Happy 99th Birthday, Richard Nixon: Great Pop Culture Nixons
Today Richard Nixon would have turned 99 years old, though he passed on to the big country club in the sky back in April 1994, at the age of 81. His wife Pat passed on the year previous, and Nixon was active until the end of his life, still making appearances and granting interviews, as the stains of Watergate began to wear off as he aged.
Nixon has always been a prominent political clown in pop culture, a sort of shorthand for evil politicking trickery and shady dealings. It didn't help that his nickname was Tricky Dick and that his hangdog visage was ripe for anger and parody. Younger folks who weren't alive during the Watergate scandal and fallout can't fathom how hated he was at one point.
Oddly enough, Nixon seems the hardest to pin down for actors who undertake playing him. Too many of them play the stereotypical Nixon, the "I'mma nawt a crook!" Nixon, and few make him human. Even worse is the makeup used to help an actor portray Nixon, like the president's brief scenes in last year's J. Edgar. The last dramatic Nixon we saw that knocked it out of the proverbial park was Frank Langella's beleaguered former world leader in Frost/Nixon, going up against David Frost.
The iconic Nixon mask has made plenty of appearances in film, too. Remember the teen sex scene in The Ice Storm, with Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood? Cult hit Point Break featured a robber wearing a Nixon mask, and you get triple points if you remember that in 1990's Men at Work, garbage men Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez put a Nixon mask on a politician's corpse in a convoluted plot line that we forget now.
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For our money, the best Nixons are the animated ones, though Dan Hedaya's Nixon in the 1999 teen comedy Dick isn't so bad. Impressionist Rich Little's Nixon is suitably cheesy, and is a classic impression in Little's massive canon of voices. Actor Richard M. Dixon made a killing post-Nixon in the '70s and '80s as a Nixon look-alike, too.
8. Anthony Hopkins in Nixon (1995)
Hopkins's makeup in this Oliver Stone hit-piece is the most distracting thing in the flick. His Nixon sounds a tad British too, sadly.
7. Richard Nixon's Living Head on Futurama
Easily the best Nixon ever, with...
6. Harry Shearer's Richard Nixon on The Simpsons
Langella originated this version of Dick on Broadway before putting him on the big screen.
4. Dan Hedaya in Dick (1999)
Few remember this Showtime flick, about the meeting between Elvis Presley and Nixon on December 21, 1970, when the president and the King met in the Oval Office.
2. Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live
Funnily enough, Aykroyd didn't always bother to remove his mustache while portraying Nixon on the first seasons of SNL, which added to Dick's creep factor.
1. Robert Wisden in Watchmen (2009)
In Watchmen lore, Nixon serves five presidential terms, helps kill Kennedy and ends the Vietnam War with the help of Dr. Manhattan.