Filmmaker Tells the Story of her Grandfather, Late Barry Goldwater
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JEFFREY BROWN: Barry Goldwater lived a very long and often
controversial public life. He served five terms as a Republican senator from Arizona. He lost a
landslide presidential election to Lyndon Johnson in 1964. He help define
conservativism and, in the process, helped reshape American politics.
A very personal take on that life is authored in a
documentary film that will air tonight on HBO. One of the filmmakers knew him
well as a grandfather. She is C.C. Goldwater, and she joins us now from New York.
You start this film with that very famous political ad from
1964 of a little girl picking flowers and the atomic bomb goes off. And you say
right away that the man who was the target of that ad was your grandfather. So,
from the start, this was very personal for you.
Tell us: What were you trying to do in this film?
C.C. GOLDWATER, Granddaughter of Barry Goldwater: I think
that opening segment really speaks for itself, in terms we wanted to show all
of the horrific images of Barry Goldwater, from the daisy commercial, to the
KKK. I mean, all those visuals you get right upfront is what everybody’s
perception was of Barry Goldwater.
And I wanted to show this really private, personal side of
him so that people could really see the guy in terms of a full person, not just
the sound bite that you got where he would say something a little off-color or
a little controversial, but really show you the man, as a family man, as a
photographer, as an aviator, just, you know, really, a full picture of Barry
Goldwater, rather than just what we knew him as or what he was stigmatized as.
JEFFREY BROWN: So how did you go about doing it? How did you
make this film?
C.C. GOLDWATER: Well, I went to HBO, and I was able to work
with their documentary division, and Sheila Nevins was my executive producer
with me on this project. And I had originally — they told me I needed to go
put together a promo and kind of show Barry Goldwater as what he really — what
their audience would really like.
Because originally they were like, “We don’t get the,
you know, HBO-Goldwater. It’s not an obvious fit.” So I went back, and I
was able to edit. I have a production partner named Tani Cohen, and she and I
put together a 15-minute promo piece that really showed Barry on all sides. It
showed the personal side; it showed the political side; it showed his comments
on the civil rights, all the things that are really the hot buttons of Barry
And then I went back to them. I showed them the film. They
loved the idea. They thought that he also a very multifaceted person. And it
was real different than what they really knew. And they green lit the project,
and gave us the go-ahead, and we immediately starting filming production, and
filmed it, you know, shot it and did all the interviews in 12 months, and edit
it, got it all done, and now it’s going to be on the air tonight.
Imperfections of Mr. Goldwater
JEFFREY BROWN: One of the things that comes through loud andclear is that your grandfather was a man who couldn't help but speak and acthis mind, it sounds like.
C.C. GOLDWATER: I think he was just really brutally frank. Ithink that his -- he didn't buffer his dialogue. He was very straight-forwardand authentic, and I think that he wasn't -- he didn't like spin doctors. Hedidn't like people telling him what to say.
He had some speechwriters, granted. You know, he had reallygreat speechwriters, like Karl Hess. But he was one of these people that reallyjust -- you knew it all came from his heart, and that's why I think -- doingthe interviews that I did, I was able to get some really wonderful feedback andvery honest feedback from the various people that I interviewed because he wasso intensely authentic to his word and accurate, and just one of these type ofpeople that I think that nowadays is kind of lost. I mean, I don't know if wehave those kind of characters like Barry Goldwater now.
JEFFREY BROWN: You do, though, show some of his flaws andsome of the bad decisions he made along the way, voting against the CivilRights Act in 1964 and other things. Was that hard for you at a personal levelto capture that?
C.C. GOLDWATER: You know, when you're doing a documentary,you can't make it a love letter. It's not going to be interesting. It gets toogushy and mushy, and it's not necessarily a real accurate portrait of him.
So I knew that I had to throw in the pieces that were notgoing to be easy for me to watch. They weren't necessarily going to be thingsthat I wanted to revisit, but, because I didn't really know him politically andI really just knew him as a grandfather, it was like an eye-opening experiencefor me and really a great journey for me personally.
JEFFREY BROWN: And you do show some of the strains that allthis public life took on family life. There's an interesting clip that we'lltake a look at. This is your uncle talking about Barry Goldwater as a father. Let'slook at that.
BARRY GOLDWATER, JR., Former Congressman: I often said thathe was not necessarily the best father in the world; he was probably betterstatesman than a father. But yet, when you stop and think about it, he was agood father.
He was out of the old school, you know, stand on your ownfeet, make your own way. He taught us at a young age to take care of ourselves,how to light a fire out in the forests, how to hunt for food if we werestranded.
The two sides of Barry Goldwater
JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think that the world has wrongabout Barry Goldwater?
C.C. GOLDWATER: I think that what happened was that becausehe did say what he felt and said what was on his mind, he was just really knownfor those kind of statements. I mean, he was known for making comments likehe'd like to lob a nuclear weapon in the men's room in the Kremlin and he wantsto saw off the Eastern seaboard and let it float out to sea.
I think those sound bites are what caricatured him andpigeonholed him into this rut of being stereotyped as a warmonger, a bigot, allthese different things. And I think that what I wanted to show with this filmwas he was a very personal man.
He was very approachable. He would constantly give time, hisown personal time and other to talk to kids in schools and go do commencementaddresses. And he just really was one of these really down-to-earth person thatjust don't exist anymore.
And I wanted so much to have a really accurate picture of himso that he doesn't get lost in the shuffle of history. Because people likeBarry Goldwater are our past, but they also are our future, if we can applywhat his knowledge and his wisdom was from back then to what we do in thecurrent day that we're in.
JEFFREY BROWN: Let me just ask you finally one thing aboutthe genre of documentaries, because there is always a lot of questions aboutthat these days. You mentioned Sheila Nevins, the head of HBO Documentaries,and she described your film -- I saw an interview -- as, quote, "familyjournalism." Not necessarily objective.
How should people watch this film? Should they watch it asobjective or as your subjective view of this man that you knew in a specialway?
C.C. GOLDWATER: You know, there's two different kinds ofsides to this film. You see a real personal side that I bring to the tablefrom, "Let me tell about my family. Let me tell you about therelationships. Let me interview my mom and my uncle, and let me just show youthis side that you never would see of Barry Goldwater."
And then we were able to get people like Hillary Clinton,who was a former Goldwater girl, and Al Franken, and James Carville, andSenator McCain, and we were able to get them to give you the political side ofBarry Goldwater and what he really meant as a political icon in this country.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right. The film is "Mr.Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater." C.C. Goldwater, thanks very much.
C.C. GOLDWATER: Thank you.