Nixon at the Movies
A Book about Belief
By Mark Feeney
University of Chicago Press, Hardcover, 9780226239682, 436pp.
Publication Date: November 2004
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"Nixon at the Movies" takes a new and often revelatory approach to looking at Nixon's career and Hollywood's. From the obvious ("All the President's Men") to the less so (Elvis Presley movies and Nixon's relationship to '60s youth culture) to several onscreen "alternate" Nixons (Fred MacMurray in "Double Indemnity," Tony Curtis in "The Sweet Smell of Success," Gene Hackman in "The Conversation"), Feeney sees aspects of Nixon's character, and the nation's, refracted and reimagined in film. Conversely, Feeney argues that Nixon can help us see the movies in a new light, making a strong case for Nixon as the movies' tutelary deity during the early '70s, playing a role in Hollywood's Silver Age comparable to FDR's during its Golden Age.
Stylishly written and bracingly eclectic, "Nixon at the Movies" draws on biography, politics, cultural history, and film criticism to show just how deeply in the twentieth-century American grain lies the pair of seemingly incongruous nouns in its title. As Nixon once remarked to Garry Wills: "Isn't that a hell of a thing, that the fate of a great country can depend on camera angles?