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Secret Honor (1984)

Not Rated | | Biography, Comedy, Drama | 29 January 1986 (France)
A fictionalized former President Richard M. Nixon offers a solitary, stream-of-consciousness reflection on his life and political career - and the "true" reasons for the Watergate scandal and his resignation.

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Storyline

In this speculative one-man drama, we see former President Richard Milhous Nixon alone in his study, dictating his thoughts into a tape recorder. His only company are a four-screen closed-circuit TV setup, the portraits on the walls, a bottle of Chivas Regal - and a loaded pistol. At times addressing an imaginary judge in a court of public opinion, at other times speaking to an aide named Roberto, and sometimes just talking to himself, the former chief executive reflects, in a series of meandering monologues, on his humble Quaker upbringing, his school days, his family and a political career that reached all the way to the White House. Nixon rails at his treatment by the likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the "goddam Kennedys," J. Edgar Hoover, Henry Kissinger, Jews, liberals, the media, "East Coast shits," among others, as he leads up to the "true" reasons for the Watergate scandal that resulted in his resignation - an act he regards as one of "secret honor." Written by Eugene Kim <genekim@concentric.net>

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Anyone can be the president. See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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29 January 1986 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Lords of Treason  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of a number of filmed adaptations of plays made by director Robert Altman during the 1980s. See more »

Goofs

Even though the real Richard Nixon could play the piano, the real Richard Nixon never learned how to read music. During the part of the film when Richard Nixon is playing his piano sheet music is visible on his piano. It is unlikely that Richard Nixon would have had sheet music on his piano, since he didn't read music. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Richard Nixon: Testing, one, two, three, four.
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Connections

Referenced in Philip Baker Hall: Secret Honor (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Dark Night of Richard M. Nixon
10 March 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Secret Honor" is an actor's wet dream.

This screen adaptation of a one-man play stars Philip Baker Hall as Richard Nixon on the dark night that follows his resignation from the office of President of the United States. The film makes clear from the outset that it is not a representation of facts but rather a fictional exploration of the thoughts and feelings that may have been torturing Nixon at the time. Hall has the screen to himself and gives a fierce, if rather one-note, performance. The material isn't very deep and doesn't give Hall a lot of room to explore, but I suppose it succeeds on its own modest terms.

Robert Altman made this film at the apex of his disenfranchisement from the mainstream Hollywood system. He filmed it at the University of Michigan with the assistance of Michigan students, and the tiny budget and minimal resources show. It's not remotely cinematic, though Altman makes a solid effort to make it so. Though the action is confined to Nixon's private office, Altman frequently pans his camera over to a bank of security cameras that Nixon has trained on himself, so that much of the time we're watching an image of Hall on a T.V. monitor rather than Hall himself. The message is clear -- Nixon, and by extension any politician, is constantly performing, even in his most private moments. Once one takes the oath of the presidency, he can't ever stop being the president. How good a job would any one of us do under similar circumstances, and how harshly do we have the right to judge our leaders?

Admittedly, much of my lack of enjoyment of "Secret Honor" is my own fault. It made me realize how little I actually know about Nixon's presidency, which was over in the years just before I was born, and I wasn't able to understand many of the film's references. As is often the case, my knowledge of the more distant past is greater than events that have occurred within my lifetime.

Grade: B


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