The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee
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The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee (2017)

The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee
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An intimate portrait of Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, tracing his remarkable ascent from a young Boston boy stricken with polio to the one of the most pioneering and consequential journalistic figures of the 20th century.

Release Date:December 4, 2017
Runtime:
Genres:TV Movie, Documentary
Production Company:HBO Documentary Films, Kunhardt Films
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:John Maggio
Casts:, , , , ,
Plot Keywords:newspaper editor
  • Mildly interesting documentary ahead of the new Spielberg film "The Post" (starring Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee)
    December 11, 2017

    "The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee" (2017 release; 90 min.) is a bio-documentary of Ben Bradlee, best known as the long-serving Executive Editor of the Washington Post. As the documentary opens, we are reminded that in 2994 Bradlee wrote his memoirs "A Good Life" and it is Bradlee himself who does the voice-over for much of this documentary (presumably taken from the audio-book version of that memoir), a little bit eerie to be honest (from beyond the grave so to speak--Bradlee passed away in 2014). We then go back in time, to Bradlee's Boston roots and upbringing, his college years at Harvard, "graduating by the skin of my teeth" (as we see his very mediocre grade card), his WWII service in the Navy, and his tentative start as a journalist.

    Couple of comments: this is the latest from veteran documentarian John Maggio (best known for his work at PBS' American Experience). Here he takes a look at Ben Bradlee's life, and what a colorful like it is indeed. I wasn't aware as to the strong ties between JFK and Bradlee (and their wives), making a tight foursome (but that did not stop JFK from having an affair with the sister of Bradlee's wife). At the core of the documentary is of course Bradlee's tenure at the Washington Post, turning it from a "provincial, second-rate" newspaper into the national force to be reckoned with. We rehash once more the drama that were the "Pentagon Papers" episode in 1971, and then of course the Watergate scandal, of which Bradlee muses: In Nixon's darkest hour, he gave the press its finest hour". Some attention is devoted as well to Bradlee's at times volcanic personal life. But in the end, as he himself acknowledges, "I have few regrets" (others comment "Bradlee never had any regrets"), which to me is bit of a turn-off. We all do things at one point of another in our lives that cause us to have some regrets...

    This is the latest release in the HBO Documentary series, and I caught it on HBO Demand a couple of days ago. In the end, this is mildly interesting at best. Nary a critical word is uttered about Bradlee, despite his oftentimes controversial approach to things. Surely the documentary is released at this particular time to take advantage of the buzz that is building for Steven Spielberg's latest movie "The Post", starring Tom Hanks as Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Post publisher Kay Graham (the movie will come out in 2 weeks). It's not that I regret seeing "The Newspaperman" but nor do I not see a compelling reason to seek this out again in repeat viewing.