Who Is the Greatest of Them All? More Than 45 Actors Have Played Richard Nixon

The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia), December 18, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Who Is the Greatest of Them All? More Than 45 Actors Have Played Richard Nixon


Byline: Peter Hartlaub

IS Frank Langella the best Richard Nixon ever?

The actor's turn as the disgraced ex-president in Ron Howard's compelling Frost/Nixon definitely belongs in the argument.

While Langella takes some getting used to - mostly because he more closely resembles another president, Ronald Reagan - his nuanced performance makes Nixon come alive as a gloomy but somewhat sympathetic figure, as his last competitive fires are extinguished during a historic series of post-resignation interviews with celebrity host David Frost.

Anthony Hopkins is probably the most famous Nixon in recent years, earning an Oscar nomination as the president in Oliver Stone's acclaimed Nixon.

But he was upstaged by Joan Allen, whose Pat Nixon was the movie's knockout performance.

Character actor Philip Baker Hall is a lesser-known but strong choice for best Nixon performance of all time.

His 90-minute monologue in Robert Altman's Secret Honour (1984) crafted the ex-president as a complicated soul, at a time when most actors and comics were portraying Nixon as a caricature.

As of this year, at least 47 actors have played Nixon in movies and on television - more than have played Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan combined. Here are a few more awards for outstanding work in the field of acting like Nixon:

Best animated Nixon

The actor: Billy West

The TV show: Futurama

(1999 to present)

Believe it or not, there's a lot of competition in this category, including Rich Little in Bebe's Kids and Harry Shearer in The Simpsons. Veteran voice actor West gets the prize as the disembodied Richard Nixon head in a glass jar on Futurama.

Best Nixon impersonation

The actor: Rich Little

The TV movies: A Christmas Carol (1978), The Presidents (2004)

Readers sent dozens of emails supporting Nixon impersonator David Frye when he was left off a recent San Francisco Chronicle list of best presidential and vice-presidential impersonators of all time. Voice actor Joe Alaskey also does a great Nixon.

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