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by Karen Pecota

Anne Alvergue, Debra McClutchy, USA 2022

Filmmakers Anne Alvergue and Debra McClutchy with Women Make Movies production collaborates with Netflix to bring a remarkable short narrative documentary THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT to the streaming platform. Those living today who recall the Nixon presidency and the Watergate scandal remember Martha Mitchell. But generations after have no knowledge of Martha's trailblazing influence on US politics; however, her fortitude has defined a term in the world of psychology.

Today psychologists learn that her name is best known for a psychiatric misdiagnosis coined by Harvard psychologist, Brendan Maher called “The Martha Mitchell Effect." It's a term to describe a process in which a person is labeled delusional, when in fact they are telling the truth.

Martha Mitchell was liked by most people except for those where truth telling was not in their favor. She was controversial, usually right in her assessments, and wasn't afraid to tell the world--in spite of being ridiculed and forced to be silenced by her president she once favored and vigorously supported.

Alvergue and McClutchy bring Martha's story to life in the most apropos time in history. Martha was a whistleblower on her terms both unabashed and vocal to anyone who would listen, especially the press, which they loved, of course. How did she become a thorn in her political party's eye? These are the answers one finds in the documentary THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT.

A film not to be missed so just a few notes to whet your appetite. Martha was first and foremost the wife of John Mitchell and proud of him, as well as their marriage. John was a longtime friend, law partner, campaign manager and eventually President Nixon's Attorney General. In 1968, the Mitchells moved from New York to Washington's Watergate apartments. The two were very loyal and involved in the Republican Party. They worked hard on President Nixon's re-election campaign. Martha and two others were known as the first to be a CR(EE)P--committee [member] to re-elect the President. Martha hit the town like a bombshell and was sought after for interviews because of her magnetic personality. A politician’s wife like no other, Martha didn't play by the rules of Washington´s political games, nor was she a wife that was seen and not heard.

Alvergue and McClutchy tell Martha's story with original audiotapes and varied interviews of how the two men, she could never have imagined, betrayed her for telling the truth. According to Bob Woodward, "Watergate was not just a burglary by any means. It was a massive campaign that played dirty tricks on people to win re-election."

Between 1971 and 1973, President Nixon secretly recorded audiotapes of his conversations within the White House and executive offices--Martha Mitchell was mentioned over one-hundred times. Martha was in Nixon's way, and he wanted to get rid of her.

Nixon leaves office after the Watergate scandal in 1974. David Frost interviews Nixon and he states, "I'm convinced that if it hadn't been for Martha [Mitchell], there'd be no Watergate." Frost interviews Martha and she states, "Richard Nixon shattered my marriage." She was angry at Nixon for getting her husband involved in the scandal and bitter.

Thereafter, a journalist sits down with Martha and asks her, "Do we have Watergate behind us?" Her response, "I hope Watergate never goes away. I think it's been good to teach politicians to be straight and not crooked." Asked how she'd like to be remembered, she responds, "Doing good for my country."