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All Good Men (1974)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The conservatory of a country house in Surrey, the home of Edward Waite, a retired Labour Cabinet Minister. Television production paraphernalia litters the room. Waite and the producer Richard Massingham run through a number of questions in preparation for an interview the following day. Waite talks about his past as a miner, union leader and cabinet minister.

While dining alone later in the evening, Waite is assaulted by memories of his political past, and suffers a heart attack. Massingham returns to the house, to be met by Waite's daughter Maria, who breaks the news about Waite's illness. Massingham worries that the interview will be called off.

The next day, Waite's son William arrives. Later, William, Maria and Massingham are finishing lunch, and William quizzes Massingham about the interview, arguing that such attempts at history cannot be neutral. Massingham disagrees, but William continues by citing the experience of the North American Indians, suggesting that in order to make a programme about their experience, one still has to choose a leader to speak for them, and that leader could be a collaborator, or one who fought for his people. William clearly sees his father as the former, and Maria leaves the room to an awkward silence.

While Maria and her father play cribbage, Massingham makes his goodbyes, and Waite invites him to the house on Sunday, which happens to be his birthday. Waite reveals his ceremonial robes for the House of Lords, and as well as swearing her to secrecy asks Maria to accompany him to the investiture. She quickly hides the robes when William suddenly appears complaining that squirrels are killing a yew tree in the garden. Waite is perplexed, until Maria explains that squirrels nibble the bark of the tree, and when the stripped bark meets in a circle the tree dies.

It is Sunday night, and Maria, Waite and Massingham are admiring Waite's birthday cake as William arrives. The four of them start to discuss the interview, but Massingham does not prompt Waite with any questions, leaving William to step in and ask Waite why he and the Labour party, despite periods in government, have only effected modest changes on society. Waite attacks the premise and defends the record of past Labour governments, while William argues that the Atlee government didn't create a new social order, but just humanised the old one. Waite replies furiously that William is a closet revolutionary who has never actually had to lead people. William denies Waite's definition of reality, and suggests that Labour leaders are always looking for acceptance from the establishment, something that will always prevent them exercising radical leadership.

Waite mocks William for quoting Churchill to back up his arguments, but then William pointedly asks Waite to explain his actions in 1926. Maria tries to intervene at this point, but William refuses to back down, and so she rushes off to bed condemning them both. William has had access to the National Union of Mineworkers files from 1926, and these reveal that Waite consistently voted against strike action, and worked with the mine owners on a committee to agree pay reductions after the strike was over. Waite defends his actions, but William points out that none of these facts are included in Waite's memoirs. Waite retires to bed after revealing to William that he will be joining the House of Lords. William gives Massingham a file containing details of Waite's union voting record during 1926, and reveals that he has discovered that Massingham is notorious for setting up interviews that become hatchet jobs, and is happy to leave Waite and Massingham to each other.

Waite lies brooding in his bedroom. Maria enters and Waite asks her again about accompanying him to his investiture, but Maria refuses. She thinks that at some point the working class has to stop being picked off and absorbed by the establishment. Waite resignedly complains that it has not been his day, but hopefully things will improve tomorrow.

The following day, Massingham starts the interview, immediately asking Waite about his actions during the miners' strike. Waite starts to reply, but we do not hear his answers. He sits like a waxwork in his ermine robes.