Pete McCloskey:
From the Front
- a documentary

by Rob Caughlan

Produced and Directed by Rob Caughlan
Narrated by Paul Newman

Pete McCloskey: Leading From the Front is an hour-long television documentary that tells the colorful and inspirational life story of Pete McCloskey, a true American inspiration. After serving as a Marine during the Korean War, McCloskey returned a hero. He went on to represent California's 11th District in Congress from 1967 to 1983. He was one of the nation's first environmental lawyers, one of the first to integrate a law practice during the Civil Rights movement, and one of the first Congressmen to oppose the war in Vietnam. He specifically ran for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1972 in an attempt to end the Vietnam War.

©Lou Grant - Archives©Lou Grant - Archives

In 1973, McCloskey was one of the first few members of Congress to call for the impeachment of his party’s President, Richard Nixon. In 2006, in opposition to the corruption and anti-conservation policies of his party, McCloskey ran against California Congressman Richard Pombo in the Republican primary, contributing to Pombo's defeat in the general election.

“I've often said the political system couldn't stand too many McCloskeys," says his biographer, Lou Cannon, "But it needs a few of them. He's the original 'maverick'.” - Lou Cannon, author of The McCloskey Challenge (1972)

McCloskey's story offers an example of an authentic hero who dedicates his life to public service, an elected official who follows his moral compass regardless of the prevailing political winds. In telling this story, the documentary cuts through contemporary biases based on ideologies and party affiliations to open a unique window onto a crucial span of our history. And it does this in a way that enables that history to illuminate the present day.

In 1972, when McCloskey was campaigning for President against Richard Nixon, Paul Newman came to New Hampshire to help. Newman remembered he was laughing when he remarked to McCloskey that one of his proudest moments was discovering himself to be Number 19 on Nixon's 'Enemies List'. They both reckoned that his support of McCloskey was probably one of the reasons why Newman was so high up on that list.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and New Hampshire

On Memorial Day in 1884, in Keene, NH – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. gave an address before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic. It was delivered to these soldiers nine years after the Civil War (1861-1865), the war from which Memorial Day originated.

Below, Paul Newman reads the following lines from this address:

"...the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

As a Civil Warrior and eventual Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was one of McCloskey’s personal heroes. As Caughlan worked on the documentary, the above lines from that speech constantly resonated. Says Caughlan, “I was originally going to title the film – Pete McCloskey: In Our Youth Our Hearts Were Touched With Fire. But I was told it was too long a title for the TV Guide.”

Press Reaction to Pete McCloskey: Leading From the Front

Leading From the Front poster

“...the one thing you'll want after viewing 'McCloskey' is more. Revealing commentary is provided by Daniel Ellsberg, McCloskey biographer Lou Cannon and others, but it's just not enough: Pete McCloskey's too interesting, too refreshingly candid and seemingly singularly principled to be confined to an hour-long documentary.” - David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 July 2009

“A national treasure...”
- Sue Dremann, Palo Alto Daily, 3 July 2009

“A true red white and blue American legend!”
- Marty Cheek, Gilroy Dispatch, 2 July 2009

“From war hero to peace hero...”
- Katrina Rill, San Jose Mercury News/Pacifica Tribune, 2 July 2009

People who worked on the documentary include:

David L. Brown - Executive Producer

David L. Brown

David L. Brown is an Emmy Award-winning San Francisco documentary filmmaker who has produced, written and directed over 80 productions and 11 broadcast documentaries. Subjects include a variety of social, nuclear, environmental, health, engineering, technology, peace, and justice issues. His documentaries have received over 80 international awards (including three Emmy Awards), and have been broadcast nationally on PBS and other outlets in fifteen countries.

Brown's recent work includes:

The Bridge So Far – A Suspense Story - a comedic documentary on the troubled 16-year history of the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; winner of two Emmy Awards (Outstanding Achievement in Documentary, Best Graphics and Animation in a Program)
Of Wind and Waves: The Life of Woody Brown - a profile of legendary 94-year-old surfer, Woody Brown; Emmy nomination (Best Documentary); winner of the Inspiration Award at Mountainfilm in Telluride; aired nationally on PBS
Surfing for Life - an inspirational documentary on older surfers as models of healthy aging; screened theatrically in 40 cities; broadcast on over 140 PBS stations; winner of 15 international awards (including the Golden Maile for Best Documentary at the Hawaii International Film Festival); profiled in The New York Times Magazine, Parade Magazine, on National Public Radio and ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings; “a treasure, perhaps the most intelligent treatment of surfing ever captured on film.” - San Francisco Chronicle

David L. Brown's web site is:

Thomas Schreck - Executive Producer

Tom SchreckThomas Schreck is a healthcare entrepreneur who has devoted much of his adult professional life in efforts to help those who suffer from chronic or acute pain. Currently, he is the CEO and Co-Founder of SinuSys, a medical device company that is focused on developing new therapies to improve the sinus health of patients with chronic sinusitis.

Previously, Schreck co-founded AcelRx Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the development of innovative therapies for the treatment of acute and breakthrough pain. Prior that, he co-founded DURECT Corporation, whose mission is to develop therapies that will improve the quality of life for patients with chronic diseases and other medical conditions.

Schreck is a graduate of Menlo School and Williams College, where he majored in American Studies. He was captain of Track & Field and Cross-Country at both Menlo School and Williams College. He has also represented the United States internationally in the Three-Day Event (3DE), an Olympic Equestrian multi-disciplinary event consisting of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. He has also competed in triathlons (Alcatraz and Wildflower), endurance events (Bridger Ridge Run), and several World Championship Ride and Tie events.

Heather Carawan - Associate Producer

Heather CarawanHeather Carawan is a documentary filmmaker, photographer and educator. She has served as Associate Producer on a number of documentary films including:

Keeper of the Beat: A Woman’s Journey Into the Heart of Drumming (recently premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival)
Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea (winner of 37 awards for Best Documentary)
The Bridge So Far – A Suspense Story (see above)
Of Wind & Waves: The Life of Woody Brown (see above)
Seniors For Peace

Heather's documentary, The Telling Takes Me Home, a portrait of long time musicians and activists Guy & Candie Carawan, was broadcast on East Tennessee Public Television and won Best Appalachian Short at the Southern Appalachian International Film Festival and Best Personal Narrative at the San Francisco Women’s Film Festival.

Heather Carawan's website is:

Steven Baigel - Co-Producer, Editor and Cameraman

Steven Baigel

Steven Baigel is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who has worked on numerous award-winning productions as producer, director, cameraman, editor, and sound recordist.

Baigel was a cameraman and sound recordist on David L. Brown’s documentary film, A Question of Power, which garnered fifteen awards from international film festivals, including: San Francisco International, Chicago International, Philadelphia International, Columbus International, Houston International, and the International Film and TV Festival of New York.

Baigel's other work includes:

Amazing: The Rebuilding of the Oakland MacArthur Maze
Boys Who Said No
Bound By the Wind
Butterflies and Bulldozers
Digital Democracy Comes of Age
Freeway Philharmonic
Going The Distance: Journeys of Discovery
Harvest of Hope
Keeper of the Beat: A Woman's Journey into the Heart of Drumming
Large Dams/False Promises
Life as Cinema
Mason Williams: A Classical Life
Of Wind & Waves: The Life of Woody Brown (see above)
Pawo Thupten Ngodup
Seniors For Peace
Stopping History
Surfing For Life (see above)
That Which Colors the Mind: The Life & Music of Nikhil Banerjee
The Bridge So Far – A Suspense Story (see above)
The Price of Power

Additionally, Baigel does pro bono environmental shorts and small industrials.

Steven Baigel's website is:

Michael O'Neill - Composer

Michael O’NeillMichael O'Neill is a well-established musician, impresario, and documentary film score composer. A San Diego native, he now leads several jazz groups in the Bay Area.

O'Neill started with the clarinet when he was seven. He then put himself through college by playing in jazz clubs.

In the 1980's and 1990's, O'Neill scored several documentary films and did soundtrack work for various television shows and industrial films.

O'Neill composed all the music in Pete McCloskey – Leading from the Front. (The exception being one piece titled “Saigon Bride” which legendary singer Joan Baez, a friend of McCloskey, licensed at no charge for use in the documentary.) The score is largely symphonic; he says took his cues from the subject matter.

“I've always been a big admirer of Pete McCloskey. He’s one of my big heroes,” said O'Neill, citing McCloskey's anti-war stance and environmentalism as big reasons for his support and for why he wrote the score. - Half Moon Bay Review, 30 June 2009

Michael O'Neill's website is: