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Ambrose, Stephen E. "The Nixon Inside Stone's Head." Washington Post 7 Jan. 1996: C3.
Ambrose fights Stone on the director's claim that "his dramatic interpretation [like Shakespeare's] is closer to the truth about his subject's character than anything the academic historians or the journalists can produce." Shakespeare was not writing about his contemporaries and had no "political agenda to push." Ambrose calls Stone's companion Nixon book "a peacock-like display of phony scholarship" and chastises Stone for wanting to participate in the historical debate without "conforming to the canons of history." Using language like this doesn't endear historians like Ambrose to Stone, and all of Ambrose's complaints are backed up by his credentials as an official Nixon biographer. Ambrose calls Stone's "Beast" thesis a gross simplification about how "America is run and by whom" and says Stone is "guilty of a disinformation campaign."
Ansen, David, and Stryker McGuire. "Hollywood's Most Controversial Director Oliver Stone Takes on Our Most Controversial President Richard Nixon." Newsweek 11 Dec. 1995: 64-70.
Ansen sees this film changing the way that modern audiences will feel about Richard Nixon. Although many would expect Stone to cast Nixon as the "Prince of darkness," Stone is actually much more ambiguous and restrained with his representation of the president. Ansen calls Nixon a character study, describing the film as "history and voyeurism [colliding] in a powerfully unsettling way." Ansen summarizes the key aspects of Stone's Nixon -- his paranoia, his obsession with the Kennedy brothers, his fixation on "enemies" -- and finds the final product satisfying. Ansen accuses Stone of monopolizing "our memories of the '60's and '70's in America" and considers this a brave step away from traditional history pictures (e.g. Apollo 13), which he calls a "cheerleader's notion of history." Ansen boldly concludes that Nixon can serve as a "healing" gesture for Stone who never forgave the president for prolonging the war in Vietnam. Ansen also describes the production problems on the set such as David Hyde Pierce worrying about his performance because John Dean would sometimes be on the set, or Anthony Edwards joking that he would quit because of the lines he had to memorize. In a related article on the same page, Ansen interviews Stone on the connections between his father and Nixon.
Arroyo, Jose. "Nixon." Sight and Sound 6.3 (1996): 48-49.
Arroyo finds Nixon "riveting" and focuses on three major aspects of the film: the lie, or Watergate "cover-up"; "the deaths of brothers," Nixon's own brothers as well as the Kennedy brothers; and the "military-industrial complex," or the notion of the government as a "beast." This review goes beyond others with its ideological discussion of the film and is a good reference for students looking for writing topics on Nixon.
Auster, Albert. "The Baccahae, the ‘Missing Prince,' & Oliver Stone's Presidential Prince." Journal of Popular Film and Television 28.1 (2000): 30-35.
Auster explores what he considers two important narrative themes connecting Stone's films JFK and Nixon: the first of these is from the Euripidean tragedy The Baccahae, and the second theme is from an anthropological myth of the "Missing Prince." Stone has described both films as "counter myths" and has also claimed in interviews that The Baccahae was one of his favorite plays in college. In The Baccahae, Theban King Pentheus is destroyed by the Baccahae for his defiance of the god Dionysus. As Auster writes, Euripedes "argues that to live a balanced life...a human being must recognize and come to terms with the irrational and libidinous sides of existence" (30). Auster identifies the "myth of the slain king or missing prince" as a Middle Eastern narrative about a God identified as "Tammuz, Osiris, or Adonis." These Gods, responsible for the fertility of the soil, bring on "moral malaise and creative entropy" with their deaths. These two myths stand in for Stone's vision of American politics -- Jim Garrison and Richard Nixon are tragic, Grecian heroes, while both films focus on a now-corrupt America, a result of its slain prince, John Kennedy. Auster's reading is interesting and presents another understanding of the mythic imagery of JFK and Nixon.
Bingham, Dennis. "Oliver Stone's Nixon and the Unmanning of the Self-Made Man." Masculinity: Bodies, Movies, Culture. Ed. Peter Lehman. New York: Routledge, 2001. 257-78.
Bingham focuses on Nixon not just as a figure who represents the American dream to us but as one who represents American manhood. He doesn't merely point out the historical inaccuracies in the film but explores the real and reel representation of Nixon's masculinity. The film is an attempt to understand the "systems, ambitions, and ideologies that drove Richard Nixon," but "Oliver Stone himself is too masculinist to understake a study...that would show [Nixon] as a product of patriarchy and a servant of its interests." The "process of understanding" isn't just Nixon's as he attempts to sort out what brought him to the point of resignation but is also the spectator's who "sorts out the life of a leader who looms as too important an archetype of American manhood to be easily dismissed." Nixon is "divested" of his manhood, and the real process of understanding in the film is Stone's attempt to understand how it unraveled. Bingham compares the bodies of the real Nixon and the reel Nixon and finds that the latter is continually clad in ill-fitting brown or black suits and appears heavy and bull-doggish. However, the real Nixon was a staid dresser, favoring well-cut blue suits, well-starched shirts and "neat-patterned ties." Bingham echoes the Stone comment that if "there are many Nixons," Nixon the successful politician is not this film's concern. Bingham argues that Nixon's fixation on his masculinity appears in his TV appearances and speeches, especially in his dependence on football metaphors. However, Nixon's preoccupation with his masculinity fails him. One strong example is Nixon's insistence to not wear makeup during the Kennedy-Nixon debate. In the film, Haldeman comments, "He wouldn't do the make-up. Said it was for queers," implying that Nixon's all-(hetero)man for not wearing makeup. Bingham also finds Nixon's "attempts at a hard masculinity" appearing in more important instances, such as his beliefs about the Communist threat." He cites several biographies in which Nixon insists on "overcom[ing] the weak-kneed, jelly backed attitude of Congress" by escalating the war in Vietnam. His insistence on not appearing "soft on Communism," made him continually heighten his aggression and fight dirty and hard, and Bingham cites the Christmas bombing as an example of this. The second half of the article focuses solely on filmic representations of masculinity with brief paragraphs on several of Stone's other films. Bingham compellingly asserts that when the film moves his resignation speech to his funeral, it does not salvage his masculinity, by avoiding Nixon's several comebacks to the political arena. Stone's emphasis on father figures infiltrate his films, either stern patriarchs such as Frank Nixon, perverse ones such as J. Edgar Hoover, or whole, perfect ones such as Alexander Haig. The article concludes that the figure of Nixon fascinates because he is both a figure of "rigid masculinity" while still being extremely insecure.
Carnes, Mark C. "Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies." Cineaste 22.4 (1996): 33-37.
Stone tells critic Mark Carnes, "I think many historians come at filmmakers with an attitude and with hostility. It's as though history is their territory, and we don't belong. We pervert the paradigm with emotion, sentimentality, and so on (33)." Stone's comments hit the mark on the debate surrounding his films -- is a director allowed the use of artistic license to depict the emotions surrounding important historical moments and figures? Stone's answer is that he wants to fight "pomposity" and use his films as a springboard to raise questions about the political system. Stone comments that although historian Stephen Ambrose does criticize Nixon in his biography, Stone accuses Ambrose of playing it sage and not concentrating on the "darker shadows of history, the assassinations and conspiracies that loomed over his life." Stone articulates his dark vision, by breaking down the opening scenes of the film where we see Nixon in the Lincoln Room, forced to consider resignation. Stone describes his use of a dark, gated White House, shadowed by a cloudy sign as symbols for the ways in which the White House and politics "trapped" Nixon and made him prisoner in the nation's most important symbol of democracy, the White House. This is a startling but insightful interpretation -- Nixon wanted to control all aspects and avenues of the White House, a desire which made him paranoid and a prisoner. Stone also points out to Carnes that he sees Nixon as a man who is a victim of the "Beast," similar to JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, but not a "Beast" himself. Stone spends a significant portion of the article explaining/defending his "Beast" thesis and its role in his latter films, JFK and Nixon. This article is especially important to history students, or those focusing on historical theory, surrounding the story of Nixon, or the film Nixon. Stone's language during this interview makes it an important read as well. He is as combative here as he is during his Charlie Rose interview (see my Historical Context: Video Resources), most glaringly when he accuses Carnes of being part of that "tribe" that is attacking him. Comments such as these, will support any scholarly argument that tries to show Stone's projection of his own demons onto the canvas of Nixon. Carnes has edited a collection of essays, with the same title (Past Imperfect) that contains a short review of the film Nixon, written by Bob Woodward.
Cieutat, Michel, and Michel Ciment. "Interview with Oliver Stone: America, Land of Failure." Positif No. 422 April 1996: 10-16.
When asked by the interviewers, "Is there a Nixon successor or another politician whose portrait you would like to paint," Stone answered, "No, because through Kennedy and Nixon, I was able to say everything I had to say.  Now I've finished" (16).  Stone describes Nixon as "the very image of failure" (10) who created a Civil War in the country -- as the interview suggests, if this is all Stone has to say, then his notion of the American landscape is a bleak one.  This is another important interview for Stone scholars, because Stone describes his personal relationship with the Nixon personae, admitting that he and his father actually worked on a Nixon-Eisenhower campaign in the 50's.  Stone discusses questions he has been asked in other interviews (working with Hopkins, legacy of Nixon) but his answers are more interesting and focused on the style of the film in this interview.  Stone discusses Nixon's failed aspirations, repeatedly calling him Willy Loman, the title character from Death of a Salesman.  Stone also discusses the difficulty in making political films in the U.S.  Stone's reveals, "I don't feel sorry for him[Nixon].  I don't like him.  I feel sorry for America through him" (180).
Collier, Peter. "Ollie Uber Alles, Oliver Stone's Triumph of the Will." American Spectator 25.4 (1992): 28.
Collier summarizes Stone's oeuvre in one sentence:  "[In] Oliver Stone's films there has always been a single obsessive theme...America is evil, sick beyond recovery and decadent beyond redemption" (28).  Collier, a conservative critic, appears angry at Stone for his overly-positive representations of President Kennedy's promise in the films JFK and Nixon.  Collier considers President Kennedy an opportunist and Stone a delusional war veteran, who clings desperately to the myth of the Kennedy brothers.  Collier points out that Kennedy was from the same school of thought that President Nixon grew out of concerning the Cold War and U.S. relations with the U.S.S.R. and China.  Collier also posits that Kennedy was involved in a "charisma" rivalry with Chairman Mao and dictator Fidel Castro when their wars of national liberation took center stage in the public's attention -- a provocative charge considering Stone's depiction of the rivalry between Nixon and the Kennedy brothers.  Collier's major beef with Stone is whether Kennedy would have withdrawn troops from South Vietnam -- a resounding "no," according to Collier.  Collier makes the famous charge regarding artistic license, "for those who reply that history should be irrelevant to art, it might be pointed out that in this case art ought to refrain from calling for the reopening of history's sealed files (30)."  Collier is especially angry at Stone's "posturing as a concerned citizen" and for his "malicious will," regarding America (31).  Many might be off put by an article that at first appears to be an attack from a conservative critic on a "radical" or left-leaning director; however, this is an insightful article in its discussions of the "other Kennedy" absent from Stone's films.
Crowdus, Gary. "History, Dramatic License, and Larger Historical Truths: An Interview with Oliver Stone." Cineaste 22.4 (1997): 38-42.
Stone responds to the various criticisms regarding his use of dramatic license in his films, especially JFK and Nixon. Stone defines dramatic license as "a restaging of any reported action – reported, not necessarily factual – using actors, costumes, make-up, the condensation of events, and the invention of dialog which occurred behind closed doors, to illustrate your conception of what occurred." Stone argues that all history is subjective and is just a compilation of certain facts to support specific interpretations. Stone argues that he doesn't "abuse" dramatic license; instead, his careful allows him to "take it in, absorb it, and interpret it." Stone argues that "dramatists predate historians," but both involve the same storytelling process. Stone also discusses his panel discussion with the American Historical Association (see Video Resources) organized by George McGovern and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Stone shares that Schlesinger said to him after the meeting, "You're a great filmmaker but a lousy historian," to which Stone wanted to respond, "Well, you were a great film critic at one point…but unfortunately as a historian I think your earlier work was better." Ironically, Stone attacks TV interviewers who cut down an hour's worth of insightful interviews into a "sensationalistic four or five minutes," not allowing any real lessons to be learned from such interviews. Considering Stone's formula of compressing historical events into a four or five minute, heavily edited nugget of information, can any real learning take place in his films? Stone defends his work on the grounds of opening up interest in history for young scholars. Stone discusses not continuing with historical film making because of the backlash from critics, feminists, and audiences who have not gone to see Nixon en-masse.
Ehrenstein, David. "JFK -- A New Low for Hollywood." Advocate 14 Jan. 1992: 78-83.
Ehrenstein accuses Stone of scapegoating Clay Shaw as part of a conspiracy to kill President John Kennedy, for the same reasons that Shaw was brought under investigation in February, 1970 -- Shaw was gay and a popular social figure in New Orleans. Ehrenstein argues that the real Shaw was president of "New Orleans' International Trade Mart, a decorated war veteran, a patron of the arts...with no criminal record," instead of a "sinister sadomasochist in league with a gay cabal out to kill Kennedy." Ehrenstein also writes that Jim Garrison in "real life" was a less than idealistic alcoholic and wife-abuser and was obsessed with proving that members of the gay underground, including Shaw and another conspirator David Ferrie, were taking part in drug-filled orgies. Ehrenstein provides a comprehensive list of resources associated with the Shaw trial, including James Kirkwood's American Grotesque. Kirkwood writes of a startling interview with Judge Edward L. Haggerty, who sat on Shaw's case. Haggerty wanted more of Shaw's "dirty laundry" brought into the courtroom, saying, "Queers know queers...They've got a clique better than the CIA." This quote is particularly disturbing when one considers the several "gay cabals" in JFK and Nixon that Stone posits as corrupting and controlling the government. Ehrenstein quotes reporter Jed Horne of the New Orleans Times-Picayune who shares that Garrison is a "kook" and a "local joke," and that "Stone is a sucker." Stone has vehemently criticized Ehrenstein's article, but Stone himself has argued that future scholars must not be gullible and must question the historical record -- Ehrenstein posits that we also question Stone's record and possible homophobia.
Ehrlichman, John D. "Nixon, Stone -- and Me." Newsweek 8 Jan. 1996: 44.
Ehrlichman lets us know immediately he has special access to the "truth" of Richard Nixon. Describing himself "as a longtime Nixon intimate" who had "15 years of ever-closer association with the real Nixon," he considers Stone's film to be pop-history and not as harmful as critics have characterized it. However, he argues that the film gets all of its facts and characterizations wrong –- especially that Nixon was somehow involved in assassination plots against John Kennedy and Fidel Castro. Ehrlichman defends himself against the charge that he was responsible for the Ellsberg break-in (as the film alleges) and adds that the film doesn't depict a Nixon he knew between 1959 and 1973. Ehrlichman also argues that Alexander Butterfield and John Dean, who served as advisors to Stone's film, had limited contact with the President and shouldn't be considered experts. Worse, the film makes Haldeman look like a milquetoast instead of an "assertive chief-of-staff," and Nixon never called Pat "Buddy" in front of Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman's final problem is that if the film serves as a "[guide to history]…nothing ever happened around Nixon except dark conspiracy and heavy drinking." He adds that the film does nothing to depict Nixon's efforts at welfare reform, environmental protection, or budget-balancing and that this "history –manqué may become a cultural Cliffs Notes to the Nixon era."
Gianos, Phillip L. Politics and Politicians in American Film. Westport: Greenwood P, 1998. 184-89.
Gianos compares Stone's film to what he considers the "archetype for the dramatic treatment of political personality in its portrayal of political motivation as based on psychological projection," Charles Foster Kane, in the film Citizen Kane (184). Gianos writes a scene-by-scene analysis, discussing the moments when Nixon is shown losing an election and the moments that connect his childhood to his political career.
Hamburg, Eric, ed. Nixon: An Oliver Stone Film. New York: Cinergi Productions, Inc., 1995.
This book is a comprehensive companion to Stone's film and provides scholars with the various sources that Stone consulted while writing the script. The book is divided into three parts, introduced by Hamburg alongside an interview with Stone by Michael Singer. Stone describes his motivations for wanting to make a film about Nixon and his right to use artistic license. Part 1 consists of essays by John Dean, Daniel Schorr, E. Howard Hunt, Michael Mandelbaum, Jim Hougan, Stephen J. Rivele, Alexander Butterfield, Frank Mankiewicz, Stanley I. Kutler, John Sears, Christopher Wilkinson, Eugenio Martinez, and Paul H. Nitze. Part 2 includes an annotated screenplay, but this should not be used as a way for scholars to "get lines" for the film. This screenplay served as a shooting script, but there were significant changes in dialogue and movement during filming –- including several scenes being omitted from the final cut. However, this screenplay serves as a beneficial guide to figuring out long sections of dialogue or sentences that can't be made out in the film (remember that your DVD allows subtitles to help with this as well!). The most important aspect of this screenplay are the annotations and the bibliography showing the diverse resources used to complete the film. The third part includes several transcripts of Nixon's secret White House tape recordings. These transcripts are from the hearing (most dated 1971), so their accuracy will be in question since even though more tapes are being released to the public, very few scholars are visiting the archives in College Park, Maryland, to transcribe and verify the information. The book includes several conversations including the "smoking gun" tape, John Dean's "cancer on the presidency" conversation, and several transcripts for meetings with Haldeman, Mitchell, and Ehrlichman. Documents include several letters and selected memos used as reviewed by the investigations committee. Many have called this a book and scripts a "term paper" instead of a companion book, but Stone's willingness to create such a document and highlight his sources, show his investment in historical study and his subject.
Hamburg, Eric. JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone and Me: An Idealist's Journey from Capitol Hill to Hollywood Hell. New York: Public Affairs, 2002.
Hamburg has worked with Stone on the director's films >cite>Any Given Sunday and Nixon. This is a tell-all book about Hamburg's rise from a D.C. congressional staffer to his job with Stone. Hamburg writes that he hoped to make movies that would make a political difference; however, the Hollywood system has left him disillusioned. He discusses his obsession with the Kennedy assassination, which should indicate to readers that this isn't just Stone's obsession. Hamburg describes his experiences with Stone as a mixed bag, but his work makes more pointed jabs at the Washington/Hollywood relationship and the conservative politics of both. This work is not as useful as the annotated screenplay for providing specific insights into the ideologies of Nixon.
Kilday, Gregg. "Oliver Stoned." Entertainment Weekly 14 Jan. 1994: 28, 31-33.
Despite being a popular film magazine, Entertainment Weekly produces insightful articles about films and film-makers, and Kilday's interview with Stone (whom he calls "America's Most Visible Conspiracy Theorist") is one of the best articles on the director. Kilday points out that Stone has produced many surprising films, including The Joy Luck Club, a largely melodrama-woman's story film. Kilday's interview also focuses on Stone's desire to make a film about South American dictator Manuel Noriega and his hopes for his just-then released film Heaven and Earth.
Linville, Susan E. "Standing Pat: The First Lady in Oliver Stone's Nixon." History, Films, Women and Freud's Uncanny. Austin: U of Texas P, 2004. 67-89.
A feminist and historicist examination of Nixon, Linville argues that Stone's portrayal of Hannah Nixon (Mary Steenburgen) follows the matrophobic representations of women in his other films. However, the author finds Stone's portrayal of Pat Nixon (Joan Allen) to be surprisingly sensitive, concluding that both Pat and Hannah are emblematic of the struggle between the "good woman/good mother" and "bad woman/bad mother." She sees the role of "first lady" as connected to the "first woman" we long for in our unconscious, our mothers, connecting a "maternal icon" with the nostalgic notion of nation." The article connects the real historical image of Pat as a doll and plastic Pat with the reel image constructed by Stone and sees many similarities: Pat becomes a surface on which Stone can project a "constellation of icons," and how this representation of her troubles "his notions of the nation and of Nixon as its key cold-war leader." Linville uses newspaper accounts of Pat from the 50-90's and modern day criticisms of the film to show how Pat is giving chameleon-like roles, compares Nixon's disabled vision (hallucinating that his dead mother is sitting in the Lincoln Room) with Pat's clear vision, compares the mise-en-scene of the scenes with Pat (not fractured or choppy or unreal) versus the mise-en-scene with the other characters including Hannah, and compares scenes where stoic Pat cracks her façade to real life images of Pat appearing in a similar manner Linville's article is not an attack on Stone for failing to create a coherent female figure because she argues that Pat Nixon is, for many people, an incoherent figure. Although she find Stone's Pat to be a complicated representation, it is still mired in the baggage of the good mother/good woman as moral center, conscience and supportive wife. The last half of Linville's analysis focuses on the aesthetic comparisons between Pat's scenes in the film with representations of mothers in Weimer films such as The Street and in the James Whistler painting Portrait of the Artist's Mother. The contrasting representations of Hannah and Pat, plastic Pat and real Pat, are finally irrelevant to Nixon, Linville argues, because through Pat, both Nixon and Stone articulate the "ambivalence about the place of women in American culture."
Mackey-Kallis, Susan. Oliver Stone's America: "Dreaming the Myth Outward." Bolder: Westview Press, 1996.
This book combines film theory and a study of Stone's personal history. Mackey-Kallis focuses on Stone's later films including JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon. Her major argument is to show how Stone's films effectively combine history and myth, creating a distinctly American film. She begins by discussing Stone's personal place in Hollywood as a left-wing director in a supposedly conservative Hollywood and breaks his films into the Vietnam trilogy (with JFK at the center plus Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven and Earth) or the artist/visonary trilogy (with The Doors, Talk-Radio, and Salvador). She ends her books with readings of Wall Street and Natural Born Killers as depicting America's shadowy underbelly. The book has but a three-page section on Nixon, focusing only on production issues such as controversy surrounding the script, filming, and representation of Nixon.
McGilligan, Pat. "Point Man." Filmic Comment January/February 1987:11-14, 16-20, 60.
McGilligan's article traces Stone's rise from small-budget horror films such as The Hand to later political films JFK and Nixon. McGilligan focuses on the evolution of Stone's political views, and the article's featured interview with the director is an important read for Stone scholars. Stone discusses his return from the Vietnam War and its influence on his art, the culture shock of Nixonian America, as well as his later career and working with several prominent, yet contentious directors and producers.
McGuire, Stryker, and David Ansen. "Hollywood's Most Controversial Director Oliver Stone Takes On Our Most Controversial President Richard Nixon." Newsweek 11 Dec. 1995: 64-71.
Calling Nixon a "glamour-epic" and Stone a "Manichaean" director who "divides world into good guys and villains," McGuire and Ansen see the film as Stone's most evolved work –- making Nixon a "character study" of a complicated man: "The propagandist has been replaced by a bold portraitist." The critics bring up an important point that Stone's film sets apart to destroy the carefully reconstructed image that ex-president cultivated in the years after his resignation, that this rehashing of the desperate, fumbling Nixon depicted in the book The Final Days is a stark contrast to the elder statesman image that is eulogized even in the end of Stone's film. McGuire and Ansen also defend Stone's right to dramatic license saying that the real-life Nixon already provided enough real melodramatic moments such as the Checkers Speech, his "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore" concession speech, his dogged pursuit of suspected spy Alger Hiss, and, memorably, going on impromptu visit to the Lincoln memorial. The article also includes a lengthy summary of the hurdles Stone had to jump through in order to get Nixon filmed. They also cover the process the actors used to get into character (many met the personalities they were depicting) and the problems with Anthony Hopkins during production.
Monsell, Thomas. Nixon on Stage and Screen: The Thirty-Seventh President as Depicted in Films, Television, Plays and Opera. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1998.
A book that lists the various ways in which Richard Nixon as been represented by playwrights and filmmakers. The author covers copies of Nixon's early speeches and discusses fictitious films ranging from National Lampoon's Lemmings, a satire that contains a sketch called "Mission Impeachable" that shows a Senate hearing in which a Senator asks a witness "What did the President know and when did he stop knowing it?" to dramatic films as diverse as All the President's Men and Richard III. Not just a Richard Nixon-in-films book, but Monsell covers any work of popular culture that deals with the Nixon personae: documentaries, films, plays, comedies, and television shows. The section on Nixon contains a scene log that is not accurate since it seems to be based on the screenplay, but the eight-page essay is a short but insightful look at the use of historical fact in art and representation.
Quayle, Dan. "Oliver Stone's Disservice to History." Creators Syndicate 14 Jan. 1996.
Quayle criticizes before he has seen the movie. Actually, he has no plans to see the movie -- he doesn't want to put money into Stone's pocket, so he bases his reviews on other people's reviews, comments from those who have seen the film, and interviews (which he did not conduct). Quayle simply restates the usual complaints about the film including profanity, Nixon's drinking, the relationship between Pat and Richard, finally settling on the conclusion that Stone is entitled to his own opinions but not "entitled to his own facts." Quayle also echoes Ambrose's criticism -- Stone must "loathe America" to make such a film.
Reeves, Richard. "Nixon Revisited by Way of the Creative Camera." New York Times 17 Dec. 1995: H1.
Reeves calls Stone's film a semi-sympathetic portrait of the president, and he also deconstructs the process by which historical figures define themselves or are defined by others for the historical record. Reeves does believe that Stone needs to be more careful about his assertions and not depend on the "it's only a movie" defense because of the impact of film on youth. Reeves tears apart the companion book by Hamburg, pointing out that many of the footnotes refer to marginal or unimportant works, and that for many important scenes there are no notes or research materials cited. Reeves also accuses Stone of having "tunnel vision," making the White House appear as Dracula's castle. Reeves argues that although Nixon had his peccadilloes and often did not appear comfortable in his skin, he was nothing like the bumbling, mean-spirited, drunk that appears in the films that have appeared after his death, especially this one. Interestingly, Reeves also feels that Stone doesn't have "much to say" with Nixon; In JFK, Stone painted a picture of a government conspiracy that was responsible for the death of a beloved leader; however, in his newest film, Stone doesn't have much of a hook, just the same old tune.
Rollins, Peter C., and John E. O' Connor, eds. Hollywood's White House: The American Presidency in Film and History. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2003.
This collection of essays on the representation of the presidency on film and television is dedicated to the "glorious office of the presidency," as well as the "twenty-first century citizen," who has the "difficult sift for truth among a plethora of images." The editors and authors in the collection evoke this tone in their essays -- awe and respect for the office of the President but close scrutiny of the "real" and "reel" representations of the position. Charlene Etkind has a wonderful exploration of the comedy Dick that includes a study of the "mythology" of the President and the "reality" the film attempts to portray through its satirical humor. Donald Whaley's article is another exploration of the "Beast" metaphor, albeit one that discusses it in terms of Darwinian forces outside Nixon.
Salewicz, Chris. Oliver Stone Close Up: The Making of His Movies. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1997.
Salewicz spent two months interviewing Stone and their discussion about his films make this an interesting book for Stone scholars.  The book does not provide analysis of the films, but it is interesting to read Stone's opinions of his films -- in Nixon he clearly announces his vision as an attempt to show that by the time Nixon won the office of the presidency his bitterness had corrupted him.
Sharett, Christopher. "The Belly of the Beast: Oliver Stone's 'Nixon' and the American Nightmare." Cineaste 22.1 (1996): 4-9.
Sharett's article explores the notion of the "Beast" in Stone's Nixon and JFK.  For Stone, the Beast is a metaphor for the military-industrial complex and the dark, apocalyptic forces that control the government.  The "Beast" is responsible for the assassination of Kennedy, and it is the same cabal that constructs the cover-up around the investigations.  The "Beast" in Nixon also stands for the demons driving him, including his pushy religious mother, the deaths of his two brothers from TB, his resentment of the Eastern establishment, and the deaths of JFK and RFK.  Stone articulates the notion of the "Beast" in his "Lincoln Memorial" sequence (see my Scene Analysis), in which a young war-protestor confronts Nixon about his lack of power to end the Vietnam War.  Sharett sees Nixon as Stone's bleakest assessment of the American political landscape and writes that the "Beast" metaphor shows Nixon's lack of control over many of the very forces and policies he chose to enact during his terms, especially those connected to the Vietnam War.
Silet, Charles L. P., ed. Oliver Stone Interviews. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2001.
This is an important collection with 15 interviews with Oliver Stone, all which have been published in other important publications such as Cineaste and Sight and Sound.  The collections brings together the best of these interviews, making the book an invaluable collection for students.  Stone discusses his films in-depth, from "The Hand," to "Nixon."  The interviews share a common theme: Stone seems the American political landscape as hypocritical and corrupt and his films hope to expose the "darker spots of life" (135).
Smith, Gavin. "Oliver Stone: Why do I have to Provoke?" Sight and Sound 4:9 (1994): 8-12.
I have cited this article because Stone discusses, frankly, his relationship with conspiracy, pushing the envelope, his cynicism, and his use of extreme violence to provoke and anger. The article focuses largely on Stone's thriller Natural Born Killers, but Stone's commentary is also relevant to the reception of Nixon.
Smith, Gavin. "The Dark Side: Oliver Stone on His Film Nixon." Sight & Sound 6:3 (1996): 6-9.
A must-read article for any Stone scholar.  Smith finds Nixon to be Stone's most "introspective" and "claustrophobic" character and sees the film as a hybrid of "historical tragedy and tortured psycho-biography."  Smith's interview with the director brings to light his motives for wanting to make a film about Nixon as well as how the director attempts to balance the contradictions in the President's character.  Stone describes Nixon as having a "junkie's need for victory and loss."  Stone does discuss in depth the aesthetics of the film, explaining that he wanted to create no particular "center" for the film—one moment Nixon is seen losing a football game at Whittier College, the next he is seen losing the 1960 governor's seat to Pat Brown.  Stone also shares that to him the ending of the film emerges when a defeated Nixon walks through the dark halls of the White House with Pat, the night before he resigns.  Stone comments, "At the credits you can leave, you don't have to listen to the resignation speech."  Stone also talks about using three separate editors to work on the film, so that no one "fingerprint" is imprinted on the final product.
Stone, Oliver. "Who Defines History? Oliver Stone's Address to the National Press Club." Cineaste 19.1 (1992): 23-24.
Along with his essay "On Nixon and JFK" in Toplin's Oliver Stone's USA, as well as his address to the American Historical Association (see video), this address to the National Press Club adds to Stone's own scholarship defending his right to dramatic license, as well as his right to create historical films with his own views. Stone argues that there is "no accepted view of history, and that Americans have been force-fed a myth about JFK's assassination (23). Stone defends his belief in a conspiracy about the President's death and discusses the influence his movies have had on younger audiences.
Sturken, Marita. “Reenactment, Fantasy, and the Paranoia of History:Oliver Stone’s Docudramas.” History and Theory 36. 4 (1997): 64-79.
Sturken discusses American culture's obsession with conspiracy theories and their roles in films about historical events.  Sturken sees Stone as an important player in the making of conspiracy myths (she refers to his films as docudramas) and she examines this thesis in Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Nixon.  Sturken's motives are akin to Stone's -- she is not interested in right or wrong information in the films but what makes their government conspiracy focus so important for audiences.  Sturken sees paranoia as part of the practice of citizenship, exemplified by the film Platoon, which is based on Stone's own experiences as a Vietnam vet.
Taylor, John H. "Nixon on the Rocks." American Spectator 29.3 (1996): 22-27.
Taylor accuses Stone of "building a mausoleum of lies over the graves of Richard and Pat Nixon."  Taylor  received an early shooting script of the film and couldn't take any legal action against what he considered to be mistruths about the president.  Taylor is especially incensed about the response from reporters who have not criticized Stone, especially one who called the film "uncharacteristically uncontroversial."  Taylor responds, "I guess a controversial scene would have involved barnyard animals."  Taylor's complaints range from Stone's depictions of Nixon drunk to his use of the word "cocksucker," but his description of Stone's visit with his cast and crew to the Library are the most unforgiving.  Taylor accuses Stone of behaving like "Greenpeace activists in a rendering plant" and "bark[ing]" at a docent.  Taylor is also angry about Stone's treatment of Mrs. Nixon, pointing out that Mrs. Nixon would never thought her husband's treatment of the Hiss case was questionable.  Taylor argues she stood by her husband and asks, "How dare Stone take that away from her?"   Taylor worries about uninformed and young scholars accepting Stone's view of history, but he also believes that the movie is so vindictive in its attack that any intelligent person will see through it.
Thomas, Evan. "Whose Obsession Is It, Anyway?" Newsweek 11 Dec. 1995: 68-72.
Thomas begins his article by reminding us that docu-dramas "sacrifice ambiguity and nuance… for dramatic pacing," aligning himself with critics who believe that visual media cannot portray pure history.  Thomas argues that as long as docu-dramas get "the basic truth" right at the expense of some facts, then the film has succeeded.  Stone doesn't get any of it right, argues Thomas. (I suppose he is referring to the truth of Nixon's complicated personal and political life, a truth, Thomas believes, could have been depicted in the span of three hours.)  Thomas also argues that Stone has an obsession with the death of Kennedy and is mired in the belief that there was a conspiracy involving the CIA in his assassination.  Thomas cites several sources including Richard Bissell, the CIA front-man for many assassination plots (including against Fidel Castro), who claim Richard Nixon had nothing to do with any plots against Kennedy or others.  Thomas's final conclusion is that Stone is projecting his conspiracy fantasies onto the character of Nixon.
Toplin, Robert Brent. Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy. Lawrence: UP of Kansas, 2000.
Toplin is the foremost scholar on reel history films, and Oliver Stone's USA is a compilation of insightful analysis coupled with articles by film and history critics, and Stone himself. The book is a mixture of scholars who enjoy and support Stone's work, as well as those who see it as subordinate to printed history. Stephen Ambrose's and Arthur M. Schlesinger's essays on JFK and Nixon are scathing. Criticizing the liberties Stone takes with facts and personalities, both authors accuse him of being paranoid and conspiracy obsessed. Although George McGovern also has a section in this part of the collection, his defense that Stone as an artist has a right to create drama by playing with facts seems colored by his own dislike of Nixon, while Ambrose's seems influenced by his own obsession with the man. As a Nixon biographer, Ambrose comes across as arguing special ownership of "the real facts about Richard Nixon," and his analysis devolves into nitpicking details about Nixon's cursing and drinking habits in the film. The best section of this work is Stone's multiple responses to each of the writers in the collection. Stone defends his use of artistic license not just because he is an artist but because the public has a right to information. He argues that his speculation creates questions in the minds of future scholars, making them into better citizens and not just conspiracy-minded individuals.
Wills, Garry. "Son of Nixon." Esquire Jan. 1996: 68-74.
Wills' article discusses the process by which Anthony Hopkins dealt with the demons of the character he was playing, as well as those of Stone. His article focuses on Stone's directorial style -- his aggressive treatment of his actors, his perfectionism, and his control of all aspects of production. Wills reveals that the Lincoln Memorial scene was filmed on a backlot, with the Great Commander constructed out of polyurethane foam and covered with a faux marble substance. Hopkins discusses the prosthetic work that was initially outlined for his face -- a fake nose, wider cheeks, increasing the tip -- but everything looked too false. Not wanting to create a "stand-up comic's impersonation of Nixon," Hopkins only used slight alterations such as a dental piece and brown contacts. Most importantly, Stone tells Wills why he wanted to make a film about Nixon: "Nixon and Kennedy, those two people, very much shaped the era in which I grew up. The interplay between the two men -- in the move toward Vietnam, the economic downturn of the United States, Watergate, the loss of faith in government -- all those issues were prominent in my psyche at that stage when I was in my teens and twenties. They really had an impact on me... What happened then is still working itself out now with us. Clinton was influenced by Nixon, as he was by Kennedy. In fact, he was probably like both men. It seems to me he wanted to be Kennedy, but he really felt he had to be Nixon in order to get in." Wills articulates it best, "Stone wrestl[es] with his own demons...[giving] his movies their energy and personal stamp," which makes Stone one of the most compelling directors on the American scene.
Yarbrough, Jeff. "Heart of Stone." Advocate 7 April 1992: 44.
Yarbrough's conclusion that "the star of an Oliver Stone film is Stone himself" embodies the trend in Stone scholarship that sees his works as evidence of the director's conspiracy-theory driven angst. Quoting critics who call him the master of "self-promotion" and "part poet...part snake oil salesman," clearly Yarbrough believes that Stone crafts a careful personae to sell alongside his films (44). This article focuses on JFK, however its discussion of queer politics is interesting in light of the J. Edgar Hoover character in Nixon. Yarbrough's article is an interview-response from Stone to David Ehrenstein's article. Yarbrough writes that after Ehrenstein's article Stone received hate mail because he was now in charge of a production of The Mayor of Castro Street, a film about the openly gay San Francisco mayor who was also assassinated. Many queer-interest groups, including Queer Nation, threatened and followed through with protests at the Oscar ceremonies against Stone's supposed homophobia. Stone defends his film by arguing that focusing on the homosexual representations detracts from JFK's larger message about which sources of information such as journalists or CIA agents we should more carefully scrutinize and not trust. Stone argues that he is not following the motif of displaying homosexuals as "psychotic" or violent because the characters are playing real men who were gay -- "you cannot be - at the same time - politically correct and a historical revisionist." The context of the interview and the often leading questions result in several homophobic comments. Stone calls groups like Queer Nation, radicals, who are destroying society, and distinguishes his movies and thinking as more moderate and "main-stream," surprising, in light of the controversy he is continually enmeshed in. Stone also admits over the course of the interview that Hollywood has not grown more accepting of homosexuals or representations of queer acts on screen since he wrote the screenplay for Midnight Express in 1977: "Maybe there is still a problem. But I'll tell you one thing: That's an issue worth fighting for."

See Also

Deemer, Charles. "Nixon: A Symphonic Tragedy." Creative Screenwriting 3.2 (1996): 31-46.

Freedman, Carl. "An American Tragedy: On Oliver Stone's . . . Nixon." Film International 4.1 [19] (2006): 14-23.

Gentry, Ric. "Oliver Stone." Film Voices: Interviews from Post Script. Ed. Gerald Duchovnay. Albany: State U of New York P, 2004. 91-106.

McCrisken, Trevor B., and Andrew Pepper. American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2005.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Singer, Marc. "Making History: Cinematic Time and The Power of Retrospection in Citizen Kane and Nixon." Journal Of Narrative Theory 38.2 (2008): 177-97.

Stone, John F. "The Perfidious President and 'The Beast': Evil in Oliver Stone's Nixon." The Changing Face of Evil in Film and Television. Ed. Martin F. Norden. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. 177-94.

Video/Audio Resources

Nixon Film as History. American Historical Association, 01/04/97. Purdue University Public Affairs Video Archives. 116 minutes.
A meeting organized by the historian Robert Toplin that features speeches by Stone, George McGovern, and Professor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Panelists debated the historical accuracy and ideological messages in the film, after which they addressed several questions from the audience. Schlesinger attacks Stone's liberties with historical fact and dramatic license.
Nixon: Bonus Disk. (DVD) Dir. Oliver Stone, Buena Vista: 1995.
This bonus disk thta comes with most DVD editions of Nixon includes deleted footage introduced by Stone, a Charlie Rose interview with Stone about the making of the film, and an intended trailer of the film. Please see my listing of transcripts in my Historical Context for listings for shows featuring discussions about the real Richard Nixon and the film.
Oliver Stone on Nixon. The Charlie Rose Show. Air Date: 01/01/96, Show #1542. 54 minutes, 3 Clips from the film totaling 9 minutes. Listen to the Charlie Rose interview:
Rose introduces Stone as a man "always prepared to grab history and shake it," and in this entertaining interview, Stone addresses several of the issues his film as raised. The director's tone is at times combative as he mutters to Rose "next question" or sighs deeply when frustrated by Rose's line of inquiry, which makes this interview an insightful one into Stone's personality. Stone is his usual articulate self, describing Nixon as a man "obsessed with greatness," who achieved much in key issues of foreign policy, but when it came to his own personal life, or his domestic policies, Stone asks, "where was the greatness?" The interview contains several clips from Nixon, which allows for Stone to comment on aesthetic issues as well as matters of historical truth; students can see a discussion of two scenes featuring Pat Nixon as well as the scene on the Potomac River in which Nixon tells his aides that if he has to, he'll "drop the big one." Stone defends the movie as a psycho-drama about his father or himself. When Rose asks him why he ended the film by showing clips from Nixon's funeral, Stone comments that he wanted to show especially how five presidents came to honor the man, because he had "redeemed" himself as an elder statesman. Stone seems to suggest that in the public's eye he had also redeemed himself, because the media chose not to discuss and highlight Nixon's mistakes in office. In a noteworthy moment, Stone comments, "I've grown through these movies--I've learned so much about my life"--and Rose cuts in, almost to remind him, "Not your life?" Stone looking at the table comments, "I've also learned about America."
Oliver Stone: Inside Out. Cinema Guild, Dir. by Joel Sucher and Steven Fischler.
An interesting documentary featuring interviews with Stone and those who have worked with him. Opens with Stone joking that "this documentary is going to suck anyway," we meet writers, actors, editors, and even his mother, Jacqueline Stone. Not just focusing on the working environment that Stone creates, the director delves into his childhood, his time in Vietnam, his marriage and even features a satire called "How to make an Oliver Stone Film" by the PBS. The short shows a wannabe Stone filmmaker whose primary motivation is to keep remaking the 60's. All barbs aside, the documentary also features interviews with critics and other film-makers commenting on all of Stone's films.
Oliver Stone: Our Greatest Film Director. 8 June, 2002.
A dialogue with Stone during which Charles Kiselyak talks to the director about the term often foisted on him, cinematic historian, as well as the role of guilt, memory, and "ghosts" in historical films. Stone makes several interesting observations -- in response to the interviewer's comment that the "journey is all that matters" in filmmaking, Stone replied "families don't pass on stories, movies do." Stone discusses his evolution as a filmmaker, and we see clips from some student films that he made while at NYU, including "Last Year in Vietnam," a short film about a soldier coming to terms with Vietnam. The documentary covers all of his films to date including Nixon. Stone comments on his use of montage and quick cuts as a necessary device, because his "audience sees fast," so the camera has to produce images at a pace that will capture the audience's attention. Most importantly, Kiselyak asserts that critics want to attack Stone "because they want to control the public conversation."
Richard Reeves, Janet Maslin, David Denby, and Stephen Shipp. The Charlie Rose Show. Air Date: 12/14/1995, Show #1530.
Reeves says that Stone and Nixon see the world in the same way: both are paranoid. Reeves accuses Stone of "wanting it both ways," marketing his films as "the truth" of the historical record, while still embellishing it. Reeves is especially critical of Stone passing out lesson plans for his films to countless schools -- "When journalism, history, and art collide, where is the truth?" becomes his main question. As a historian he clearly believes that it is possible that it can reside in one place and does not want Stone to "stay so close to history" and "make it clear what [he's] doing is fiction." He also doesn't find that the film imparts anything insightful about Nixon. The show also contains an interview with three film critics, Janel Maslin, David Denby, and Stephen Shipp, who review several films that came out the winter of 1995, including Nixon. Maslin calls it a "big step forward" from Natural Born Killers, Denby calls it a great movie with huge flaws, "like everything else Stone does," and Shipp calls its brilliant, but a movie more about himself than Nixon.

Online Resources

Oliver Stone
An interesting and well-laid out fan website. It features a biography, filmography, and essays on several of his films. The section devoted to Nixon also contains an image gallery as well as a typed screenplay. The website also contains a section on production notes on the film that show how the film was initially marketed to critics. An entertaining resource to serve as a starting point for Nixon scholars.
The Salon Interview, "Nixon Gets Stoned."
One of the best (and shortest) interviews with Stone, in which he discusses the "canonization of Nixon at his funeral," the controversy surrounding the film and Vietnam. The interview is only two pages long but is entertaining and provides soundbites to issues that the director has dealt with at length in other interviews.
Wood, Robin (updated by R. Barton Palmer). "Oliver Stone." Film Reference.
Facts and brief analysis of Stone's career.