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Film / Secret Honor

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"You have read in the press the reasons for the Watergate affair. Today, my client is going to reveal to you the reasons behind the reasons."

A 1984 film by Robert Altman, starring Philip Baker Hall as former U.S. President Richard Nixon, written by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone and based on an earlier play by the author.

The movie is essentially a ninety-minute one-man performance, based around Nixon — at some point following his resignation in disgrace after the Watergate scandal — dictating into a tape recorder in his study for an unseen aide, 'Roberto', with a bottle of liquor and a loaded revolver. While the subject matter begins rather mundanely, Nixon's train of thought tends to wander, leading him into an increasingly rambling, heated monologue about his life, political career and political enemies, aimed at an unseen (and presumably non-existent) judge and jury, gradually building to an undisclosed hidden truth about Watergate and the real circumstances behind his resignation.


Secret Honor provides examples of:

  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Nixon occasionally intersperses shocking political revelations with mundane instructions to buy the hospitalized wife of his gardener a portable radio or a fruit basket.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Nixon scatters these throughout the monologue. They're usually aimed at targets such as Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and his brothers, Henry Kissinger and the American public in general.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The 'Bohemian Grove' and the 'Committee of 100' that Nixon alludes appear to have been a consortium of businessmen who assisted Nixon in his various political endeavors in order to get him to be their puppet.
  • Title Drop
  • Unreliable Narrator: Given how increasingly rambling and unhinged Nixon becomes over the course of his monologue, and given his already less-than-stellar reputation for truth-telling and white-washing his own personal history, it's hard to tell exactly how much of what he's revealing is true and how much is him either exaggerating, distorting or outright lying.
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  • The Unseen: Roberto, the aide to whom Nixon is dictating. Also, the judge and 'the American jury' to whom Nixon addresses a lot of his monologue presumably doesn't exist outside Nixon's head.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Nixon essentially goes through a slow-burning one over the course of the movie.