m. Sunday. The
reruns then settle into their Monday-Thursday
schedule on Aug. 11.
“All the Presidents’ Movies” also features interviews with such
presidential kinfolk as Ron Reagan Jr., Steve Ford,
Susan Eisenhower and Lynda Bird Johnson, as well as various Hollywood
types who screened their films at 1600
Pennsylvania Ave.
Presidential screenings began in 1915, when Woodrow Wilson watched D.W.
Griffith’s racist classic “The Birth of
a Nation,” which the president called “all so terribly true.” Though
nearly every president since has screened
Hollywood films — Franklin D. Roosevelt would watch only short films
with happy endings, Truman may have
patterned his 1948 whistle-stop presidential campaign after Frank
Capra’s “State of the Union” — the
documentary focuses on 1953-1986, when Paul Fisher was the official
White House projectionist.
Fisher didn’t just show films; he kept a log of the 5,000 films he
screened for seven presidents, as well as jotting
down who else was in the East Wing screening room at the time. The log
was discovered by Irv Letofsky, a former
Times editor who is co-executive producer of “All the Presidents’
“I was writing a 1996 newspaper article about the presidents and their
screenings,” Letofsky said, “when a White
House aide told me about Paul Fisher and his diaries. Fisher sent them
to me, and when other people looked at
them, they kept saying, ‘That’s really great television.’ “
If nothing else, the tale of presidential moviegoing is what Kearns
called “an alternative history of the White
House, a new angle no one has bothered to explore.”
And the presidents have their quirks, for good or ill:
Dwight Eisenhower loved westerns and screened over 200 of them while in
office. But the former general and
World War II hero refused to watch war movies or anything starring
Robert Mitchum, because he disapproved of
the actor’s 1949 marijuana bust.
Richard Nixon watched over 150 movies with his buddy Charles “Bebe”
Rebozo. The week in 1970 that he began
the secret bombing of Cambodia, Nixon screened “Patton” twice.
Jimmy Carter, who viewed 580 films, more than any other president, was
the only leader to screen an X-rated
movie: the Oscar-winning “Midnight Cowboy.”
Lyndon Johnson didn’t like movies that much, but he sure loved “The
President,” a short documentary about
himself — he saw it at least a dozen times.
Although Fisher had left the White House before the two most recent
occupants had moved in, it’s possible to
learn a few telling details about the movie-watching tastes of George W.
Bush and Clinton.
Bush’s all-time favorite film is Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private
Ryan,” but the first film he screened after taking
over the White House was the Cuban missile crisis film “Thirteen Days.”
The president is also said to be a fan of
the “Austin Powers” films and has screened at the White House “Field of
Dreams” (a favorite of his father), “Naked
Gun 2 ½” and, just recently, “Seabiscuit.” During baseball season,
though, he’s said to prefer watching tapes of
Texas Rangers games when he’s traveling on Air Force One.
Clinton had more eclectic tastes. Sure, he screened popular films such
as “Independence Day” and “Naked Gun
33 1/3” plus such best picture Oscar winners as “Schindler’s List,”
“American Beauty,” “The English Patient” and
“Casablanca.” But his showings at the White House and Camp David also
included more obscure titles like Billy
Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade,” the German film set in the Nazi era “The
Harmonists,” the Anthony Hopkins biopic
about C.S. Lewis “Shadowlands” and Baz Luhrmann’s Australian
breakthrough “Strictly Ballroom.”
The 42nd president screened another Australian film, Jane Campion’s
moody art film “The Piano,” which earned
Holly Hunter a best actress Oscar, but which prompted Clinton to ask,
“What was that all about?”
Clinton aside, the documentary illustrates, most of the presidents had
very mainstream tastes. This is reflected in
a presidential top 10 list compiled by the program’s producers, which in
addition to “High Noon” includes
“Casablanca,” “Field of Dreams,” two Audrey Hepburn films (“Sabrina” and
“Roman Holiday”) and “The Bridge on
the River Kwai.”
That means the preferences of a first lady like Jackie Kennedy, who
spoke French and loved to watch art films like
the 1961 Alain Resnais classic “Last Year at Marienbad,” really stand
out. Not all first ladies shared her
adventurous taste; Hillary Clinton is said to be a fan of “Mr. Holland’s
“We often think a president is isolated and out of touch with America,”
Kearns said, “but its seems the White
House theater serves as a window to what’s going on outside the White
House. Sometimes they use it for solace,
like Richard Nixon would lose himself in the musicals of the ‘30s and
‘40s when Vietnam War protesters were
outside. Ronald Reagan would often find comfort in the movies of the
Golden Age of Hollywood. Even today,
George W. Bush likes films that paint a rosy picture of America.”
Of course, not everyone was looking for escape. One of the most
fascinating parts of the documentary features
home video shot by director David O. Russell, who was invited to the
White House to screen his 1999 film “Three
Kings,” which alleges that the U.S. abandoned freedom-loving Sunni
Muslims to the depredations of Saddam
Hussein after the Persian Gulf War. Clinton, arguably the most avid and
film-savvy president yet, is shown holding
an intense post-screening discussion about the movie.
There are many juicy items like this in “All the President’s Movies,”
and just as many that were left out because of
time constraints. Letofsky, who did much of the research for the show,
mentioned a story about Reagan that didn’t
make the final cut.
It seems Reagan screened the 1983 miniseries “The Day After,” about what
happens when a nuclear bomb
devastates Lawrence, Kan. Old Hollywood insider that he was, the
president decided to jot down some notes on
how he felt the film should be edited and had them sent to director
Nicholas Meyer. Annoyed at what he felt was
executive presumption, Meyer tore up the notes.
Ultimately, however, “All the President’s Movies” is not about how much
the White House screening habits differ
from ours but in how many ways they are similar. Settled down in plush
seats in the East Wing screening room,
munching popcorn and gulping sodas, the presidents and their families
were like everyone else, allowing the
magic to wash over them.
“One thing that came out in all the interviews we did, was that the
presidents let their guard down in the White
House theater,” Kearns said. “This acted as a family room, and people
felt they were sitting with the first family in
their den. People will watch this show and see the president as a more
human person. It make him less of a public figure and more of a guy, a

PRESIDENTS’ CHOICE: On Aug. 7, Bravo will air
“All the President’s Movies,” a three-hour special
exploring the movie preferences of our nation’s
commanders-in-chief. The series uses the logs of
longtime White House projectionist Paul Fischer
to explore the 5,000 movies he screened for
seven presidents. Bill Clinton invited “Three Kings” director David O.
Russell to the
White House for a screening of his Persian Gulf War film, and while
Bush was affected by “Black Hawk Down,” the show maintains his father
understand “Field of Dreams.” Among other tidbits: John Kennedy kept a
bed in
the screening room, Richard Nixon watched “Patton” the same week he
invaded Cambodia and Jimmy Carter’s first film in the screening room was
“All the
President’s Men.”

Sat, August 9 1:30 PM West Wing Weekend:
All the Presidents Movies - Part 1
Sat, August 9 2:30 PM West Wing Weekend:
All the Presidents Movies - Part 2
Sat, August 9 3:30 PM West Wing Weekend:
All the Presidents Movies - Part 3
Fri, August 15 1:00 PM /Events_&_Specials/All the Presidents Movies -
Part 1
Fri, August 15 2:00 PM /Events_&_Specials/All the Presidents Movies -
Part 2
Fri, August 15 3:00 PM /Events_&_Specials/All the Presidents Movies -
Part 3

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tel;work:1-800-642-9021 ext. 2015 inside WV
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adr:;;1900 Kanawha Blvd. East;Charleston;West Virginia;25305;USA
title:State Data Coordinator
fn:Steve Fesenmaier

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