The Martha Mitchell Effect (2022) Movie Script

[static noise]
[brooding music playing]
[male reporter]
Is the country gonna right itself now?
Do we have Watergate behind us?
We'll never have Watergate
behind us, I hope,
because in a way,it's been good.
We're teaching the politicians
to be straight and not crooked.
I'm convinced
if it hadn't been for Martha,
there'd have been no Watergate.
[indistinct chatter]
[horns honking]
[woman] Mrs. Mitchell!
[Martha] Is this democracy,
where people are not allowed
to speak their own mind and the truth?
You know I love the press.
[indistinct chatter]
[Martha] So if I have
something on my mind,
I'm not going out and yell it to anybody,
unless I believe
that it's what should be done or said.
[brooding music continues]
When you arrived at London Airport
yesterday morning,
you said, "Richard Nixon
shattered my marriage."
Now, how did Richard Nixon
have so much effect on your whole life?
Ooh, David,
you've opened up a kettle of worms.
And I don't know
whether I could really explain it
in the length of time
you and I have together.
Well, we've got at least 30 minutes.
It dates back from the beginning.
[jaunty '60s music playing]
[newsman 1] John Newton Mitchell,
attorney general,
lived with his wife Martha
in Washington's Watergate Apartments.
The world seemed good to them.
I know that the president
is very fond of my husband.
They've been law partners.
They've been very close.
[newsman 2]
Mitchell is a former bond lawyer,
who before he managed
Mr. Nixon's 1968 campaign
had never ventured into politics.
Now as attorney general,
he has been dealing with some
of the most controversial issues
of our time.
[male interviewer]
Some say that your husband
is the second most powerful man
in Washington.
Could you tell us what he's really like?
My husband is probably one of the most
intelligent men in this whole country.
In the world I would even say.
[female interviewer]
Mr. Mitchell, how did you meet your wife?
Was it a blind date?
Neither one of us were blind, apparently,
because it worked out all right.
[interviewer laughs]
[Martha] I was just plain Mrs. Mitchell
living in Rye, New York.
Washington was almost
like another country.
-[cheerful music playing]
-[crowd cheering]
[Martha] Being semiofficial
here in Washington,
there are so many things
requested and required of me
as a cabinet wife.
I would like to better
the relations of America
with the other nations of the world,
to try to put a little love
into the world.
[Nixon] Well, I've often said
to young candidates as to how to win,
first pick the right wife.
[crowd cheers]
[Nixon] Doesn't make as much news,
and she must recognize that,
that the husband
is going to make the news.
[upbeat jazz music playing]
Washington was a male-dominated city.
It was run by white men
at the White House,
and men at every single cabinet level.
Women who were part of the Washington
social scene were hostesses.
Women went into the other room
and had coffee
while the men talked about
the important things.
But Martha Mitchell wasn't playing
the Washington game.
She was not gonna be just the wife
who sits in the background
and not say anything.
[Martha] A political wife
isn't like a normal person
that can do and say what they please.
-But I do say what I please. [laughs]
-[interviewer] Yes.
Well, sweetie, I tell you what.
I've seen that in the paper today,
and I don't think you all
have been home and doing your homework.
If Martha was coming to a dinner
at the White House,
people were on alert.
Women were more reserved then,
but not Martha.
The president obviously was aware of it.
It wasn't that he didn't like women.
It was that he didn't like loud women.
[Martha] Oh, I used to have
a lot of fun with the president.
He didn't know when I was kidding
and when I wasn't.
-He found me a rather strange person.
-[upbeat jazz music ends]
She would on occasion drink too heavily,
and then she'd get on the telephone
and start calling official Washington.
She liked to call the president.
She liked to call, quote, "My president."
[female interviewer]
Did you call President Nixon
and talked to him on the telephone
recently, Martha?
-Did you call and tell him what to do?
-Oh, I advise him every once in a while.
[audience laughs]
[indistinct chanting]
[newsman 1] Martha Mitchell said today
those who advocate violent revolution
in the United States
should be kicked out of this country.
She did not say
where she wanted them kicked to.
[newsman 2] At 2 a.m., she called
the Arkansas Gazettein Little Rock,
demanding that Senator Fulbright
be crucified.
Mrs. Mitchell's become
a kind of character around here,
and it's rather interesting.
I've always thought that Mr. Fulbright--
If you wanna call him that.
I have an awful time calling him that.
He's either half-bright--
He's now down to quarter-bright.
[audience laughs]
One of the GOP Senate leaders,
asked if he had heard
the Martha Mitchell story, replied,
"Oh my God, was she on the phone again?"
Ladies and gentlemen!
[audience laughing]
I don't think there's any question
that early,
they enjoyed Martha getting the attention
that she got.
She was good. She was on message.
Even though she was pro-Nixon,
she was completely untethered.
[Martha laughs]
[Quinn] And Mitchell seemed to go along
with it, which was even more interesting.
I can neither control
what she says or what she does.
[audience laughs]
In fact, she is getting to be known
as "the unguided missile."
[audience laughs]
[Martha] Sweetie,
let me tell you something.
If I'm doing anything wrong
in this government,
just tell me about it.
Anytime, really.
[tense music playing]
[Martha] The whole administration
was completely anti-press,
and that's one reason
that I became so friendly with the press.
How's my boyfriends? [laughs]
When I came along,
the American people related to me
in certain ways.
The administration couldn't believe it.
"What are we gonna do
with Martha Mitchell?"
[crowd applauding]
[host] And wife of the attorney general
of the United States, Martha Mitchell!
We have voted you the person
who has done the most for Ma Bell,
and your prize is a telephone in the shape
of the Supreme Court. [laughs]
[crowd laughs]
Well, that'll make hanging it up
a real pleasure.
[crowd laughs]
[upbeat music playing]
[indistinct chatter]
[Helen Thomas] Martha Mitchell hit
this town like a bombshell.
She was so refreshing,
and every reporter in town
wanted to interview her, including myself.
[airplane white noise]
I remember once coming back
from California,
and the Mitchells were onboard.
We were on the backside of the plane,
and the men were playing cards,
and Martha Mitchell came back.
I said, "Well, you know,
what did you think of the miniskirts?"
"Why don't you ask me
something important?"
I said, "Okay, what do you think
of the Vietnam war?"
She said, "It stinks."
[laughing] The men stopped playing cards
and grabbed their notebooks.
And then she was barred
from Air Force One.
[helicopter's blades thrumming]
Vietnam was the quintessential war
that the United States got involved in.
Several administrations inherited it,
and Nixon was stuck with it.
So Martha's comments were beyond awkward.
Nobody else who was remotely
connected to the administration
would ever say anything like that.
I'm sure you realize that could be
dangerous for a political party,
a wife speaking out.
-That's always been, "Don't let her talk."
-Not really.
-I don't think so.
It's just unusual for a woman
to speak her piece of mind.
[tense music playing]
Martha is not nuts.
Martha knows exactly what she is doing.
Well, she's not a concern.
Isn't she?
[static noise]
She's always a pain in the ass
it scares me. I just can't stand it.
-[cheerful jingle playing]
-[crowd cheering]
We need Nixon
Let's vote back Nixon
Let's help him finish up the job
People know him
So let's all show him
We're sure that he's the best man
For the job
The year 1972
is the year of opportunity for peace
such as America has never had
in its whole history.
He's the leader we can trust
Our man is Nixon
He's right on fixin'
A better world for all of us
[crowd cheering]
Good evening. Attorney General
John Mitchell resigned today,
effective March 1st,
to go back to his old job
running Richard Nixon's
presidential campaign.
[indistinct shouting]
In 1972,
John Mitchell was the campaign manager.
Martha Mitchell was definitely
chomping at the bit
to go out and make campaign appearances.
[Martha] I was one of the first at CREEP,
which was the Committee
to Reelect the President.
Magruder, Porter, and myself
were the first three people
that opened up CREEP.
I had my own staff, my own office.
I was involved in the whole campaign.
I knew Martha through my mother,
June Dankworth,
who had been working with CREEP.
Over the years,
they became very close friends.
And to me, she was Aunt Martha.
They liked Martha
because the public liked her.
She was always kind of the show pony
that went on the road.
[Martha] I'm out all around the country,
working day in and day out
to make this man president.
[tense music plays]
[Helen Thomas] She's been very loyal
to the party and to the president
and seemed, at first,
to enjoy her public appearances.
But she was getting
more and more programmed.
[crowd cheering]
[male reporter] What changed your feelings
about him? At one time,
you believed in Richard Nixon,
you and your husband.
What happened?
[Martha] California.
[tense music continues]
I didn't want to come out here
that particular time,
and I was made to come out here
on that trip at the last minute.
[indistinct chatter]
Hello, everybody.
What are you doing tonight?
John Mitchell and I
and some others from the campaign
were in Los Angeles.
We were having a fundraiser.
A waiter comes over with a phone,
and I find out what happened.
[thrilling music playing]
Five men were arrested early Saturday
while trying to install
eavesdropping equipment
at the Democratic National Committee.
[female reporter] The intruders
gained entrance to committee offices,
where files were ransacked
and papers removed.
[male reporter]
After the break-in was detected,
five men were arrested at gunpoint.
[plane whooshing overhead]
[Martha] John left me in California
and not to my wishes at all.
And then I read the newspaper
for the first time in five days.
[tense music plays]
[newsman] This is a police photograph
of James W. McCord.
He is one to five persons
surprised and arrested yesterday
inside the headquarters
of the Democratic National Committee
in Washington.
And guess what else he is?
A consultant to President Richard Nixon's
reelection campaign committee.
[Martha] I knew McCord, you see.
James McCord had been a bodyguard for her
and took her daughter to school.
John Mitchell had hired him
to be an assistant to his family.
[tense music continues]
John Mitchell comes back
from California over to Washington.
At that point, he did have a big problem.
He had clearly authorized
this bungled burglary.
[newsman] Today, John Mitchell,
the chairman of President Nixon's
reelection committee,
denied any connection with the incident.
[Martha] Why did they let me go
all this time
without knowing about
the break-in at Watergate?
Why did they leave me
out here in California?
Now, I'm inclined to believe
that these characters
must have gotten me out of Washington
because of Watergate.
I immediately picked up the telephone,
called Washington
to find out what it was all about.
I meet with John Mitchell
in his apartment.
-[phone rings]
-There are calls from Martha then.
She was outraged
that John had left her in California
and not given her the full story.
All I heard
is that Martha was out of hand,
that she had been hysterical.
[Martha] We were in a villa at the hotel.
I'm sitting on the bed,
I'm calling Helen Thomas,
and the bodyguard came in.
He said, "Mrs. Mitchell is on the phone
with Helen Thomas."
[indistinct chatter]
"She's telling her
a bunch of stuff about Watergate."
"What should I do?"
Pretty soon,
I heard her saying, "Get away."
I didn't know what was happening,
and then there was a phone disconnect.
[phone line clicks, dial tone humming]
[man] I was a doctor
that was on call for the hotel.
I just went to a private room.
[door opens]
There were people in the room,
and they were beside themselves
about her yelling and screaming.
[woman screams]
They wanted to calm her down.
She was held down, and I did give her
an injection, tranquilizer.
This whole thing was very unusual, right?
But when some high official
from the government calls,
well, then you do it.
And that was the beginning
of my being held a prisoner.
You really were held a prisoner?
Literally held a prisoner
within four walls.
[tense music plays]
[newsman 1] Following the embarrassing
Watergate bugging affair,
Martha Mitchell is talking again.
Late yesterday, she told a reporter
she'd become a captive
of her husband's security guards.
When she used the phone, she said,
five of them tore it out of the wall,
then, quote, "Threw me down on a bed
and stuck a needle in my behind."
[Helen Thomas] I don't think there are
many womenin this country
who call you up and say,
"Look, I'm being held
a political prisoner."
So you did have this feeling that
there were certain hostile forces.
[newsman 1] She displayed
bruises on her arms,
and she said she had
more bruises on her thighs.
She said, quote, "I was a patriot
until I got assassinated."
[tense music plays]
The president got into a number
of political things today.
His principal concern
was the Martha Mitchell question.
The president feels that John's got
to close her down somehow
or lock her up.
That he can't just leave her
speaking out like this.
It's gonna create
a major national problem.
[newsman 2]
Martha Mitchell is telling reporters
she is leaving her husband
until he decides to get out of politics.
She said, "I love my husband very much,
but I'm not going to stand
for all those dirty things that go on."
[brooding music playing]
I frankly believe
that if it hadn't been for Martha,
John probably wouldn't have let
this Watergate thing get out of hand.
We've got a lid on it,
but it may not stay on,
and his getting out
might just be a good move on that.
The Martha fans will think,
"Isn't that a wonderful thing?"
The man has given up his (job) - you know,
it's kind of like the Duke of Windsor
giving up his throne
for the woman he loves.
The poor woman isn't well and all,
and he's gonna be by her side,
and all that.
And we would leak out the fact that
she's not well - very strongly. We have to.
We're already doing that.
[Martha] All of a sudden, these rumors
start flying out of the White House.
And the first thing I know,
it's in print that I'm crazy,
that I'm this, that I'm that.
The resignation is
going to be a positive story.
It's gonna hang totally on Martha.
I mean, I think you should do it.
Call in the press.
John Mitchell,
the former attorney general,
has quit as President Nixon's
campaign director.
[male reporter] He told the president
that his reason for resigning
wasMrs. Mitchell.
Some Democrats maintain
that the burglary of their headquarters
carried out by, among others,
a member of Mitchell's staff,
may have been a factor.
Republicans flatly
and vehemently deny this.
They say the one and only reason
is Mrs. Mitchell.
A Justice Department friend
of the Mitchells said after that, quote,
"Martha has a special problem."
"Obviously, it has gotten more serious,"
[tense music plays]
[Martha] I was mortified, hurt,
and I didn't know whom had really hurt me.
I think the California incident
was kind of the beginning.
That's when she realized
that, for whatever reason,
she was being silenced.
Martha Mitchell has ended up
describing herself
as a political prisoner.
[crowd laughs]
I think that all of us have
some obligation to free Martha Mitchell.
[crowd laughs]
[crowd chanting] Free Martha Mitchell!
Free Martha Mitchell!
-[woman] Come on!
-[crowd] Free Martha Mitchell!
Free Martha Mitchell!
[dramatic music plays]
The story of how
she was held against her will
seemed so fanciful.
Did people really believe her?
I doubt anybody did.
[eerie music playing]
[Martha] I'm staying
in my own little apartment,
hiding because I am so embarrassed.
I just completely resigned myself
from politics
while they were trying
every way under the sun
to get Watergate out of the way.
[crowd cheering]
Watergate was not just a burglary,
by any means.
-[tense music plays]
-[crowd cheering]
What Watergate was, was a massive campaign
that played dirty tricks on people
to win reelection.
It was the mad scramble
to cover up and conceal,
as much as possible,
at least until the '72 election.
["Yankee Doodle Dandy" playing]
[crowd chanting] Four more years!
[Bob Woodward] And it succeeded.
Nixon won by a landslide.
[Marine Band plays fanfare]
Hate was the theme of his presidency.
Let's use the power of the presidency
as an instrument of revenge
against anyone who was in his way,
including Martha Mitchell.
[tense music plays]
With the election,
the Watergate story dried up
and went to bed basically.
And it wasn't resurrected until McCord.
[fast-paced music playing]
[male reporter 1] James McCord,
the man who told the judge
that there was a lot more to be said
about the Watergate case,
today went before a Senate committee
to tell what he knows.
[male reporter 2] McCord had said
John Mitchell had advanced knowledge
of Watergate.
Mr. Mitchell, you were once virtually
a symbol of law and order--
I still am. You better believe it.
John Mitchell is out
of the administration at that point.
He's a private citizen.
But Martha started talking
to friends in the press.
Fred LaRue told me
to be careful when calling
because Martha picked up the phone
and would listen in.
So be very careful what you say.
Did you see what Martha Mitchell did?
No. Did she call somebody?
She called The New York Times.
[newspaper rolling sound]
And told them what?
She went through a whole thing
of, "They're framing John,
and I'm not gonna let them do it."
She says,
"They're not gonna pin anything on him."
"I won't let them,
and I don't give a damn who gets hurt."
"I can name names."
[tense music plays]
I think she was angry at Nixon
for putting John in this whole situation.
She wanted to protect John,
but I don't think she knew
how involved John really was.
I think her love for John
was her blindside.
I am sick and tired
of people saying I'm after publicity.
But if I have to get publicity
in order to clear two guiltless people,
my husband and myself--
And you can place all the blame
right on the White House.
[male reporter]
What do you mean "on the White House"?
What do I mean "on the White House"?
[male reporter]
The blame on the White House.
Well, where do you think
all of this originated?
Do you think my husband's that stupid?
And whom do you think
he's been protecting?
[male reporter] I have no idea. Who?
Mr. President, he has been protecting,
under no uncertain circumstances.
I'll tell them all.
And you know what they're gonna do,
they'll probably end up killing me.
But I depend on you, the press,
to protect me.
[tense music plays]
[Helen Thomas]
I was in Madison, Wisconsin,
and she tracked me down.
And then she said Nixon should resign.
She was the first to say so.
The wife of the former
Nixon campaign manager
said her husband and the president
spent many evenings planning strategy.
And in Mrs. Mitchell's words,
"Mr. President always knew
what was going on."
Here is a president telling we Americans
he doesn't know
about all these horrible things
that are happening underneath his nose?
This man knew what was going on,
or he was negligent in being president.
[Bob Woodward]She smelled it.
She knew something dirty was going on.
Carl Bernstein and I started to realize
she was a Greek chorus of one,
because she was telling the truth.
When you're married to someone
who's in serious legal trouble,
like John Mitchell was, you know.
[Martha] The only thing
that John Mitchell got mad about
was when I said that I thought that
Mr. President should resign.
And I think perhaps he got
a little backtalk from the White House.
Martha told John Mitchell,
"If you stick with Nixon,
you're going to jail."
"And the man
who caused it all is going free."
[tense music ends]
[newsman] Former Attorney General
John Mitchell has left his wife
and has moved into a New York hotel.
Newsweek says this is the result
of a recent series of violent outbursts
in which Mrs. Mitchell
threw her husband's clothes
into the hall of their apartment building.
Friends claim Mitchell has told them
his wife is a sick woman,
but that he cannot bring himself
to take the legal steps necessary
to have her committed.
[siren wailing]
[somber music plays]
She was by herself after he left.
Her daughter, Marty, wasn't there.
And I know that when they were estranged,
that was a hole in Martha's heart.
I've been under the most trying things,
and if anybody could turn out
to be an alcoholic, I should.
But I'm not.
[somber music continues]
[Piper Dankworth]
I think she was scared all the time
that something else might happen to her.
She said, "I know they're doing this
because they think I know too much."
[Martha] I have been doped.
They've tried to put me
in the mental institution twice.
They've tried to kill me.
I was scared to death.
Because every day, I wake up and I think,
"What's gonna happen today?"
I don't know why I didn't realize,
to some extent,
what was going on, but I didn't.
until I found out
Richard Nixon and Mitchell sat
in the Oval Office
and planned all this mess on me.
It wasin the tapes.
It was only last week
that the Senate Watergate Committee
learned of the existence
of tape recordings
of President Nixon's conversations,
including conversations
bearing on Watergate.
John Mitchell, as I thought,
resigned because of me,
but the tapes say, to the contrary,
that he and Richard Nixon controlled me,
and therefore they had planned
exactly how Mitchell
would get out of the campaign.
[somber music plays]
She (Martha) really went over the brink
this time around.
We've created something of a Frankenstein
with the press, you know.
She's a-- She's a celebrity.
That is correct.
I can try to keep a lid on it
and keep things quiet.
With you taking this move (resignation),
it will be a surprise.
You're right,
it will be tied right into Watergate.
Nixon's closest political associates
were placed
under criminal indictment today
in a climactic moment
for the long Watergate investigation.
[male reporter] John Mitchell,
former attorney general
and campaign director,
now charged with obstruction of justice,
lying to the grand jury and the FBI,
faces 30 years in prison.
[woman] I'm sure Mitchell
thought he was gonna get a pardon,
but then, of course,
Nixon left without pardoning him.
[Nixon] Throughout the long and difficult
period of Watergate,
I have felt it was my duty to persevere.
However, it has become evident to me
that I no longer have a strong enough
political base in the Congress.
I shall resign the presidency
effective at noon tomorrow.
[somber music playing]
[helicopter's blades thrumming]
[Martha] The night that Nixon resigned
was the first time
I really felt the whole thing.
And that was the beginning
of I had to stand up.
There was a time people thought
that Martha Mitchell
was amusing and outrageous,
with her outspoken opinions
and midnight telephone calls.
Then came her frank angry statements
on the Watergate,
and the chilling realization that
Martha Mitchell was telling the truth.
[upbeat music playing]
Welcome to Panorama. I'm Maury Povich.
And would you please welcome
our co-host this week, Martha Mitchell.
The White House was telling reporters
such as myself,
John Mitchell was resigning
because he had to go take care
of his wife who had flipped.
-Poor John had to take care of me.
-That's right.
People say you started
the whole Watergate thing.
-You let everybody know.
-That's absolutely right.
-Are you happy with the outcome?
-Thank you-- I am indeed.
[male reporter]
Do you think that if President--
It's been the greatest thing
in the world for this country.
We're going to get all the politicians
real true blue again.
They're not going to be dishonest.
The men who were closest to Richard Nixon,
in the White House and in politics,
today were sentenced to prison
for their role in the Watergate cover-up.
[male reporter] For many people,
it was the grand finale
of the Watergate drama.
Afterward, John Mitchell had a comment.
It could've been a lot worse.
He might've sentenced me
to live with Martha Mitchell,
so I think I'm on the plus side
since then.
[gloomy piano music playing]
[male reporter]
Are you bitter at all about this?
Extremely so.
[gloomy piano music ends]
[male reporter 1] Martha Mitchell,
a lady who has been famous for dispensing
much talk at the White House,
has taken up selling dresses
at the Pink House.
[male reporter 2] She sued John Mitchell
for overdue support payments,
and within the last two weeks,
a court document described her
as desperately ill,
without funds and without friends.
[Winzola McLendon] When she got sick,
she didn't wanna see a lot of her friends.
The one person who she did
wanna see, refused to see her.
[tense music playing]
[male reporter] About 400 people
in Pine Bluff, Arkansas,
turned out this morning
to pay their final respects
to Martha Mitchell.
Her candor got her in trouble
with the Nixon administration
and with her own husband.
But it earned her many admirers
back at home.
Some of them sent flowers.
One arrangement in white chrysanthemums
spelled out this message,
"Martha was right."
There was no card.
[sad music playing]
[woman 1] Was she a crazy lady?
I certainly don't think so.
I think that she was a terrific person,
and I think
she was a visionary in a sense.
[woman 2] Mrs. Mitchell,
you're certainly going to appear
in the history books here and there.
How would you like people to think of you?
[Martha] Well,
if I ever do any good, Barbara,
I would like to go down as doing some good
for my country, that's all.
That would be the greatest thrill
in the world.
[woman 2] And your way of doing it
is to speak out.
[Martha] That's it.
[static noise]
[tense music ends]
[static noise]
[dramatic music plays]
[dramatic music ends]