October 2, 2006

When Warren Beatty showed his movie "Reds" to Ronald Reagan.

I think it's very interesting that the Deborah Solomon interview in this week's NYT Magazine does not have a full-length photograph of the subject of the interview, as has every Deborah Solomon NYT Magazine interview I can remember. I can only assume the interviewee, Warren Beatty, is -- as Carly once sang -- so vain. So vain and -- I'm guessing -- so fat.

Anyway, Warren gabs a lot about his movie "Reds," which is finally coming out on DVD. I liked this part, about Ronald Reagan:
A film like “Reds,” which came out in 1981, is not likely to be made today. It’s an exceedingly lengthy liberal film that was born at the height of the conservative revolution. Do you know if President Reagan ever saw it?

Reagan, whom I considered to be a friend, invited me to bring the picture to the White House and to show it. We were friendly from when I came to Hollywood in my 20’s. He wanted to see the movie.

What did he say afterward?

He was very complimentary about the fact that I had produced it, written it, acted in it and directed it at the same time. But what he said about the film, after it was over, he said, “I was kind of hoping for a happy ending.”
Hmmm... so Reagan hated the movie, right?

41 comments:

Maxine Weiss said...

I liked 'Shampoo' with Julie Christie, better.

Peace, Maxine

Truly said...

The gentleman who wrote the book and screenplay for 'Reds' had a very interesting article in Reviews in American History. He talks about the incompatibility of historical accuracy and cinematic demands. I've actually re-read this article since grad school: Robert A. Rosenstone,
Reviews in American History, Vol. 10, No. 3. (Sep., 1982), pp. 297-310.

Revenant said...

A film like “Reds,” which came out in 1981, is not likely to be made today. It’s an exceedingly lengthy liberal film that was born at the height of the conservative revolution.

It seems to me that the reason that the film would be unlikely to be made today is not because it is liberal, but because it *isn't*, anymore. Even liberals have stopped trying to defend Communism. The views of the protagonists of "Reds" have no traction outside of the furthest fringes of the left.

Sure, the occasional Hollywood leftie still flies down to Havana to fellate Fidel Castro, but by and large anyone proposing that Communism is a good idea or a valid alternative to capitalism is looked upon as an idiot. In 1980 such people were viewed as wise and thoughtful within mainstream liberalism.

George said...

I never know whether or not to believe anything on Wikipedia, but this line from its "Reds" entry is too delicious to pass up:

"During filming, Beatty lectured his Russian extras on the capitalist exploitation of labour, attempting to inspire them. According to the magazine Total Film in 2004, this was the 4th "dumbest decision in movie history": the extras duly went on strike, demanding higher wages."

The fifth dumbest decision in movie history was my slapping down $3.00 to see "Reds" in 1981. What a snoozer. A movie about a nitwit American communist. Gad!

PG said...

"I think it's very interesting that the Deborah Solomon interview in this week's NYT Magazine does not have a full-length photograph of the subject of the interview, as has every Deborah Solomon NYT Magazine interview I can remember. I can only assume the interviewee, Warren Beatty, is -- as Carly once sang -- so vain. So vain and -- I'm guessing -- so fat."

There's also the possibility it was too inconvenient to have a New York Times photographer take a full length photo of him, particularly if Beatty conducted the interview by phone while he was in California. Notice that the full length photos are credited to NYT photographers or independents who do portraits for the Times, whereas Beatty's photo is neither -- instead, it is a file pic from Globe Photos. In any case, I doubt that many people who read the profile do not know what Beatty approximately looks like.

Regarding Reagan's take on the movie "Reds," it was first reported (to my knowledge) in the NYT on Jan. 10, 1982:

'Not long ago, President Reagan invited some longtime Hollywood friends to the White House for a private showing of "Reds," the film about John Reed, the radical young American journalist who became an enthusiast of the Bolshevik Revolution. The closing scene showed Reed dying of typhus in a Soviet hospital. After the lights went on, the President, without any obvious qualms about his ideological differences with Reed or the irony of his showing a film about a pro-Communist, said, "I was hoping for a happy ending."
That remark was vintage Reagan, typical of the easy, natural, unthinking optimism that animates the President's approach to people and to politics and that so captivated the country during his gallant early months in office...'

But don't let these considerations slow down your snark.

Faeless said...

Some people just don't get it. Reagan was making fun of them. It's called a joke. A particularly russian sounding joke.

After the lights went on, the President, without any obvious qualms about his ideological differences with Reed or the irony of his showing a film about a pro-Communist, said, "I was hoping for a happy ending."

PG said...

revenant,

Actually, films like "Reds" continue to be made. Look at "The Motorcycle Diaries." Movies about romantic youth's infatuation with ideology work even when the ideologies themselves don't. Notice that "Reds" was set at the beginning of the USSR's existence, just as "The Motorcycle Diaries" is set during Che's young manhood among the South American poor, rather than during his less picturesque phases or Castro's dictatorship. Revolution is wonderful for Hollywood; stale regimes are not.

Ernst Blofeld said...

Er, I think Reagan was being gracious and hinting that a happy ending would have involved the Commies losing.

PG said...

faeless,

Why is it impossible that Reagan was sincere? From what I understand, he liked sentimental movies (and acted in many himself), and would have been sincerely affected by a well-acted sad ending. Reagan seemed like the kind of man who could watch a movie for the movie, and not for the politics. But that may be too human a view of a conservative icon.

Faeless said...

Haha, that's a nice turnabout.

Ernst Blofeld said...

That's what makes Reagan's crack so amusing--it's embedded double meaning. It's New Criticism. What makes it triply amusing is that the sophisticates at the NYT seem to have taken his comment at face value and used it to support the idea that Reagan was a simpleton.

George said...

There's actually at least one recent anti-Soviet Hollywood movie, "Enemy at the Gates," and it's a grabber. Stars Jude Law as a Russian sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad and Ed Harris as a Nazi sniper sent to kill him. Ed Hoskins does a great turn as Khrushchev. The film shows Law being manipulated by propagandists and the incompetence of the Russian military.

It's such a shame, though, that our country has no good heroic war stories to tell. What are we spending all this money on the Pentagon for, if we never fight any wars or anything. I just know Hollywood would make some real whiz-bang pics, if our soldiers ever fought anywhere. That Red October movie was pretty good. Oh, wait, that was about a noble Russian...Aw, forget it...

ignacio said...

I think Reagan was being ironic.

Revenant said...

Actually, films like "Reds" continue to be made. Look at "The Motorcycle Diaries."

Well, "Motorcycle Diaries" was a small-budget foreign film. The quote about movies like "Reds" not being made today referred to Hollywood.

Reds had a blockbuster budget (costing more than "Return of the Jedi" would two years later), starred some of the biggest names of its time, and was showered with industry awards and nominations. That's the kind of thing you're not likely to see again, at least if the film is about how noble and tragic commies are.

Another factor, of course, is that Reds tanked at the box office. :)

Ann Althouse said...

It's irrelevant that we know what WB looks like. This feature in the magazine has a distinctive look, and they dispensed with it on this one occasion.

Reagan was, I think, hilarious, and WB knows it, I think. His comment before the movie was, wow, you did all those roles, good for you. That's not saying he did it well, you know. After he saw the movie, he just made a wisecrack. The absence of any compliment is glaring, and WB has to know it.

dave said...

Let's see... Warren Beatty's a "liberal."

Michael Moore, a "liberal," is fat.

Therefore, Warren Beatty is fat!

No evidence to go on? Oh, that's just a file photo from God knows when?

Facts don't matter at The Stupidest Place on the Internet™.

dave said...

t's irrelevant that we know what WB looks like. This feature in the magazine has a distinctive look, and they dispensed with it on this one occasion.

Reagan was, I think, hilarious, and WB knows it, I think. His comment before the movie was, wow, you did all those roles, good for you. That's not saying he did it well, you know. After he saw the movie, he just made a wisecrack. The absence of any compliment is glaring, and WB has to know it.


Talking about proving the point: no facts to go on, just make shit up.

Fucking pathetic.

Cedarford said...

Maxine Weiss said...
I liked 'Shampoo' with Julie Christie, better.


I liked Julie Christie better, period.

I agree with both faeless and Pfof Althouse - Reagan's comment was very sly.

It is telling though that Reagan was able to maintain friendly relationships with the "other side" in a way that Bush II is unable to do. Same with Bush I, FDR, Eisenhower and JFK.

Bush is like Carter - he tries...but Bush is Bush and Carter was Carter..

M. Duss said...

Fucking pathetic.

I believe the adjective you're looking for is "Althousian".

NoAcuteDistress said...

I'd recommend that anyone interested in seeing this movie leave (put the DVD player on STOP) after the 1st half. Up until then it was a reasonably sympathetic, sappy love story, with Diane Keaton at her adenoidal best. The second half was so boring that the International Court at the Hague would consider it a war crime to subject prisoners to a viewing.

Joe Baby said...

Ann,

Since we're on the topic of entertainment, did you see SNL on Saturday?

Zeb Quinn said...

Reagan's quip was particularly sly given the fact that he was positioning himself to foment that happy ending.

Ann Althouse said...

Joe: No. I don't even TiVo SNL.

Pogo said...

1. Reagan had charm enough to leave Beatty unsure of the intent behind the remark. (Is Reagan a simpleton? Being snide? Mocking me with a smile?)

2. Reds was terrible. And I was a teenage leftist at the time. I so wanted to love it, but still I hated, hated, hated it.

3. I'm puzzled by one thing. There's this guy named "dave" who keeps coming by and saying how stoopid everything is, you know, like he's twelve or something. He drops a few f-bombs to insult the blogstress, and then waits around for a response. My question: is this more correctly "a stalker", "a wanker", or "a moron"?

Revenant said...

It is telling though that Reagan was able to maintain friendly relationships with the "other side" in a way that Bush II is unable to do.

Um, I remember the 80s quite clearly, and the popular liberal view of Reagan was the same as the modern liberal view of Bush -- that he was a dangerous, warmongering quasi-fascist of subnormal intelligence. Beatty's attitude is remarkable *because* it was such an exception to the normal rule of leftie Reagan-hatred.

In their private lives, though, both men have (or had) liberal friends. Hardly surprising -- both men are (or were) reportedly very friendly and funny people in person.

Revenant said...

My question: is this more correctly "a stalker", "a wanker", or "a moron"?

That would be "moron". Its only "wanker" if he's British.

JorgXMcKie said...

Pogo, is there some reason it can't be all three? People with no original thoughts of their own tend to have multiple capabilities in other areas.

Pogo said...

Revenant and JorgXMcKie:

I was thinking the reponse might in fact depend on where dave's hands were, but yes, the choices are not mutually exclusive.

johnstodderinexile said...

I'm going to fly in the face of fashion and say that I liked "Reds" back then, and I saw it recently on Turner Classics and still liked it, although I'll grant that the second half is much too long

I also don't think "Reds" is particularly liberal. It's a story about a Communist. When he opened his mouth, Communist things came out of it. Big surprise. But at the same time, the movie shows the first signs of totalitarianism in the new USSR -- if I remember right, Beatty is basically held in Russia against his will.

The Communism in "Reds" was sort of a McGuffin -- something that drove the action, something that forced characters to make choices. I never for a second thought that Beatty was trying to bring back the glory days of 1917.

The movie also reminds audiences what a hideous disaster for human civilization World War One turned out to be. There's something so ominous and poignant about its approach that the movie captures in spots.

When Beatty's character tells the folks in Portland that WWI was about "profits," was he really all that far off? What else could that war have been about?

johnstodderinexile said...

Whenever I see "dave" post on Althouse, my first thought is always: "I hope 'dave' doesn't have a dog."

Ernst Blofeld said...

I recall Beatty's speech at the Academy Awards that year, the import of which was that while, sure, the Soviet communists were a bit over the top, the American socialists who were allied with them for a time in the Comintern were admirable if misguided.

There was thunderous applause.

John Reed and other early 20th century American socialists were a heroes of Beatty's. It was very much an attempt to glorify the days of 1917 and the 1920's.

johnstodderinexile said...

To glorify their idealism and passion, the gifts of youth.

Perhaps even to revive their forgotten memories.

But not to instill Bolshevik ideas among the American public in 1981. Beatty might be partisan, but he's not stupid.

They shouldn't let actors speak at awards ceremonies beyond thanking their agents and spouses. For the most part, they aren't a breed comfortable with coherent thought. Maybe an attraction to John Reed got Beatty into the project, but as an artist, he realized that he had to approach it honestly, which meant showing more than merely what supported the party line.

Weren't at least some of you flaming leftists when you were young? I was. That's what "Reds" was about.

Johnny Nucleo said...

I like "Reds" too. It's epic and audacious and interesting and Warren Beatty, whatever you think of his politics, is a great movie star and a superb filmmaker. (And I love the title. I imagine a Broadway musical version called "Commies!")

I get a kick out of the fact that Beatty is an unreformed socialist and proud of it. The scene in "Bulworth" where he yells, "Socialism!" is both glorious and hilarious.

The funniest line I ever heard about Warren Beatty's vanity was when Roger Ebert reviewed "Love Affair". He said something along the lines of Beatty being "lit like a vampire" in all his close-ups. I bet it took twice as long to light Beatty as it did to light Annette Bening.

Pat Patterson said...

"A movie about a nitwit American communist" and John Reed.

Ernst Blofeld said...

Beatty was aiming to glorify the left wing of the American Socialist movement of the 1920's era, not the Soviet Communist party. Part of doing that is cutting loose the USSR.

I don't give much credit to "idealism and passion" in support of mistaken ideas. Nasty movements are full of passionate idealists. George Wallace was the spokesman for a passionate people in 1962, and you don't see Hollywood making sympathetic movies about him in that era.

Revenant said...

I like "Reds" too. It's epic and audacious and interesting and Warren Beatty, whatever you think of his politics, is a great movie star and a superb filmmaker

I thought "Reds" was an interesting and well-made movie about reprehensible people. Kind of an updated "Birth of a Nation", if you will.

But it is best to speak of his talent in the past tense. His post-Reds filmography isn't a pretty sight, and includes two of what are generally considered to be the worst major Hollywood productions ever -- Ishtar and Town&Country.

I guess if you're one of that minority of people who thought "Bullworth" was watchable he has that going for him. But personally I think he's the acting equivalent of George Lucas -- lots of good 1970s material and then 25 years of crap.

Paul Zrimsek said...

There's an uplifting movie waiting to be made about the Brownshirts. Until then we'll have to make do with Miss Jean Brodie's raptures over Mussolini. Now there's idealism for you.

George said...

There's a new Wafa Sultan video...

http://hotair.com/archives/2006/10/02/video-wafa-sultan-on-the-mohammed-cartoons/

Beatty should cast his wife as her and make a movie of her life.....

El Presidente said...

"Reds" had a happy ending.

It was "Reds II- Perestroyka" which had the sad ending.

OddD said...

Ann,

While I think your suspicions are understandable, I doubt Beatty's gone to seed. IMDB has full-length photos from both February and late August of this year. He's clearly quite trim in the February one, and less obviously so in the second (the angle of the photo could allow for some weight gain):

http://us.imdb.com/gallery/granitz/5080/Events/5080/AnnetteBen_Grani_10086888_400.jpg?path=pgallery&path_key=Beatty,%20Warren

If memory serves, the media always took Reagan super-literally. It was part of the whole "Oh My God We've God A Conservative Movie Cowboy Trigger Happy Idiot Running The Country" mantra.

Who could forget him "outlawing Russia"? And who could forget the hysterical reaction that, yeah, he might just do that?

Ronny K said...

Oh, but you have got quite a few great recent communist movies both Hollywood and not.

Just of the top of mye head:

Land and Freedom (Ken Loach)
Panther (Mario van Peebles)
Syriana
Goodnight and Good Luck

And of course:
The Matrix (listen to Morpheus speech to Neo (the red pill one), and replace "the matrix" with "capitalism")
V for Vendetta (that's how you deal with Reaganites)

And soon we'll have "Guerilla" with Benicio Del Toro as Che