Movie Night: The Post
Some lives seem almost too dramatic, too full, too much for a single person. The story of Katharine Graham is one of them – now memorialized by Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s new historical drama The Post. Graham was born into America’s elite in 1917: her mother was friends with Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Auguste Rodin. In 1933, her father, originally a banker, bought the Washington Post, today’s flagship of left-leaning liberal journalism in the USA. Although Graham herself became a journalist, her father did not pass on the newspaper to his daughter but to her husband. A woman at the head of such a company? Unthinkable at the end of the 1950s! But after her husband committed suicide in 1963, Graham became the paper’s publisher after all, whether she wanted to or not.
Inexperienced, awkward and without any female role models: “Throughout her life [she] didn’t have the courage and conviction that she deserved to be where she was,” Meryl Streep says about her role. But being successful and suffering from insecurity do not have to be mutually exclusive – together with executive editor Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks), Graham successfully guided the publishing house through stormy times: In 1971 the newspaper published the Pentagon Papers about the cover-up of the Vietnam War, which President Nixon wanted to prevent at all costs – it is the story of this trial by fire that the movie tells.
In order to appear tough and to fit in with her male-dominated environment, at least by look, Streep, in the movie, wears jackets with a raised collar, suits without a neckline and striped blouses – all in the style of the early Seventies. Costume designer Ann Roth, who worked with Streep several times before, has a real surprise in store, though: In the key scene, at the peak of her power, so to speak (we don’t want to reveal too much), Streep wears an airy, feminine kaftan in white-gold – also a lesson to remember.
Incidentally, the Pentagon Papers were not the last showdown between the White House and Graham’s newspaper: One year later, the famous Watergate affair ensued, catapulting the Post to the forefront of political journalism in America – and sending Nixon to political Hades. Maybe that’s why Spielberg was in such a hurry to finish the movie: He was actually busy working on another project at the same time, so The Post was produced in just a few months, almost by the by. But Spielberg considered the subject of the movie – the relationship between the media and the government – so urgent and timely in view of the current situation that he did not want to lose a minute making the movie.