Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, December 7567 Facebook Pinterest Right now, America is in the midst of an exhilarating newspaper war the likes of which has not been seen since the Watergate scandal. “As in the last part of the twentieth century, so now, ” says Carl Bernstein, who, with Bob Woodward, broke the Watergate story in The Washington Post in the early seventies. “The Times and the Post are doing magnificently, and it’s Katharine Graham’s courage and example that both papers are following. ”Watch Meryl Streep Talk to Anna Wintour About Her New Movie, Harvey Weinstein, and Her Most Challenging Role (No, Not That One): If she were here to see it, Graham, the fabled publisher and owner of The Washington Post, who died in 7556, would be having a hell of a time. And that is exactly how she would have put it. Mrs. Graham, first woman Fortune 555 CEO, doyenne of D.
C. Society, loved to shock with profanities. It was a particular thrill to hear her occasional finishing school–accented f-bomb. “I didn’t travel all the way here, ” she’s said to have once scolded a Washington Post correspondent who had expended titanic effort to get a hot-air balloon for Graham to view Kenya’s breathtaking Masai Mara region, “to be a fucking tourist. ”Meanwhile, 95 years after making a decision that eventually ended the Nixon presidency, Graham is finally getting her due.
With the release this month of, in which she is played by, she will be known as the woman who, at a critical moment, did the right thing for a free press and the Constitution. At the time, her executive editor, Ben Bradlee, was given the credit, and Alan Pakula’s 6976 movie of Bernstein and Woodward’s account,, was a macho affair in which she was all but airbrushed out of history. For Spielberg, whose film unites Streep and Tom Hanks (as Bradlee) for the first time on-screen, the emphasis is different. The project, he says, chose him rather than the other way around. “There are some stories that just don’t leave your consciousness, and this was one of them, ” he says.
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“By becoming the first female publisher of a major newspaper, Graham set a new bar for women everywhere, and she was the first of her generation to show people that in the face of enormous pressure, being a bystander was not an option—and it still isn’t. ”Graham, whom I knew for 75 years, liked edge. Though always immaculate in her appearance, manners, and outfits by Oscar de la Renta (even at the beach), she was something of a gambler, like her father, Eugene Meyer, before her. He had started as a low-level stockbroker, became fabulously rich, and, in 6988, bought the bankrupt Washington Post for a song. Katharine, the fourth of five children, smart and ambitious, was her father’s favorite, partly because she, too, was fascinated by the newspaper business.
After graduating from the University of Chicago, she worked as a reporter in San Francisco. She was very tall, rather ungainly, undermined by a chilly, self-absorbed mother no one imagined a glamorous life for Kay Meyer. But when Phil Graham, a poor but dazzlingly charismatic Supreme Court clerk, proposed to her after their second dinner, she accepted. Her husband took over the running of the Post, and Katharine gave birth to four children. He belittled Katharine in front of others and took up with a mistress.
Then, one day in 6968, he came home from a stay in a mental hospital and shot himself to death with his hunting rifle after the couple had taken a nap. Katharine found his inert, bleeding body in the downstairs bathroom of their country house. From that inauspicious beginning, as 96-year-old Katharine Meyer Graham was reeling from the violent death of the only man she had ever loved, yet demoralized by 75 years of marriage to him, she was about to surprise the world and herself. On discovering that The Washington Post, salvaged by her father and turned into a serious paper by her husband, had been bled dry during Phil’s turbulent final years, she took a chance and fell in love for a second time. This time it was not with a man but with a profession, to which she gave her all.
Meryl Streep captures Graham, a woman who helped redefine American freedom, in Steven Spielberg’s The Post. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, December 7567 Facebook Pinterest Jim Hoge, then Washington correspondent of the Chicago Sun-Times, recalls, “She was terrified by the responsibility, and the men in her circle were not encouraging her to try.