Published on: December 8, 2017
I’ve been on a bit of a Ben Bradlee tear lately, at least in part because I’m so looking forward to The Post
, the new Steven Spielberg movie - starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post
owner Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks as legendary editor Bradlee, challenging the Nixon administration over the Pentagon Papers - comes out in a couple of weeks.
HBO is running a new documentary, The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee
, which is a terrific look back at Bradlee’s personal and professional life. The film benefits from the testimony of people who were incredibly close to Bradlee - wife Sally Quinn, and folks like Tom Brokaw, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward - and from its use of some of the audio version of Bradlee’s wonderful memoir, “A Good Life,” which Bradlee read himself.
There are a couple of moments in the documentary that are uncomfortable, especially because of recent events. Early in the film, Bradlee talks about his close friendship with John F. Kennedy, and that it was only after JFK’s death that he discovered that the president had been having an affair with his sister-in-law; Bradlee always maintained that he did not know about JFK’s extracurricular activities, though he’s not entirely persuasive on that point. What is persuasive, however, is the discussion about whether someone in Bradlee’s position - at the time, he was editor of Newsweek
- can be so close to someone so powerful. (The answer is no.)
The other uncomfortable moment comes near the end, when Bradlee is shown on a television program being asked if there is anything he regrets. He says that other than the fact he hurt his first two wives, he doesn’t regret much. The problem is that the questioner is Charlie Rose, who has been in the news lately for a lot of things other than his interviewing skills. (I might’ve looked for a way to edit Rose out of the piece, if only because it sounds a sour note at the wrong moment of the film.)
But other than that, The Newspaperman
is a strong piece of work about one of the most compelling figures in 20th century journalism.
The other Bradlee fix I’ve gotten lately is a book, “A Life's Work: Fathers and Sons,”by Ben Bradlee and his son, Quinn Bradlee. Because of severe medical problems that Quinn had as a baby, he’s dealt with significant developmental issues throughout his whole life, and his father - in his sixties when Quinn was born - found within himself unexpected reserves of compassion and love for his child. In many ways, Ben’s relationship with Quinn mirrored the one he had with his own father, forged out of a mutual passion for the woods.
“A Life’s Work” is a lovely book, and not just about fathers and sons; I think it speaks to parents and children in general. In fact, I think I’m going to get a copy of it for my two sons and my daughter for Christmas.
Next up - I want to read Bradlee’s wife Sally Quinn’s new book, “Finding Magic,” which is about the spiritual journey she’s taken in her life, in part informed by her journalism about faith and religion, and in part by how she experienced her husband’s dementia and final days.
By the time I’m done, I’ll be ready for The Post
The other day I did a FaceTime commentary about what struck me as the sheer idiocy of AMC-Loews allowing an ad for the new Amazon series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” to run before its movies … since such series encourage people to stay home and watch TV instead of going to the movies.
Since then, I’ve watched the eight episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” - I downloaded them to my iPad and watched them during assorted airplane flights. I am here to report that it is terrific - tightly written, really well cast and acted, and sharply funny with sparkling dialogue.
The plot centers around Midge Maisel, a “perfect” housewife on Manhattan’s Upper West Side during the 1950s, who suddenly finds her life falling apart when her husband deserts her … and then finds a kind of redemption in the world of standup comedy. I’m old enough to remember some of the New York portrayed in the show, and I think the production gets the period details absolutely right.
Watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” when you get a chance. It is vastly superior to much of the stuff in movie theaters. The irony is that I watched it a lot faster than I would’ve if the local AMC/Loews had not brought to my attention.
Finally … I have a new beer to recommend to you this week - Arkansas Red from the Core Brewing Company of Springdale, Arkansas. I had it while enjoying a sensational hamburger at Hive, a great little restaurant in the 21C Museum Hotel in Bentonville … a unique spot that features an art gallery in the lobby. Delightful.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.