IMDb > Secret Honor (1984)
Secret Honor
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Secret Honor (1984) More at IMDbPro »

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Up 32% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Donald Freed (play) &
Arnold M. Stone (play) ...
View company contact information for Secret Honor on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
29 January 1986 (France) See more »
Anyone can BE the President.
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. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
1 win See more »
User Reviews:
Altman does Nixon See more (23 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Directed by
Robert Altman 
Writing credits
Donald Freed (play) &
Arnold M. Stone (play)

Donald Freed (screenplay) &
Arnold M. Stone (screenplay)

Produced by
Robert Altman .... producer
Scott Bushnell .... executive producer
Original Music by
George Burt 
Cinematography by
Pierre Mignot 
Film Editing by
Juliet Weber 
Production Design by
Stephen Altman 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Allan F. Nicholls .... assistant director
Sound Department
Andy Aaron .... sound mixer
Paul Coombe .... sound re-recording mixer
Dan Gleich .... boom operator
Bernard Hajdenberg .... sound editor
Camera and Electrical Department
René Daigle .... camera assistant
Joey Forsyte .... electrician
Tom Grunke .... key grip
Jonathan Lumley .... gaffer
Jean Lépine .... camera operator
Editorial Department
Mickey Kaczorowski .... assistant editor
Music Department
Carl St.Clair .... conductor
Other crew
Paul Devlin .... production assistant
Jack Kney .... production assistant

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
90 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The source stage show's actual complete long title was "Secret Honor: The Last Testament of Richard M. Nixon".See more »
Factual errors: 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 »
[first lines]
Richard Nixon:Testing, one, two, three, four.
See more »
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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful.
Altman does Nixon, 10 March 2009
Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom

"You, ladies and gentlemen of the American jury, shall look at the face that is under the mask!" - Philip Baker Hall (Richard Nixon)

It takes 12 minutes for Robert Altman's "Secret Honor" to really get going, the audience having to endure some terribly dated TV music and lots of theatrical posturing by Philip Baker Hall, but once the actor begins his meaty monologue, it's hard not to be transfixed.

Hall, of course, plays former president Richard Nixon. Recently disgraced by the Watergate fiasco, he prances about his private office with a loaded gun and a glass of whisky, spewing scorn at the Kennedy's, Helen Douglas, Henry Kissinger and a mysterious group called both "The Committee of 100" and "The Bohemian Grove".

Employing students from the University of Michigan, and a script that sticks religiously to a stage play by Donald Freed and Arnold Stone, "Secret Honor" is a fairly small scale project for Altman. Still, there are at least four interesting things being done.

The first is the film's location. Altman doesn't use his small set with the same gusto that Stone does in "Talk Radio", Hitchcock does in "Rear Window" or Lumet does in "12 Angry Men", but he does add his own little flourishes here and there. For example, Altman surrounds Nixon's room with wall-mounted pictures of past presidents and places a huge bank of security monitors to one side. The effect is such that Nixon, whose monologue takes the form of a courtroom plea of defence, is addressing a jury that is at once himself, we the audience and those political figures he both admirers and detests. There's therefore a sense of profound scrutiny, Nixon waging a war for his own innocence, politicians over his shoulders, a security camera in his face, a national audience behind his back and a bank of monitors recording his every move.

The second interesting thing is Hall's performance itself. Unlike Stone's "Nixon" or Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon", "Secret Honour" is categorically not an attempt to portray some "ultimate truth" of Nixon. Instead, Altman creates something more fragmented; a creature with different faces, facets and feelings. Altman demonizes as he humanises, deconstructs as he constructs, each of Hall's anecdotes serving only to further muddy the water. Altman's Nixon is both raging bull and wounded child, Altman content to create a portrait that is as baffling as it is complex.

The third interesting thing is Nixon's insistence that it was a mysterious group of powerful figures who orchestrated and mismanaged his career. He calls them "The Bohemian Grove", a cadre of economic power brokers to whom Nixon is nothing more than a paid lackey and perpetual outsider. Even as he damns them, Nixon mourns that he was never fully accepted by this group.

The fourth interesting thing is Nixon's insistence that he staged Watergate deliberately in an attempt to get himself out of office. This claim is filled with ridiculous reversals. The honourable president made himself guilty, he says, committed a deliberately obvious crime, not because he was a paranoid, power hungry mad man, but because he was too noble, too just and great, to associate further with the cartels, criminals and deplorable politicians who were pulling his strings.

Watergate thus shifts from becoming a criminal act, to an act of nobility. Nixon, the man so used and abused that he had to sacrifice his own career for the greater good. Poor boy.

7.9/10 – This is essentially filmed theatre. Still, Hall delivers a fascinating monologue that is both riveting and demented. Incidentally, Altman pretender Paul Thomas Anderson would use actor Philip Baker Hall extensively throughout his filmography, casting him in "Sydney", "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights". Worth one viewing.

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