The Final Days (TV Movie 1989) Poster

(1989 TV Movie)

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Nixon did indeed see this movie.
KenClement24 December 2002
In response to the reviewer who wondered if Nixon saw this movie, He did indeed.

Richard Nixon viewed the movie before it was released and changed his phone carrier because he objected to the movie's portrayal of him and Watergate. (AT&T was the sponsor) As I recall, prior to the movie's broadcast to the nation, AT&T released a prepared statement in response saying that they valued all of their customers including Mr. Nixon but that they believed that the film's portrayal was fair and accurate.

I would have to agree. Indeed I found the film's treatment of Nixon to be sympathetic to the man without being an apology of his actions.

Lane's performance was brilliant and was well supported by the rest of the cast. I give the screenplay high marks for its historical accuracy and effective pace.
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Eerie portrayal
BILLYBOY-1022 February 2001
Lane Smith who played Perry White on the Superman TV series is positively riviting as Nixon. He has Dickie's mannerisms down pat and is even better than Anthony Hopkins was in Stone's "NIXON". This is a great follow-up to All The President's Men and shows how it all fell apart around Dick at the end. The scene of Nixon & The Russian Premier in the Lincoln Continental at Camp David is priceless.
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Haven't seen it since 1989, but remember it as being excellent
mobile70728 May 2010
Thirteen years before it was filmed as a TV-movie, "The Final Days" was the title of a bestselling book, whose 1976 publication "just happened" to coincide with the cinematic release of "All the President's Men" (based on an earlier book by the same authors). The Final Days book was noted for its complete reliance on anonymous sources, and for its witheringly negative portrait of Nixon and his personality, even including humiliating details about the Nixons' marriage. Shortly after it was published, Pat Nixon determined to read the book (against her husband's advice), and suffered a stroke within a day or two after she started on it. She was in hospital for about a month. All in all, TFD was probably the most sadistic literary attack ever leveled on a living ex-President up to that time.

With all that background, it seems very unlikely to me that Nixon, personally, sat through the TV-movie version of "The Final Days" when it came out in 1989. My guess is that he had one or more staff aides watch it; possibly Tricia/Julie and/or their husbands, but that he himself couldn't bear the thought of it. But who knows for sure. Nixon's office put out a press release at the time, saying that sponsor AT&T should change its slogan to "Reach Out and Smear Someone", which (IMO) was rather clever.

The movie itself was highly praised by William F. Buckley, Jr., who specifically singled out the performance of Lane Smith as impeccable. Despite misgivings about the source-material, I watched it (I think it was broadcast on ABC, if I remember correctly) and was mesmerized. The whole show was simply brilliant from start to finish. Smith's performance as Nixon is, indeed, flawless, and the overall atmosphere of the last 15 months of the Nixon White House was nicely judged, in my view. "The Final Days" is absolutely one of the small handful of TV- movies with an abundance of dramatic power and credibility, and with the ability to withstand repeated viewings.

The Watergate Affair, of course, is simply too complex of a story to be dealt with adequately in this format, so people who do not already know the ins-and-outs of that scandal should know that this is not the place to learn about it, except in very basic outline. But if the movie paints Watergate with (necessarily) broad strokes, at least those strokes were true, in my recollection.

A couple of minor details that seemed off-key: The Washington Post newspaper was renamed as the "Washington Herald" or something like that. I'd like to know why that change was made. Also, I have no complaint with David Ogden Stiers as a performer. But there's just nothing about the man -- in appearance or personality -- that resembles Alexander Haig. A curious casting decision.
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a vivid and faithful telling of the fall of Pres. Richard Nixon with remarkable performance by Lane Smith
Wneddinger4 February 2003
This is an excellent drama based on the fall of Richard Nixon. Other than a bit of condensation of some of the events and characters this is a remarkably faithful retelling of the Watergate melt-down. All of the actors are well cast as characters from our recent history but Lane Smith as Nixon deserves special praise. Physically he is far more convincing than Anthony Hopkins in NIXON and, like the British actor, he really gets into his character's complicated psyche. Smith manages all the physical tics and vocal infections we recognize as Nixon but never veers into caricature. Without excusing Nixon's crimes or motivations he succeeds in creating a sympathetic portrait. There's even some welcome comic relief when the jittery president is victimized by a joy-riding Brezhnev at Camp David. This is an excellent historical drama without the Oliver Stone hokum.
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The very essence of the presidency.
BERSERKERpoetry30 April 2010
The thing about a film like "The Final Days" is that how much you enjoy the experience depends directly on your general interest in the subject matter. Myself, I'm not terribly interested in the character of Richard Nixon. This is one of several portrayals I've seen of the man, all of which I watched for alternate reasons (either the director, actors, or the general accolades directed toward it). I watched this film because I'm a fan of director Richard Pearce (Threshold, Country, The Long Walk Home, A Family Thing). Fred Murphy's cinematography is also very nice, though you'd hardly know it from some of the terrible VHS copies available.

There are certainly some great performances here. Lane Smith is totally believable as Nixon - a person who's honestly more of a caricature than anything else. David Ogden Stiers plays his role with a much stronger confidence than usual. The periodical approach of having a short paragraph of narration by various characters is engaging, giving you valuable insight. Eventually, the story begins to feel crushed under its own weight. At well over two hours, it demands a seriously engaged interest on the part of the viewer. Still, there are extremely powerful passages that keep it all together. Don't let the fact that this was produced for television fool you - Pearce creates a higher feeling that would be expected from such. If you're interested in the story of Nixon and Watergate, this is undoubtedly the film to see. All others pale in comparison.
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An insight I didnt think of
wildings-6114919 April 2019
This is a film for political science majors, those of us who lived through it, or those with a particular interest in the subject and main players. I will admit to being all three....and I gained a very important and new insight into Nixon's resignation. It is brought out twice that Nixon at all costs did not want an investigation into the money trail because it would bring focus back on Bay of Pigs funding. Consider the possibility that his resignation may have in part been a "patriotic" act to avoid this. I would recommend a viewing trilogy in this order: Nixon, Frost Nixon, and then The Final Days. For comedic conclusion the one about Elvis getting DEA badge from President Nixon. Review the players first....hope you enjoy. I would have liked more newsreel footage, and some authentic audio recordings of speeches too...but still enjoyed and recommended highly if you possess the suggested prerequisites.
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The Final Days is an excellent account of President Richard Nixon's eventual decision after the Watergate revelations
tavm19 February 2018
With today being Presidents Day, I thought I'd watch movies of past presidents to honor the occasion. So having previously watched Wilson-about the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson and Give 'em Hell, Harry!-about the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, I just now watched this, The Final Days-about the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. It chronicles his days during the Watergate hearings and all the troubles surrounding him and his cabinet during them, just before his fateful decision to eventually resign from office. While there are some funny scenes, like his car ride with the Russian premier, it mostly takes a serious tone whenever those tapes are discussed especially when Nixon himself listens to them and repeats one particular passage over and over again in one chilling scene. Lane Smith embodies Nixon quite compellingly as does much of the supporting cast concerning their real-life counterparts. So on that note, I highly recommend The Final Days.
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The Unravelling Of A Presidency
sddavis639 December 2019
With the impeachment of a president very much on the horizon as I write this, it was interesting to go back to the Nixon presidency with this movie. Many years ago I read the book of the same name by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It recounted, as you would guess from the title, the last, pathetic days of the Nixon presidency - and it did so in great detail. The movie, as you might expect, is less detailed than the book. It tends to move the story forward quickly through the use of short narrations offered by various characters and highlights only certain incidents, but it still offers a compelling portrait of Nixon, his family and his officials in the White House as they desperately seek ways to avoid the inevitable ending to the administration.

Lane Smith was superb in the role of Nixon and without doubt was the highlight of the movie. To me (and, admittedly I was only 11 when Nixon resigned, so my "memories" of him are largely from historical news footage) he really did become Nixon. The portrayal was eerie and fascinating - and even sympathetic. Yes, I started to feel sorry for Nixon as I watched this. He was such a complex man, and he had a sense of sadness looming over him - he was paranoid and isolated and introverted, and yet at the same time he was drawn to public life and had a seemingly desperate need to be liked and admired; to be popular. And yet in spite of being perhaps the most visible person in the world, he seems to have spent so much of his life and even his presidency alone. The impression I got from this movie (not an unfair impression from what I've learned about the man over the years) was that his only real confidante - the person to whom he was closest and who was most desperately loyal to him - was his daughter Julie. Otherwise, he kept even those closest to him (including his wife Pat and daughter Tricia) at a distance. Nixon comes across as a tragic figure in this, and at times, with its focus on Nixon's personality and with Watergate closing in on him, this movie is actually very heavy. I appreciated (about halfway through) the truly funny scenes between Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev, as the Soviet leader takes Nixon on a hair-raising car ride with a Lincoln Continental the U.S. president had gifted him with. That lightened things up a bit.

It was interesting watching Nixon's White House officials (especially Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, who was admirable portrayed by David Ogden Stiers) try to hold things together just to keep the government functioning with some sort of cohesion, and Nixon's lawyers are shown becoming increasingly frustrated as the impossibility of their task of defending him becomes increasingly clear. Viewers should be aware that this is really a study of Nixon the man rather than the Watergate scandal. There's actually very little about Watergate itself - just about the aftermath and the desperate attempts to find some way to get Nixon off the hook for his actions and decisions. For those with an interest in Nixon as a man and in the end of his presidency, this is a movie that should be watched. (7/10)
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THE FINAL DAYS: The Implosion Of Richard Nixon And (Maybe) The American Dream
virek21311 August 2019
While almost everyone in the Washington press corps at first thought of the June 17, 1972 break-in at the Watergate hotel/office complex as a "third-rate burglary", reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post took up the story, which would soon rank with the JFK assassination, Vietnam, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks as one of the most heartbreaking events in American history. Their discoveries of all the nasty goings-on in the administration of Richard Nixon during the 1972 presidential campaign led to the Watergate scandal, which was detailed in their memorable book "All The President's Men", and the classic 1976 film of the same name with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford that came soon after. Their follow-up book "The Final Days" took up their precise reporting with an in-depth look at the things that caused Nixon to lose his grip on power. That book became the basis of a superb made-for-TV political drama that aired on ABC-TV on October 29, 1989.

THE FINAL DAYS is a hard-hitting look inside both the administration and the very mind of Richard Nixon himself, portrayed by Lane Smith with equal amounts of sympathy and paranoia. Given this tendency by those on the Right to paint him as a victim and those on the Left to paint him as a monster, Smith wisely takes the middle ground in his portrayal of the 37th president, never falling to a caricature, a pitfall that is so easy to fall into. Through Richard Pearce's direction and Hugh Whitemore's screen adaptation of the Bernstein/Woodward book, we are privy to many of the familiar elements we have all read about and seen: the catastrophic knowledge that Nixon had all of his White House conversations taped; his flight to keep those tapes private; and the unconscionable paranoia that had festered inside of him since the Communist witch hunt of the early 1950s that led to his own destruction. As was the case with ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, the fact that we know the eventual outcome of the proceedings hardly makes THE FINAL DAYS a merely good but predictable docudrama. What makes it a superb docudrama is in finding out how we go to that bleak conclusion of Nixon being forced to resign from office in August 1974 under the threat of impeachment by Congress, and conviction and removal by the Senate. Surrounding Smith's accurate performance of Nixon are such distinguished actors as Theodore Bikel (as Henry Kissinger), Susan Brown (as Pat Nixon), Richard Kiley (as Nixon's lawyer J. Fred Buzhardt), Gary Sinise (as Watergate investigator Richard Ben-Veniste), David Ogden Stiers (as Alexander Haig) and James B. Sikking (as Attorney General Elliot Richardson).

Unsurprisingly, given that the Watergate scandal was still as much an open wound on the American psyche as Vietnam, THE FINAL DAYS, when it first aired, was greeted with considerable outrage from the usual places on the Far Right. The real Richard Nixon, even with less than four and a half years left to live, was as livid about THE FINAL DAYS as he and his most rabid supporters had been about ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (which, after all, had been released a mere twenty months after his resignation). But the truth of the matter is that Nixon's actions as president in engaging in political sabotage, wiretapping, eavesdropping, conjuring up an Enemies List, and so forth, continue to have devastating consequences for the United States as a nation in general, and for our system of government in particular. His abuses of the powers of the office of the President, a product of long-standing anti-Commie paranoia and a win-at-all-costs, slash-and-burn mentality towards politics and his opponents, destroyed his own legacy; and all those qualities are ably embodied by Smith's performance here, as they would be by Sir Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone's later 1995 political bio-pic NIXON.

Though it can be said that seeing THE FINAL DAYS, like both NIXON and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, is like seeing political suicide being re-enacted for the entire world to relive, what we are really watching is the stark difference between how we idealize ourselves and what it sometimes is in actuality, which is not always a pretty picture. Such a stark picture, in the end, is the legacy of THE FINAL DAYS; for like ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, it is not only about a political scandal, it is also about those dark corners inside the American Dream. It is also not only about the downfall of Richard Nixon, but arguably a portent of things to come in the age of Donald Trump as well, which itself, has proven to be incredibly catastrophic.
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Good performances; somewhat ahistorical
timcurryisgod21 July 2019
For the performance of Lane, who plays Nixon, alone- giving this 7 stars. Even though parts of this movie are seriously bizarre; seemingly an attempt to look at Nixon with sympathetic eyes (so strange), Lane gives a performance that will send chills down your spine.

Every gesture and word spoken are so eerily and to be honest, creepily like Nixon- for that alone this movie is riveting.

I hope subsequent viewers and even those who have seen this film will also look elsewhere for their information on Nixon's administration- while it's true there was "detente" with China and somewhat with Russia, we cannot forget the escalated violence against civilians during the Vietnam war. Definitely, Kissinger was also masterminding that, but Nixon carried it out during his administration. Not to mention Watergate, etc.

Entertaining film despite seeming goal of eliciting sympathy for Nixon.
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Low-Cost Masterpiece
j-penkair9 November 2015
Just want to state early on that this film is indeed low-cost and the production quality reflects it. Except that point, this is one of the best political films ever produced. I have been interested and studied about Mr. Richard M. Nixon, his administration, and the Watergate affairs quite thoroughly. I can judge this film to be one of the most accurate, impartial, and humanly dramatized films out there. What it is done right in the first place is to approach the story and all of the characters with compassion. There is no Republicans, Democrats, Nixon lovers, or Nixon haters when it comes to a human tragedy. This is indeed a tragedy of power and people who are enslaved by it. Richard Nixon in this film has been portrayed not as good or bad, but as a humanly flawed and indeed tragic character. In "Nixon" and "Frost/Nixon" of later years and productions, we had to be dragged back into Mr. Nixon's younger years, so we could appreciate his agonizing thirst for power and success and to understand his subsequent behavior. This film does not need to do that. Just by showing the "real-time" Nixon in scene after scene, we can relate to his pains and agony of losing power. How he most desperately wooed people towards him in order to gain their support, respect, liking, or even love is almost unbearable to watch. I for one dread Mr. Nixon's negative impact to the world around him, and yet deeply sympathize this man to the core. Lane Smith became President Richard M. Nixon without any disbelief. He must have understood his character most deeply, otherwise such a performance could never have been conceived. Other characters of Alexander Haig, J. Fred Buzhardt, Leonard Garment, Pat Nixon, Rose Mary Woods, Archibald Cox, John Sirica, etc. never physically resembled whom they played, but we subscribed to all of them because of their flawless performances. Richard Pearce's direction is also without a missed fire. Too bad it is low-cost and meant only for television consumption, otherwise "The Final Days" would have been lauded as the gold standard of the Nixon films that came and will come.
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All Things Considered...Nahhhhh
arfdawg-17 February 2020
Considering that Bernstein is now a proven far left wing conspiracy wingnut shill for the Democrat party, you really have to wonder how much of any of this is accurate or even remotely true.

Isnt it odd how so called respected "journalists" come out of the closet as far left looneys once they are retired. Murrow, Cronkite, Rather, etc. etc. etc. And funny how they all took down or tried to take down a conservative president, representative, or action.

Gotta wonder.
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Criminally Sympathetic
dgolland4 April 2019
Aside from poor production values and stilted writing (don't watch it right after watching any episode of The West Wing), the main problem with this film is that it paints our most criminal president as a sympathetic victim of a press Witch Hunt. It takes at face value--and leaves largely unchallenged--Nixon's statements about himself and the Watergate investigation, positing the thesis that all presidents misbehave in office and cover it up, most worse than him. Not so. Whatever Kennedy's and Clinton's picadillos, whatever fault might be attributed to FDR's hiding of his disability, Nixon used his office for personal gain, broke multiple campaign finance laws, and engaged in a conspiracy to cover up his staff's domestic spying, in particular their spying at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. He did the opposite of what his oath required: he did not support, protect, and defend the Constitution; rather, he subverted it, and this film, by portraying him as it does, would help him get away with it. Don't be fooled.
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