More than any other movie I have ever seen that is all about or partly about the profession of writing, the new documentary, “Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb”, demonstrates what it takes to be a great writer of history more than any other movie or documentary I have ever seen. From the time it takes to write important parts of history accurately, to the years and years of intense research and then finally the editing.
This documentary is about Robert Caro, who has written two major works of history. Caro’s first book, “The Power Broker”, released in 1975 about Robert Moses, who was the real estate developer who is most responsible for the creation of New York City, including not only many buildings but the many highways that surround the city. Caro’s book won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered one of the greatest nonfiction books ever written. The Power Broker took Caro the better part of a decade to write and like all of Caro’s books required years of intensive research. Caro’s collaborator and editor for over 50 years is Robert Gottlieb, who is considered one of the best and most prolific publishers and editors of all time. The reality of this story and what these two men have gone through, and still go through – now into their late 80s and 90s to create a great literary masterpiece is nothing short of incredible. In fact, Robert Caro’s second great work of American History is about Lyndon Johnson and this historic story is so involved he is still working on the 5th volume, almost 50 years since he started the first book in this 5-volume series.
Caro’s description of the research that he and his wife have done to get accurate information about Lyndon Johnson, including the time and dedication involved, is far beyond anything I have ever seen. This included even moving to Johnson’s childhood town in Texas and living there for 3 years. They even interviewed Johnson’s brother in his childhood home to try to get him to remember the abuse he witnessed of Johnson’s father during his childhood while sitting at the dining room table. There was a film of Caro and his wife and their frequent trips to the Johnson Presidential library to research and obtain accurate information about Johnson and his Presidency. One of the major highlights was when it was revealed that Caro’s research over many years proved conclusively that Lyndon Johnson stole the 1948 Senate election, now known as the ”Box 13 Scandal” – an amazing revelation made during this great documentary.
Caro’s writing rituals are equally amazing as he demonstrates that he still uses a low-level and cheap-looking typewriter to create each page of all his novels. At the end of the day, he places the carbon copies on a drawer at the top of his refrigerator, a fact I found as insane as how Woody Allen writes his many screenplays.
The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this film are an extremely high 96%, with my rating 100% and my highest recommendation for this outstanding documentary about two great men in the literary field.
Robert Caro Books:
The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson:
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Book 4:
Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson:
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York