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James Michael Brodie On January - 18 - 2015

WH Screening Room

I couldn’t resist…

With all of the hoopla surrounding the films screened in the Obama White House, I got curious about what the past presidents watched. What follows is by no means complete, but an interesting bit of history.

English: Theatrical release poster for The Bir...

D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” was the very first film to be screened at the White House. The film was promoted with a supporting quote from Woodrow Wilson, but he apparently despised it for its overt racism. Wilson’s place in history, however, remains forever tarnished because of the viewing.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt screened movies at the White House several times a week. He liked Disney films, especially “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” She liked educational movies. FDR converted a cloak room in 1942 to the official White House Family Theater.

Dwight Eisenhower, who hated war movies, screened “Angels in the Outfield” 38 times during his presidency. He liked “High Noon,” and would watch anything about cowboys as long as it didn’t star Robert Mitchum, after the actor was charged with marijuana possession.

John F. Kennedy’  chronic back pain made sitting in one position for very long quite painful, so he saw few films. When he did, he liked westerns and war movies, though he watched “Roman Holiday” during the Cuban Missile Crisis. When “Spartacus” was released, JFK was told he could not see it at the White House because its did not fit the White House projectors. Kennedy instead saw it at a DC theater. He also saw a handful of Marilyn Monroe movies. JFK saw “From Russia with Love” shortly before his death.

Lyndon B. Johnson didn’t watch a whole lot of movies at the White House. But there was one he screened several times: A 10-minute documentary about himself (title unknown), narrated by Gregory Peck.

Richard Nixon watched “The Sound of Music” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” During the US secret bombing in Cambodia, Nixon watched “Patton” twice.

Gerald Ford said his favorite movie was “Home Alone.”

“The Sound of Music” was one of Ronald Reagan’s most beloved films. He was also said to have been enjoyed “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But the former film star actually watched very few films at the White House, but on special occasions, such as his birthday, Reagan watched his own films.

Jimmy Carter watched nearly 500 films in the White House, and may have been the first president to screen an X-rated film, “Midnight Cowboy.”

Bill Clinton loved “High Noon,” and watched the film 17 times in the White House. Clinton’s viewing ranged from “Schindler’s List” and “The English Patient” to “Strictly Ballroom” and “Naked Gun 2 1 / 2.” Ironically, the family watched “The Apostle” — about an adulterous preacher — the Saturday after the Monica Lewinsky story broke.

George W. Bush began his presidency watching “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” and “Field of Dreams.” But after 9/11 he switched to “We Were Soldiers,” “Black Hawk Down,” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

Barack Obama watched “Up” in 3D. In addition to “Selma,” they also have seen “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Lincoln,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” “Cesar Chavez: An American Hero,” “42,” and “The Butler,” “Bully,” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” He also watched “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II.”  Also on the viewing list was “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Star Trek” and “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

The Obama daughters have hosted screenings of “High School Musical 3,” “Monster’s University,” “Cars 2,” and “Bolt.” Michelle screened “Mademoiselle C” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter recently sent a letter to Obama, asking him to screen the “The Interview” to Members of Congress at the White House, and then host a discussion on how future cyber attacks will be handled.

“Zero Dark Thirty” has not been viewed at the White House. And thus far, no one from the GOP has asked to see it with Obama, perhaps as a lead in to a discussion on how terrorist attacks will be handled…

Theatrical release poster for The Birth of a Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by James Michael Brodie

Writer/author -- I am a journalist who has written about education and other issues. I am also a former teacher in Baltimore City School System, grew up in Colorado. Have written a few books on Black history, and have 20 years experience as a journalist. As for politics, I guess I am a liberal-leaning Independent. I prefer conversation over shouting matches -- and feel free to call me on that when I fall out of line.

7 Responses so far.

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  1. MurphTheSurf3 says:

    Now my comment-

    Obama, from what I understand, likes movies and he uses them in the WH as a way of gathering friends and family. I have read that the girls often have friends over, Michelle encourages him to do this (because he is so serious) and it gives him something to chat about that is NOT business.

    Gosh, I do like this man very much and thank you for this interesting feature.

  2. MurphTheSurf3 says:

    Or this one:

    How about Olympus Has Fallen….

    I can’t get the image to print here but here it is

    A quick click says it all.

    NOT that these two have anything in common you understand….

  3. What a Hoot!

    Any word on if the Republicans have asked for a viewing of

    [img][/img]

    Just wondering?

  4. Nirek says:

    Brodie, that is interesting. I never would have thought to research what Presidents have watched. Seems they all had a varity of interests.
    Good to see you here, my friend.
    Peace.

    • James Michael Brodie says:

      Thanks, Nirek. I have become semi-obsessed with comparing Obama with other presidents, sort of as a fact-check to some of the loony stuff…

  5. Hey JB! Interesting to see what some of our world leaders have watched. I read, somewhere, that JFK’s favorite movie was The Manchurian Candidate, starring his friend, Frank Sinatra.

    President Obama seems to have a pretty eclectic taste in movies. I find it kind of amusing to see he watched The Godfather and The Godfather 2. Maybe he was collecting tips on how to deal with Boehner and crew! 😉


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