If you want an education on how to throw daggers at your enemy without serving jail time, then Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s film Best of Enemies is the documentary for you! Three networks: ABC NBC CBS – all fighting for ratings in the 1960s with ABC lagging behind. The Flying Nun could not save it. Batman could not rescue it. Not even the good old Doc Marcus Welby could bring it to health. And tell me just how could ABC compete with the likes of the vocal drones of Walter Cronkite on CBS or the powerhouse of the broadcast buddy team Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC? Hmmm! What’s a station to do! Well, you put together two of the most incorrigible personalities in journalism: Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley! I don’t believe the devil would have wanted to contend with these two! Buckley is dubbed by Lee Edwards as “the Saint Paul of the Conservative Movement” and whom Vidal would call a “crypto-nazi” on national television; and, there’s Vidal whom Buckley claimed to be the devil incarnate.
ABC knew it hit gold when executives put these two privileged prep school graduates together in front of a camera AND during a most tumultuous time in our nation’s history: the civil rights movement with its eye on racial issues and poverty, the Vietnam war, identity politics–oh! It was something. They hated each other; you could see it in their eyes!
Filmmakers Gordon and Neville excel in piecing together the archival footage of this moment in broadcast journalism, and they are quite attentive to the biographical sketches of each man to give the context for their appeal. Best of Enemies is a good, solid documentary. Watch and Learn!
Best of Enemies plays through October 29 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.
Also showing at The Ross through the 29th is the post-cultural revolution Chinese film Coming Home, and the Austrian horror film Goodnight Mommy.