Barry Sussman was the Washington Post chief reporter who assigned the then unknown Woodward and Bernstein the Watergate affair: and who guided them, with extraordinary memory and journalistic flair, to make them two stars. He was not involved in the book All the President’s Men, his character was cut from the film, he stopped talking to the two reporters: and died at 87, a few days after the 50 anniversary of the case
Strange but true, the mythological director of the Washington Post that sank the Nixon presidency, Ben Bradlee, did not like the film All the President’s Men: it seemed (correctly) that the extraordinary interpretation of Jason Robards, perhaps the only man in the world with a more menacing frown than his, had somehow put him in shadow. Who does not remember Bradlee slouched with his legs stretched out on the desk during meetings he hisses at Robert Redford (Bob Woodward) And Dustin Hoffman (Carl Bernstein) try to be lucky then.
Another legend of American journalism from the golden age, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, inimitable charisma and profile of a Roman coin, he saw with regret the film The Insider which told about his work in the famous scoop that put the American cigarette industry on the corner: Christopher Plummer, giant was chosen to play his role of classical theater and film – exactly as happened to Bradlee with Robards, Plummer was probably the only actor who could outshine Wallace’s withering gaze and square jaw.
No wonder then, if Hollywood is so powerful, it is Barry Sussman, the third Watergate man with Woodward and Bernsteinis died forgotten by America and the world a few days agoat 87: in the film Sussman, who played a fundamental role in reality, was canceled.
Simply for the sake of smoothness of the texture: he was the news reportersure, what he assigns the story of that break-in at the Watergate offices in Woodward-Bernsteinbut in the script there were already Howard Simons, the deputy director (played by Martin Balsam, legend of the theater and extraordinary character actor for Hollywood) and Harry Rosenfeld, deputy head of the metropolitan news (in the film the gruff but good-natured Jack Warden).
So, to make life a little easier for viewers who already had to follow the plot of a very complicated film in which there are no chases but long phone calls with sources, Sussman was canceled.
It was his destiny: originally, the President’s book All the President was to be signed by him as well. Woodward and Bernstein decided they didn’t need an editor like Sussman, and cut him out of the contract (Sussman wrote a book of his own, which came out a few months after that of his colleagues, had excellent reviews and quickly out of print where it remains today).
He said – better late than never – 32 years later Woodward: The film is an incredibly accurate account of what happened. To limit the number of characters, the role of Barry Sussman was ‘merged’ with that of another character (Warden-Rosenfeld, ed). This deplorable thing: Carl Bernstein and I should have fought for Sussmanwho played a vital role in guiding and directing our work.
The admission doesn’t excite Sussman too much, who to Alicia Shepard – author of the excellent 2006 Woodward And Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate – said laconically: I have nothing good to say about either.
After leaving the role of news editor he created and directed the editorial staff of the Post, well ahead of the competition, which analyzed the opinion polls of which Sussman had understood in advance the importance. In 1987, he left the newspaper which had been so little generous to him.
He concluded his career, from 2003 to 2012, teaching at Harvard (and the Nieman Foundation for Harvard Journalism to reconstruct its amazing history, in this article by Joshua Benton): small prestigious compensation for a career as extraordinary as it is stingy with glory.