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Blowen, Michael. "'Silkwood' Was a Killer." Lansing State Journal 15 December 1983: 1D.
Blowen tells how difficult it was to get the film made. Producers Buzz Hirsch and Larry Cano, amazingly, were only students when they began the project. Problems arose from legal issues and the political consequences of such a film. Some of Karen's old co-workers were reluctant and afraid to talk to Hirsch and Cano. Everything eventually worked out, with a lot of help from Meryl Streep's agent, Sam Cohen.
Broad, William J. "Fact and Legend Clash in Silkwood." New York Times 11 December 1983: 2
Broad attempts to weigh in with many others presenting "the facts" of the case, but he seems to overlook some facts and pull others out of thin air. He agrees that Kerr-McGee was certainly a "hellish place to work," but he dismisses other important claims of the film. He quotes Daniel E. Simpson, a vice president at Westinghouse-Hanford -- "The effect of the failure of a faulty fuel rod is essentially nil. Even a number of failures could never cause criticality"; the horror of faulty fuel rods is the driving force behind the plot of the film. Broad says that there were documents found after Karen's accident -- "but they in no way substantiated Miss Silkwood's charges that the company was doctoring evidence of faulty fuel rods." (This is a statement I've not seen anywhere else.) He also discusses the fresh dents in Karen's bumper, concluding that they were made when the car was pulled out of the culvert; this has been widely disputed by many experts. Finally, Broad talks about the Quaaludes found in Karen's system -- more than what the film states in the end, but, again, he relies on the "official" reports on the case. "In short, the evidence in the case suggests that Miss Silkwood was not a nuclear Joan of Arc but an activist outraged by terrible working conditions who mistook a technician's shortcut for corporate cover-up and eventually became a victim of her own infatuation with drugs. That tale, while not very seductive, at least sticks to the facts." (At least if you haven't done your homework.)
Burnham, David. "Screen Credit: A Reporter Who Said No." New York Times 12 February 1984: 2.1.
There were two main reasons why Burnham denied the request of screenwriter Nora Ephron to use his name in the film. (He was the reporter Karen was to meet the night she died.) He had a bad experience when his name was included (but soon deleted) from the film Serpico; namely, he believed Serpico contained "a good deal of faulty history," and he didn't want to be part of it. Reason #1: "The positive knowledge that I would not and probably should not be able to control the content of a film about Karen Silkwood was thus the major reason why I told Nora Ephron that I did not want my name used." Reason #2: "my involvement in the life of Karen Silkwood was minimal." He then tells exactly what his involvement was, gives some positive comments about the film, and weighs the arguments about what happened to her the night of November 13.
Canby, Vincent. "Film View: Tidying Up a Few Matters as '83 Fades from the Screen." New York Times 1 January 1984: 2. 11.
Here Canby defends Silkwood, claiming that when he reviewed the film, he placed too much emphasis on the facts of Karen's life and not enough on the film itself. He goes into detail about what the film does so well -- portraying flawed characters toward whom the viewer can be sympathetic.
Canby, Vincent. "Film View: Toward Women, Movies are Two-Faced." New York Times 12 February 1984: 2. 19.
Canby examines various recent films with relation to their treatment of women and age-old questions like "Virgin or whore?" He declares Silkwood is "hip" because "it depicts, without moralizing, how she lived." Where many devilish women before her would have been doomed to death from the start, Karen's death is tragic. But "her heroism never justifies the more or less random sloppiness of the rest of her life."
Caulfield, Deborah. "Ruling Held Timely for 'Silkwood.'" LA Times 12 January 1984: 1.
Caulfield explores whether the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court -- that overturned the finding of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which had overruled the jury award of $10 million+ to the Silkwood estate -- will benefit the newly released film. Early to say, but filmmakers were "ecstatic." Producer Buzz Hirsch: "Our film is incredibly accurate. I know that Kerr-McGee has been trying to influence public opinion about the film to the contrary, but from the beginning we bent over backwards to make a fair and balanced film, and I think we achieved that in spite of articles to the contrary."
Christensen, Terry. "What Makes You Think They're Looking for a Scapegoat? Workers, Unions, and Nuclear Power." Reel Politics: American Political Movies from Birth of a Nation to Platoon. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1
Christensen discusses the working class genre of film, which surprisingly swelled in the seventies. Silkwood, Norma Rae, and The China Syndrome are studied in conjunction with other films of this genre. Christensen defines "The Fonda Syndrome," exemplified in The China Syndrome, which "committed itself to an important issue but then delivered an unnecessarily timid message." This film dilutes the real issue with insignificant ones. Silkwood "made itself vulnerable to criticism by its refusal to take sides." The author defends the sometimes confusing complexity of Silkwood's characters, particularly Karen, who is "more human than heroine."
Davis, (Rev.) William. Letter. New York Times 11 January 1984: A22.
Davis, a co-director of the Christic Institute and board member of the Karen Silkwood Fund, writes a rebuttal to the New York Times review of Silkwood. "You chide the movie for not presenting 'all the facets of the case.' The irony is that a more complete documentary would have proved even more embarrassing for Kerr-McGee. Among the many 'facets' established in the Kerr-McGee trial but omitted in the film were the following." And he names four major problems: Karen couldn't have contaminated herself because she didn't have access to the "particular batch" found in her apartment, "the plant was built in a 'tornado alley,'" and two incidents where Kerr-McGee exposed the PUBLIC to contamination. "A movie that is generally artistic, entertaining and accurate ought not to be relegated to the land of make-believe simply because it exposes aspects of reality that some would rather pretend are untrue."
Ebert, Roger. "Streep Molds Many Impressions in Role of Karen Silkwood." Chicago Sun-Times 14 December 1983: 77, 79, 81.
This is a great interview with Meryl Streep in which she talks about making the film, especially how she became Karen, and her impressions of what she was like. Much talked about is the portrayal of ordinary people. Page 79 is an advertisement for the film, which contains the text, "On November 13, 1974, Karen Silkwood, an employee of a nuclear facility, left to meet with a reporter from the New York Times. She never got there."
Karen Silkwood Fund. Action Alert. Washington, D.C. June 1983.
Detailed account of how the Silkwood case got to the U.S. Supreme Court and what it means if the appellate court decision is upheld. "Silkwood Movie To Star Meryl Streep" contains excerpts of an interview with Streep, in which she says "[Karen] was a real tough cookie to reconcile with Joan of Arc. But the thing about Silkwood was, she caused a lot of trouble -- and she was right." There is also a piece on Howard Kohn being sued for libel by Jacque Srouji, who was criticized in his book Who Killed Karen Silkwood? Srouji's role in the Silkwood matter is explained.
Karen Silkwood Fund. Action Alert. Washington, D.C. November 1983.
"The story of Karen Silkwood is now a feature film coming to your area soon. But Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep, will not tell the whole story. Help us get the truth out." This source calls on the reader to look at the film as an "opportunity" to educate others about what really happened to Karen.
Keerdoja, Eileen, and Mary Murphy. "Newsmakers." Newsweek 10 October 1983: 89.
Streep is quoted as saying, "I'm not sure people will want to see this movie." Further, "People may stay away from something that smells like a message." It is her first time playing a historical figure.
Keller, David. "Filmmaker Faces Jail in Silkwood Case." In These Times 18 May 1977: 4.
This tells the facts of the beginning of a First Amendment rights struggle for Silkwood producer Buzz Hirsch. Judge Luther Eubanks ordered him to turn over his research materials to Kerr-McGee. Hirsch refused, saying he is entitled to protect his sources, like a journalist is. He could be held in jail until he turns over the documents or until a higher court rules in his favor.
"Kerr-McGee Condemns Film." Los Angeles Times. Printed in Chicago Sun-Times 14 December 1983: 77.
Reaction of K-M to film, calling it "inaccurate." "Kerr-McGee is a fine company that cares deeply about its employees." A short but dense article.

See Also

Rapping, Elayne. "Made for TV Movies: The Domestication of Social Issues." Cineaste 14.2 (1985): 30-33.

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

Video/Audio Resources

Karen Silkwood. Four Corners. ABC. Sydney, Australia. 1979.
"Karen Silkwood, worker in a plutonium factory in Oklahoma, USA, discovers that some safety procedures are being ignored. She collects documentary evidence in support of her suspicions for her Union. There is a car accident as she is on her way to meet reporters in which she is killed and the papers she carried disappear. This documentary was the basis of the feature film Silkwood, and shows something of the furor that followed Karen's death." (Unseen: information from Worldcat.)

Online Resources

Estrin, Mark W. (updated by H. Wayne Schuth, further updated by Robyn Karney). "Mike Nichols." Film Reference.
Facts and brief analysis of Nichols' career.
Hill, Lee. "Mike Nichols." Sense of Cinema.
Essay and filmography on Nichols.
"Women as Heroines of Their Own Lives." Fast Company
In this May 2003 article titled "Women as Heroines of Their Own Lives," the author exchanges e-mail with Nora Ephron, one of the Silkwood screenwriters.