Lauren Bacall as Katharine Graham? Who knows how close it actually came to happening when filmmakers began pre-production on “All the President’s Men,” but it’s certainly a scenario that’s fun to entertain.
If it’s one thing that “The Post” got right over “All the President’s Men” was its inclusion of Washington Post publisher, Katharine Graham, as a major influence. As Jason Bailey so aptly points out, “All the President’s Men” only mentions Graham once during its 2 hours and 18 minutes – and that’s to reference John Mitchell’s derogatory comment that Graham would “get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published.”
Robert Redford wanted Geraldine Page to play Graham, but Graham apparently declined to have a character based on her portrayed on film.
But Ben Bradlee’s wife, Sally Quinn, has a slightly different take on the potential casting choices of Graham, writing in her 2014 tribute to Bacall that filmmakers “were contemplating a scene with Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Post, and Ben.”
“Lauren Bacall was the No. 1 person they considered to play Graham. As it turned out, Kay didn’t make the cut, much to her dismay, and I think Betty’s [Bacall].”
Oh, what might have been. Backstory: A lesser known fact about the spectacularly interesting life of Lauren Bacall is that for eight years, she was married to Jason Robards. That’s right – the same Jason Robards who won an Oscar for his scene-stealing, uncanny portrayal of WaPo’s tough as nails editor, Ben Bradlee.
Bacall and Robards never appeared together on screen – unless you count this Maxwell House commercial from the early 60s. (“A way to man’s heart is good coffee” – right. I’m sure it also helps being Lauren Bacall.)
But to have Bacall and Robards share a scene together in this near-perfect film would have been incredible. Throw in Martin Balsam and Jack Warden for good measure and now you’ve really got something.
Is this new information? No. Quinn obviously wrote this years ago. But it’s new to me and kind of blew my mind as I currently revisit Bacall’s autobiography, “By Myself and Then Some.” Truth is, I probably should have already known this and am slightly disheartened that I didn’t. Shame on me.
So as part of my penance, I’ll revisit “All the President’s Men” and maybe even watch “The Post” again. And you should, too.