Who Was Ben Bradlee, The Subject of a New HBO Documentary?

Former Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee has always been a figure of interest and his life has been surrounded by controversy. This interest in him has recently reignited as there is an upcoming film about him called ‘Post’ which is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks in the leading role. HBO is also creating a series about this fascinating man and this was the idea of Bradley’s daughter Quinn who approached the network suggesting they do the series. ‘The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee’ debuts on HBO on Monday, December 4, 2017. It follows the editor from his childhood in Boston through to various scandals that he was involved with throughout his career.

Yet, who is Ben Bradlee and why is their so much interest in his life? Both his personal life and career were fascinating and filled with both positive and negative experiences. However, it was his working life that brought him to the attention of the media as this was often surrounded by controversy. John Maggio, the director of the HBO film, said that it was difficult not to like a man like Bradlee. He described him as living life for the moment and also noted that he lived to see some of the most important events of the second half of the 20th-century.

He was friendly with President John F. Kennedy and was involved in the release of the Pentagon Papers that led to the Watergate Scandal which resulted in bringing down President Richard Nixon. In his position at the Washington Post, he oversaw the publication of accounts of the Watergate Scandal by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

His personal life was just as interesting as he was married three times in his long life. He married his first wife, Jean Saltonstall, in 1942 but they later divorced. He then married second wife Antoinette Pinchot in 1957. Again, this marriage ended in divorce. He married his third and final wife, Sally Quinn, in 1978 and they were together until Bradlee’s death. From his three marriages, he had two sons and two daughters.

In his later years, Ben Bradlee began to suffer from dementia. This led to him moving into a nursing home in 2014 so that he could receive the specialist care he needed as he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He returned to his home in Washington D.C. for his final days and this is where he died of natural causes on October 21, 2014. He was 93 when he died and he was laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Maggio felt that it was important to have a narrator for the HBO documentary film that count recount these life events throughout the film. Fortunately, he found the perfect person; Ben Bradlee himself narrates the majority of the film. This may seem surprising considering that Bradlee died in 2014. However, Maggio came across an audiobook about Bradlee’s life that the editor had recorded himself. It seemed the perfect tribute to use this as part of the film.

Although the film shows many positive aspects of Bradlee’s life and highlights his achievements, it does not shy away from showing the low moments of his life, too. He had turbulent relationships with his wives and his children, was let down by those who he believed were friends, and had a major blot on his career relating to a child heroin user.

This film will not only give an insight into the life of the famous editor, it will also give viewers a clearer view of how the media have changed over the years and take a look at significant events from a different angle. Overall, this documentary film should make interesting viewing.


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