All the president’s filmmakers: “Our Nixon” documentary exposes home movies of Nixon’s top aides

Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

Top Line

Richard Nixon is viewed historically as one of the nation’s most corrupt presidents, but the new documentary “Our Nixon” uses never-before-seen Super 8 home videos shot by Nixon’s closest aides—H.R. Haldeman, John D. Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin—to reveal a lighter side of the 37th president of the United States.

Filmmaker Penny Lane tells “Top Line” she set out to reveal a “nuanced” view of Nixon by pairing the home videos, which were seized by the FBI during the Watergate investigation, with some of the less-heard moments from the Nixon tapes -- Nixon’s secretly recorded meetings and phone conversations.

“There were almost 4,000 hours of tapes, and so even though a lot of people think we’ve already heard them, we really haven’t,” Lane tells “Top Line.” “With this film, we were really looking to explore less charged and a little bit more nuanced view of the man, but also of his staff.”

In listening through many hours of the Nixon tapes during the making of the documentary, Lane says she looked for moments of humor and leadership, in addition to Nixon’s darker characteristics, to animate the silent home videos and offer an “intimate” look into the Nixon administration.

“The home videos are just what you picture when you picture home movies,” she says. “They’re light, they’re sweet, they’re goofy, they operate on a scale that only goes from totally boring to completely adorable. That’s the range, and so you know, those on their own give, give just a very limited and specific, but never before seen look into that White House.”

Asked to give her opinion on which Nixon aide would have made the best filmmaker, Lane is partial toward John Ehrilchman.

“Ehrlichman is my favorite,” Lane says. “He’s extremely artistic and sensitive in a way that I was very surprised to find out. He is extremely artistic and sensitive in a way that I was very surprised to find out. … Ehrlichman had a little bit more fun with the camera, like he would do kind of arty things a lot more often.”

For more of the interview with Penny Lane, including a discussion of one of the film’s scenes which reveals Nixon’s homophobic tendencies, check out this episode of “Top Line.”

ABC's Alexandra Dukakis, Kirk Reid, Gary Westphalen, Jim Martin, and Pat French contributed to this episode.