In film, On tape

You could almost teach an entire film course focused on Nixon. From fictional accounts of Nixon’s relationship to his mother to the famous Frost/Nixon interviews (both on television and as recorded by filmmakers) to an opera that revolves around his trip to China, Nixon is an enticing subject for human drama.

Film makers have explored Nixon’s life and legacy many times: Howard K. Smith: The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon (#2.9) (1962); Millhouse (1971); Richard (1972); The Faking of the President (1976); Secret Honor (1984); The Final Days (1989) (TV); Nixon (1995); Kissinger and Nixon (1995) (TV); Frost/Nixon (2008)

In this exchange between a young Nixon and his mother, Oliver Stone imagines the boy painfully learning a lesson about telling the truth. Click on A disappointed mother.


Listen to “Growing up in Whittier,” written by John Williams for the soundtrack for the film Nixon. Click on An anthem of home.


Watch the moment when interviewer David Frost hears Richard Nixon explain that the president is above the law. Click on Really? And watch the same moment dramatized in the movie Frost/Nixon. Click on What did he just say?


The University of Georgia has hours of interviews between Nixon and Frank Gannon. Click on Nixon talks.


Listen to the San Francisco Opera presentation of the opera “Nixon in China” by John Adams. Click on An epic journey for opera. To listen to Adams discuss the opera, click on Adams insights.

"Nixon in China"

To hear a White House tape of Nixon and Henry Kissinger discussing the trip to China and the meeting with Mao, click on Hi Henry.  You can hear Nixon’s certainty that the trip changed history. Among the reasons for success, “I’m a little more Chinese than many Americans,” Nixon told Kissinger in this tape.

Comedian David Frye performed his convincing Richard Nixon impersonation many times including during this call-in to the Steve Allen Show in the 1980s. Click on You could fool me.

In their book The Final Days, Carl Berstein and Bob Woodward claim that the movie Patton was a Nixon favorite.  He watched it several times in the White House and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai watched it to prepare for Nixon’s trip to China.

surprise-logoOne of the best known films about the Nixon presidency, “All the President’s Men,” focuses on the Watergate break-in and the Bernstein/Woodward investigation. Interestingly, there is no evidence that any of the historical characters ever spoke one of the often quoted lines from the film, “follow the money.” To read the NY Times article about the quote, click on The most memorable thing they never said. Daniel Schorr, the reporter who investigated the authenticity of the quote, was not only on Nixon’s “Enemies List,” in 2003 he received an honorary degree from Whittier College.

One of the most recent film explorations of the Nixon Administration uses 8 mm home movies.
Our_Nixon_Poster_27x40_NDNFClick on “Our Nixon,” a recent film to watch.


As Richard Nixon’s personal photographer and then as a White House staff photographer, Oliver Atkins captured Nixon in thousands of images.  This photo with Elvis Presley in the White House is one of most requested from the collection of the National Archives.

The Special Collections and Archives at George Mason University has 60,000 photos taken by Atkins.