Vidal and Buckley Square Off in 2015 SummerDocs Debut, ‘Best of Enemies’

We’re gearing up for another first-rate edition of our popular SummerDocs series, presented by TNT’s Public Morals. This year’s features kick off with Best of Enemies on Saturday, July 11.

Told with insight, prescience, panache and humor, the award-winning Best of Enemies chronicles the groundbreaking series of televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr., during the 1968 presidential conventions. The two rivals squared off on ABC for an hour each night, and television punditry would never be the same.


Following the screening on July 11 at Guild Hall, directors Robert Gordon (Johnny Cash’s America) and Morgan Neville (who won the Academy Award for Twenty Feet From Stardom, SummerDocs 2013) will join Dick Cavett—who appears in the film—in a conversation led by novelist and radio host Kurt Andersen. (With Graydon Carter, Andersen also founded the much-lamented Spy magazine).

Watch the trailer:

Best of Enemies

Saturday, July 11
7:30 pm

Directed with consummate skill by filmmakers Robert Gordon and Academy Award-winning Sundance Film Festival alum Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom), Best of Enemies unleashes a highbrow blood sport that marked the dawn of pundit television as we know it today. In the summer of 1968 television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult—their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed. And a new era in public discourse was born.

The film will be released by Magnolia Pictures on July 31.

Tickets on sale now.

WSJ logo read ambitiouslySupport for the screening of Best of Enemies is graciously provided by The Wall Street Journal.

Program note: Alec Baldwin will host two other SummerDocs screenings later this summer: Listen to Me Marlon on Saturday, August 1, and Peace Officer on Friday, August 28. Make it three for three!

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Candescent Films
 returns to sponsor the Audience Award for the 2015 SummerDocs series. Candescent Films supports documentaries that illuminate social issues. Join the conversation @CandescentFilms.

SummerDocs presenting sponsor TNT will take viewers to the gritty streets and the bright, seductive lights of 1960s New York this summer with Public Morals, a powerful police drama from writer, director, executive producer and star Edward Burns (Saving Private RyanThe Brothers McMullen, TNT’s Mob City). Public Morals also stars Michael Rapaport (JustifiedPrison Break) and Elizabeth Masucci (The AmericansInside Amy Schumer).

Public Morals is produced in collaboration with Amblin Television and executive producers Steven SpielbergJustin Falvey and Darryl Frank, the team behind the network’s hit series Falling Skies. Also serving as executive producer is Aaron Lubin.