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The American President (1995)



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"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Intro

[clipboard; pictures of Presidents Jefferson, Wilson, Jackson, Garfield, Cleveland, Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton]

Joe Bob Briggs, settling into Hollywood as TNT's movie expert, and tonight we've got another great flick -- The American President, with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening playing kissy-face in the Oval Office. Can you believe the quality movies TNT has been giving me lately? I love this. And we're gonna follow it up with . . . shoot, I forget what our second flick is. [picking up clipboard] Uh oh. Can we start over? Our second flick is Look Who's Talking Now. The third in the "Look Who's Talking" series, with Danny DeVito and Diane Keaton as the voices of dogs. Well, let's focus on the positive. I really like our first flick. It's directed by one of the most consistently great directors around, Rob Reiner. Everyone's seen his new one, right? Audiences just can't get enough of Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer arguing for an hour and a half. And I'm a big Michael Douglas fan, but ESPECIALLY in this flick, where he's kinda going against type as a genuinely NICE GUY -- being a nice guy IS a stretch for Michael. He is, of course, the President of the Newnited States, who takes time out of bombing Libya to make the sign of the triple-throated muskrat with Annette Bening, who plays a lobbyist who just won't stay out in the lobby. Four stars. Check it out.

[fading] I'm not gonna talk too much during this flick, but I've got some great presidential dirt I'm gonna share. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Oh, he's gonna talk about Monica, the portly pepperpot." No. Wait till I tell you about the "lawless passion" of James Garfield, and FDR's affair with his wife's secretary. I woulda liked to party with THOSE guys. Not that Monica didn't have what it takes. She gets a bad rap, I think. People see the portly when they should be looking at the pepperpot.


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #1

You know that little scene where Annette Bening is going through the security check at the White House, and she's talking about Frank Capra films, and the aide says "He doesn't really know what you're talking about," and then the security guy names two or three Frank Capra films? That was a little bit of an inside joke, because the first assistant director on the film was . . . Frank Capra the third. Annette Bening is SASSY, isn't she? Men love being sassed. Kind of a coinkydink that there's all this talk about her real-life hubby, Warren Beatty, running for president. Okay, I've got your presidential peccadilloes right here. If George Washington cheated on Martha, then he had good handlers who covered it up. So we start with our third President, Thomas Jefferson. Not only did he author the Declaration of Independence, but he wrote some pretty steamy letters to a Mrs. Maria Cosway, a gorgeous blonde arteest. But the bigger scandal is all the DNA tests done recently to determine how many yard monsters Jefferson fathered during the 38-year affair with his slave Sally Hemings. Who I believe was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife. Talk about your family affair. Okay, commercials and then back to the flick.

[fading] Thomas Jefferson, what a guy. "Honey, I'm just gonna run down to the fields and see how the tobacco's doin. And the slaves, of course. Anything you want me to give your sister?"


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #2

How much do we love Annette Bening? Or does she smile just a little too much in this movie? Okay, Michael Douglas mentioned Woodrow Wilson being a widower. His wife died two years into his term, and he did take up with Edith Bolling Galt -- also a widow. But his period of mourning was so short that people thought maybe they'd poisoned the original Mrs. Wilson. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though -- we skipped a few. Up next is our seventh Prez, Andrew Jackson. Jackson accidentally married his wife Rachel Robards before she was officially divorced from her first husband. Ooh, scandal. So Jackson divorces her on the grounds of adultery and re-marries her. But the media hounds attack her character for the next thirty years, and her heart finally gives out during Jackson's Presidential campaign. That's not a good story, is it? Too sad. Back in a few.

[fading] I've got better ones. Remember when Gary Hart said that the media could follow him around, and they wouldn't find a speck of dirt on him? And so they followed him right out to his yacht, where apparently he was doing a little campaign fundraising a deux with Donna Rice. Who followed him? The Miami Herald, wasn't it? Fortunately, there was no Miami Herald when Grover Cleveland was around. That's all I'm gonna say.


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #3

Before I get to the love letters from James Garfield to a mysterious "Mrs. Calhoun," I should point out that almost every actor in this film has their own little political activity. Michael Douglas likes to hang out with the United Nations and hoot and holler for gun control. He also gave a bunch of money to the Motion Picture and TV Country House and Hospital, presented it to em on the 18th hole of the Ocean Trails Golf Course. I believe he was trying to beef up his karma after being sued by a golf caddy who claimed he was hit in the crotch by one of Michael Douglas's shots, which ruptured one of his testicles and forced him to have it removed. We just lost half the male audience. Okay, James Garfield's affair isn't that interesting, so let's do the ads and get back to the flick.

[fading] He wrote a bunch of love letters to this woman in New York, his wife Lucretia charged him with yielding to "lawless passion," he got the letters back and destroyed em. Try doing that with e-mail.


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #4

Michael J. Fox doing George Stephanopoulos, and Martin Sheen in the Mac McLarty role. Michael J. Fox spent a little time on Capitol Hill last year trying to pass legislation against celebrity-stalking journalists. Wants to watch TV in his underwear without it being splashed all over the grocery-store check-out, goldang it. Martin Sheen protests everything -- he's been arrested almost twenty times. He and 300 other people chained themselves to a federal building here in El Lay when six Jesuit priests were killed in El Salvador. I'm not sure what it was supposed to symbolize, exactly. You know, this is the perfect time for you guys to jot down my e-mail address: joebob@turner.com. Or write care of TNT, 1010 Techwood Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30318, and explain these things to me. Have I given out the website address lately? tnt.turner.com/joebob. Anyhow, it's usually Martin Sheen playing the President, isn't it? He's played John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and now he's the prez in the new show, "The West Wing." Which the writer of this movie, Aaron Sorkin, basically ripped off from himself. Okay, ads, and then back to "The American President."

[fading] I don't have much time to cover Grover Cleveland, so I'll make it snappy. He was a single widow fifteen years before he was president when he made the sign of the yellow-breasted furry finch with the manager of the cloak department of a store in Buffalo, Maria C. Halpin. She later sued him for child support, which he paid, but since he wasn't sure the kid was his, he wouldn't marry her. Instead he had her committed to an insane asylum, and put the kid in an orphanage. And get this -- the story leaked out during his presidential campaign -- it was a HUGE scandal -- and he STILL got elected. Cause back then America was America, you know? People said, "Okay, sex out of wedlock. Got her pregnant. Had her committed. Shipped the kid off somewhere. TOUGH LOVE."


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #5

Richard Dreyfuss, playing the ultra-conservative Senator from Kansas, Bob Dole. I mean, Bob Rumson. Okay, I think we need a little time-out for democracy. Yes, it's time to listen to what you, the viewers, have to say. To help us out [enters], is the ever politically-active Rusty the TNT Mail Girl.

RUSTY: You know, I think you were a little hard on President Cleveland.

Wait a sec -- you feel sorry for a guy who puts his mistress in the looney bin and dumps his kid in an orphanage?

RUSTY: First of all, the woman slept around. He had no idea if it was his kid. Then she started drinking heavily, and he put her in what was as close as they got in the 1800s to the Betty Ford Clinic, where she recovered. He supported both of em till she married someone else, and the kid was adopted by a rich family and became a doctor.

My, my, aren't WE forgiving.

RUSTY: I'm just saying there's two sides to the story. Here, this is from Richard Ticknor of Knoxville, Tennessee.

I'm impressed. Remind me if I ever want to knock someone up before running for office . . .

"Dear Mr. Briggs,

"I have discovered that you have been sleeping with my wife. The evidence? A) You referred to yourself as 'underqualified' as a 'Condom Tester' in a show that aired in July, 1997. B) My wife has a crush on you. C) I found a condom about the size of the 'little finger' of a surgical glove in a pair of my wife's slacks. D) She confessed to a liaison with you.

"To avoid a multi-million $$$ lawsuit and/or [a butt-] whipping," (I'm paraphrasing slightly) "I will forgive you if you read this letter sometime soon during your show.

"Seriously, Joe Bob, here's what happened - honest to God! My wife broke a fingernail and, being a nurse, knew she should protect it from infection. She cut the 'little finger' from some surgical gloves and covered said fingernail. A short time later I found said 'condom' in a pair of her (Frederick's of Hollywood) skin-tight(!) slacks and asked her, 'What's this?' She told me the story . . . but then I remembered your show about 'Condom Testing' and told her we should contact you. "If you can work this letter in during 'Mail Call' (reworded as you please, of course), we'd appreciate knowing when it will air so we can be sure to see it. Also, please consider letting my wife audition for a role as a "Mail Girl" -- she is a professional actress as a hobby and I think you'll like her?!

"Your #1 Fan, "Richard Ticknor, Knoxville, Tennessee." "*NOT a 'casting couch' audition, Joe Bob!!"

Richard, I never touched your wife. If I did, she's lying. If she's not lying, it was a platonic kiss. If it wasn't a platonic kiss, I'm gay.

RUSTY: You're not gay.

I can do anything for one night.


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #6

Who likes that scene where Annette Bening comes out of the bathroom in Michael Douglas's shirt? All the gals. Gals LOVE to put on your shirt, especially if it's an 80-dollar dress shirt, and basically root around in it until it's not good for anything except mopping up the kitchen counter. Isn't that romantic? You know, not all the women who had illicit sexual relations with the prez were bimbos. Some of em had political agendas. Warren Harding, our 29th President, carried on with his friend's wife, Mrs. Carrie Phillips, for fifteen years. When Harding was still a Senator, she threatened to go public with it unless he voted against a declaration of war with Germany. This was during World War I. But he voted for it anyway, and when he ran for president, the Republican National Committee put her and her husband on a slow boat to Japan with the real estate section and twenty-grand for a down-payment. He also paid generous child-support to a certain Miss Nan Britton, who made the sign of the triple-beaked bald eagle with the President in a closet off the Oval Office. All right, back in a minute.

[fading] You know, that stuff just doesn't happen in Hollywood. Washington is always saying Hollywood is morally depraved. In Hollywood, they just call Heidi Fleiss. Capitalism at work.


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #7

All right, while Michael Douglas and Annette Bening get cozy at Camp David, let's quickly cover one or two more presidential affairs d'amour. Franklin D. Roosevelt cheated on Eleanor, how bout that? With HER secretary, Lucy Page Mercer. Eleanor threatened to divorce FDR if he didn't cut it off, which he did -- for a while. Eisenhower had a whirlwind military romance befitting a general, naturally. He had this driver during World War II named Kay Summersby, who was engaged to a guy who died in combat. I guess Dwight was consoling her when he hired her as his personal secretary and military aide and started writing her letters telling her that he was gonna divorce Mamie and marry her. Typical wartime romance. No big deal. Okay, I'll wrap it up at the next break, so stick around.

[fading] Shall I just cover JFK right now? Biggest hound dog of em all. Okay, these have never REALLY been substantiated, but here goes: Jayne Mansfield, Angie Dickenson -- Angie Dickinson, even BACK THEN -- doesn't every Hollywood biography have at least one paragraph, "And then I had an affair with Angie Dickinson" -- stripper Blaze Starr, painter Mary Pinshot Meyer, mafia moll Judith Campbell Exner, numerous airline stewardesses, secretaries and aides, and, of course, Marilyn Monroe. Not too shabby. Remember "Happy Birthday, Mr. President"? How bout "Happy EVERYday, Mr. President." You know, maybe JFK didn't sleep with ALL those women. I mean, you get a reputation, it grows. But if he didn't sleep with everybody on this list, he SHOULD have.


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Commercial Break #8

Best scene in the movie, that one between Martin Sheen and Michael Douglas in the Presidential pool hall. Does anybody understand exactly what this deal WAS that he made with Annette Bening, and the connection between the fossil fuels bill and the crime bill, and the three votes that make the difference, and the whole dang thing makes my head hurt. Here's another political coinkydink: Michael Douglas met his wife Diandra at a pre-inaugural party honoring Jimmy Carter. And dumped her eighteen years later so he could sit in the front row of the De La Hoya - Trinidad fight with Catherine Zeta-Jones. I probly left out some stuff in the middle, but you get the gist. Okay, Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th President and a good ole boy from Texas. Carried on behind Ladybird's back for thirty years with society hostess and intellectual Alice Glass. Society hostess and intellectual -- I love that. Where can I meet one of them? Do society hostesses still exist? Probly met her through Kennedy. Okay, let's wrap up "The American President," after the ads.

[fading] I don't need to cover Clinton, do I? Although, obviously, his affairs changed the world in some way, cause I've never heard of any multi-million-dollar impeachment trials over the indiscretions of Garfield or Harding. Andrew Johnson got impeached, but it was for something that had to do with the government, I forget what. Shoot, the talk-show hosts were all over it at the time. Oh, well. I agree with Calvin Coolidge, though. Was it Coolidge who said, "I don't think the American people vote for eunuchs."


"THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT" Outro

"My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I AM the President!" Reminiscent of the great Alec Baldwin "I AM God!" speech from the MonsterVision movie Malice. You know, there's one other adulterer I didn't talk about during that movie -- and I'm not trying to delay the start of "Look Who's Talking Now" or anything -- but I left out Alexander Hamilton. He wasn't a President, but he WAS the main author of the Federalist Papers, and he designed the American banking system, so he deserves a mention. Seems one Maria Reynolds went to him for solace when her husband James wandered off on her. Hamilton gave her some grocery money and kept her company for a few nights, if you know what I mean. Then she reconciled with the husband, who tried to blackmail Hamilton into giving him a government job. Five years later, the muckraker James Callender brought it out in the open. I love the word muckraker. We should bring that word back. Anyhow, rather than give in to the accusations, our fine statesman stood his ground. He went to Congress and said, "I slept with her and I gave her money, but I NEVER gave any jobs." And so the Congress guys said, "Okay, fine, Alex, we believe you. All you did was sleep with a bimbo. We get it. Calm down." And it was OVER.

Not exactly like Washington, D.C., today, is it? Dee Cee today is the place where the American dream is REALLY alive. That's the city where you can start out sorting mail for an undersecretary of agriculture, jump over to the Internal Revenue Service to be the head of misleading consumer information, move to Bethesda, get a transfer to Congress as the aide of your hometown representative, wait until he exposes himself in a public park, write a book about it, and end up with your own show on CNN. See, that's the deal. Nobody wants to be president anymore. The role model here is Al Neuharth, the USA Today guy, the man who exemplifies the aspirations of media today: He brought the color weather map to every household in America. You know why I think the Smithsonian Institution is a great museum? Because it reminds us what interesting politicians we USED to have, instead of the third-rate lawyers and Go Kart-track owners we've got now.

So, what'd you think of this movie? Somehow I prefer Harrison Ford in Air Force One

Host segments for tonight continue with "Look Who's Talking Now"

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