Betty Ford: The Real Deal

Thu, 03/19/2009 - 9:00pm

Pictured: Betty Ford

Photo Credit: Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

Family, friends, historians and Betty Ford herself reflect on her life as a political spouse, an accidental and outspoken first lady, breast cancer survivor, and feminist pro-choice Republican in Betty Ford: The Real Deal, a one-hour biography airing Thursday, March 19 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1).

The documentary explores the life of one of the most influential of the modern first ladies. Although, her candor in the White House initially caused consternation among her husband’s advisors and supporters, it eventually earned her the affection, trust and admiration of a country that had become distrustful, angry, and cynical in the wake of the Watergate scandal and an unpopular war. Diagnosed with breast cancer less than a month after becoming First Lady, her openness about her treatment raised awareness of the disease and saved lives by prompting thousands of women to schedule mammograms. 

Later, her influence coupled with her openness of her own struggles would once again have a positive impact on millions of Americans. Mrs. Ford and her children recount her troubles with alcohol and substance abuse and the family intervention which lead the way, not only to her recovery, but to the establishment of the pioneering treatment facility which bears her name.

Narrated by award-winning actress Jane Alexander, Betty Ford: The Real Deal, features never before seen photos and film footage, plus interviews with Mrs. Ford, her four children and close friends. The program draws from an interview with Mrs. Ford, now 89, conducted in 2002 by historian Michael Beschloss, as well as interviews with, among others, presidential historian Richard Norton Smith and former White House photographer David Hume Kennerly.