Ron Howard’s acclaimed film Frost/Nixon, based on Peter Morgan’s play which was a hit in London’s West End and on Broadway, depicts two men as the architects of the famous set of TV interviews with President Nixon: the future Sir David Frost and the future Baron John Birt, the host and producer, respectively, of the broadcasts which mesmerized the nation in 1978. However, the play, and movie, leave out the contributions of a third man: Marvin Minoff, a veteran agent and the president of Frost’s Paradine production company, who was co-executive producer of the interviews.
It’s hard to say why Minoff’s role remained undepicted in the play and movie; it may be that Morgan, and later Howard, thought that the late Irving “Swifty” Lazar was such a colorful representative of showbiz mores in Frost/Nixon that adding another agent, while truer to history, would diminish the effect. In any event, Howard does not mention Minoff’s absence in his DVD commentary to the film, though the director gets around to discussing many of its other departures from the historical record.
Minoff died this week in Los Angeles at age 78. After the Frost-Nixon interviews, he went on to marry Bonnie Franklin, One Day At A Time’s Ann Romano, who survives him. He also joined forces with Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H* fame to produce a series of TV movies and two features: the little-remembered Dominick and Eugene with Tom Hulce and Ray Liotta, and Patch Adams, which elevated Robin Williams’s tendency to bathos to such a staggering level that the star has ever since downplayed sentimental roles in favor of “edgy” and “dark” dramatic parts. But with the Frost-Nixon series, Minoff made his mark on American history as well as American entertainment.