Tuesday, 9 October 2018

What The Butler Saw

I seem to be watching a lot of stuff about The White House lately. Not just the BBC news reports [depressing!] but I'm working my way through "Designated Survivor" too. This is a Netflix series about a man who ends up becoming President of the USA after a terrorist bomb destroys all the other politicians who were assembled in the Capital Building.
Kiefer Sutherland plays a man who is thrust into this hugely powerful role with little or no preparation. Until the bomb, he was just a low level cabinet member. 
His wife is a lawyer, expert in the American Constitution [useful!] and he has a young daughter and an adolescent son. 
He is a man of honesty and integrity, and humbly trying to be the best he can and serve his country, as he believes this is the true role of the President. I am finding it well written and thought provoking, combining ethical questions, humour and suspense in well crafted 45minute episodes. 

But at the weekend, Bob and I watched another [Netflix] film set mostly in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,  called "The Butler". This has an amazing stellar cast, led by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey - and based on real person. As part of the 'Obama Victory Coverage' in 2008, a Washington Post reporter wrote of a man called Eugene Allen, who'd been a White House butler under eight presidents.
In the film, Allen is called "Cecil Gaines" - but the story recounts how he comes up from the Deep South, applies for White house duties- and he [Whitaker] works his way up to the top - serving everyone from Eisenhower to Reagan, over a period of 34 years. He is married to Gloria [Oprah]
The film shows the rise of the Civil Rights movement, and the contrast between Cecil's son [a student involved in demos and marches etc] and Cecil -  a servant who is forced to stand silently in the corner while the Presidents and their staff discuss what to do about the race riots, Martin Luther King, Black Panthers etc.
In reality, and in the film - after he left the White House, Allen/Gaines went on a civil rights demo with his son and ended up being arrested and briefly in prison. 
Allen/Gaines and Gloria were married for 65 years, and were ardent Obama supporters. Sadly, Gloria Allen died on Nov 3rd 2008, the day before she was due to cast her vote. The film came out to mixed reviews 5 years ago. Personally I found it poignant, and thoughtful. It was well cast [Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda were a fabulous, quite believable Ronald and Nancy Reagan] and there was excellent use of historical newsreel. Robin Williams was Ike, and Lief Schrieber was a very objectionable LBJ. John Cusack was Richard Nixon. Despite the critics comments [treacly and stilted...Downton Abbey-feel] Bob and I both enjoyed it and would recommend it *****

1 comment:

  1. I am presuming the latter is not a new film as Robin Williams was in it. Both sound very interesting!


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