Political Documentary Short ‘The Martha Mitchell Effect’ Paints A Portrait Of One Of Nixon’s Greatest Challengers


Anne Alvergue, an editor, and director associated with the documentary form, understands the reserves of womanhood that is trapped under caving social mores. She employs that understanding in a whip-smart tribute to a woman whose laugh was as unmistakable as her fighting spirit.

The Martha Mitchell Effect, the fiery and smartly devised forty minutes, focuses on Ms. Mitchell’s voice as well as her face. That livewire personality and the gift of the gab, a confidence hardly encumbered by pressures of the press, is writ large on her always smiling countenance and demeanor.

Her laughter isn’t a defense mechanism, it’s part of her bearing, her popularity feeding off it and filling up each room she’s in. What she’s eventually up against is not her mega-watt presence or lack of diplomacy in corridors of power. She’s ultimately up against those enablers who want her to hold her tongue and bid adieu to her public space. She’s marked out as a woman who must take the backdoors and lie low. But she doesn’t, toppling down the White House, the Nixon administration, and levers of patriarchy in the process.

Photographs of her, archival footage of newsreels, interviews and talk-show appearances capture her irrepressible charm, her warmth, and her transparency within an establishment where the men keep a stiff upper lip while the ladies walk a thousand steps behind.

Alvergue edits and splices a Martha Mitchell for the ages, one who perseveres and wins her due. But that face and physical largesse shrinks with the gaslighting advances made by the men around her. Her death in 1975 gains its poignancy because despite her undefeated celebrity and crusade for truth, she was a woman with heartbreak and betrayal in her share.

This documentary short brings her to us with all her verve and the tragedy of being outspoken in a culture where silence rears its ugly head a little too often, like a python waiting in the grass. It’s bitingly relevant for all seasons. Here, Ms. Mitchell’s face literally tells her tale. It’s a psychological examination unlike any other.

The Martha Mitchell Effect is streaming exclusively on Netflix now

by Prithvijeet Sinha

Prithvijeet Sinha is from Lucknow, India. A regular contributor to Screen Queens, he lives for the beauty of poetry in moving images and translates them into stirring writings in verse and prose. He is also a dedicated cinephile. 

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