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American Experience: FDR
American Experience FDR
Actors: Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, David McCullough (II), Adolf Hitler, Geoffrey C. Ward
Director: David Grubin
Genres: Television, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
NR     2006     4hr 10min

Studio: Paramount Home Video Release Date: 01/10/2006


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Movie Details

Actors: Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, David McCullough (II), Adolf Hitler, Geoffrey C. Ward
Director: David Grubin
Genres: Television, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Studio: Pbs Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 01/10/2006
Original Release Date: 10/11/1994
Theatrical Release Date: 10/11/1994
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 4hr 10min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

He'd Never Be Elected Today!
J Keistler | Lake Jackson, Texas USA | 02/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As I wrote in my review on President Truman, President Roosevelt would be un-electable today. First, because he was the dreaded 'L' word--liberal, and proud of it.

Mr. Roosevelt's private life, combined with his physical handicap, would be picked apart and criticized by such as the 'fair and balanced' news commentators now. His manipulation of the American political system at the time would be roundly condemned today. Of course, it was what America needed at that time. President Roosevelt was the first chief executive in this country to believe, and practice, that the American government had a responsibility to its citizens beyond national defense. The scope of the work he envisioned for the American government is still breathtaking today. We know now that Mr. Roosevelt introduced the practice of Presidential domination in American politics. He provided leadership when so many countries drifted into dictatorship and inaction. We know now that the most valuable resource he provided America was hope and an optimism sadly lacking in today's bickering politicians.

And that voice! Patrician, seductive, and yet able to distill complex governmental policies into terms that the average American could understand. It is instructive to listen to President Roosevelt speak, then flip to Mr. Hitler.

There has been only one President as enigmatic in his personal dealings as Mr. Roosevelt in the last century: President Nixon. However, unlike Nixon, FDR genuinely liked people and enjoyed their company, all the while hiding his true feelings and intentions.

Not a perfect man, Mr. Roosevelt was indeed the man for the times, and how fortunate we were to have him as our leader for so many years.

To young people, who only see what we elect as Presidents now, this can be a fascinating view of one of our greats. The rich documentary footage brings this long-dead leader back for us. For that, we should be grateful and supportive of this series."
Americn Experience: FDR
Walter Arnstein | Cloverdale, CA United States | 05/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Never has a more meaningful and informative document on this great American president been assembled into one package. The 2-DVD recording probes the complexities of FDR's heritage, youth and personal ambitions -- as well as tragedies -- in a way that rounds out his presidency. It also explores the role of Eleanor far beyond her role as FDR's wife. His role in shaping our history even after his death is made crystal clear.

I believe the document is truly unique. Having lived through that era, I found nevertheless that there were countless aspects to the man and his works that I had simply not been aware of. I bought the package after seeing it played elsewhere. It was a bargain. I expect to see it many times again over the coming years."
Some extraordinary newsreels of Warm Springs, Georgia
Robert J. Scheppy | Zhu Hai, China | 03/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was very surprised to see the extraordinary newsreels of FDR in Warms Springs, Georgia using a wheel-chair and then swimming with young people who also had polio. On television, I had always seen the standard footage of FDR giving speeches. The film explains the great lengths FDR went through to improve his body control, so as not to be pitied or viewed as a cripple. After several years of tough times, FDR was ready to be president - as he knew he could be. Special thanks to Curtis Roosevelt, grandson, for his well-prepared remarks on the character of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt."
FDR And The New Deal- The Last Gasp The Last Time
Alfred Johnson | boston, ma | 12/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)


The economic news of the past several months has created a virtual cottage industry of commentators whose comparative references to the Great Depression of the 1930's has made it almost a commonplace. Also common are comparisons of the tasks that confronted the subject of this documentary, the 32nd President of The United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt (hereafter FDR), and those that confront the 2008 election victor the President-elect Barack Obama, who seemingly has that same kind of broad mandate as FDR did to make major economic moves. Thus, as is my habit, I went scurrying to find a suitable documentary that would refresh my memory about the decisive role that FDR played back then as the last gasp "savior" of the American capitalist economic system.

An added impetus to do that search was the recent passing of the legendary oral historian, Studs Terkel, whose bread and butter was to capture the memories of the generation that was most influenced by FDR's policies and whose oral histories have been the subject of many reviews of late by this writer. A biographic refresher on FDR thus seemed to be written in the stars. I found, for a quick overview of this subject, the perfect place to start is this American Experience four- part production on the life, loves, trials, tribulations and influence of this seminal American bourgeois politician.

That said, if one is looking for an in-depth analysis of the role that FDR played in saving the capitalist system in America in the 1930's, or the concurrent rise of the imperial presidency under his guidance, or the increased role of the federal government through its various executive agencies or the role of his "brain trust" (Rexford Tugwell, Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickles, etc.) in formulating policy then one should, and eventually must, look elsewhere. However, if one wants to capture visually the sense of the times and FDR's (and of his wife Eleanor's, who is worthy of separate series in her own right) influence on them then this is the right address.

As is almost universally the case with American Experience productions one gets a technically very competent piece of work that moreover gets a boost here from the always welcome grave narrative skills of David McCullough, who as a historian in his own right has a grasp of the sense of such things. Of course, as always with PBS you get more than the necessary share of "talking heads" commentators who give their take on the meaning of each signpost in the long FDR trail to the presidency and beyond. Of note here is the commentary of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin whose recent book on the Lincoln presidency "Team Of Rivals" has received much notice in the lead-up to the Obamiad.

And what are those signposts of FDR's life that might have given an inkling that he was up to the task of the times? Other than the question of class (in his case upper class, old New York money) FDR's appetite to be president is not an unfamiliar one, if somewhat unusual from someone of that New York set at the turn of the 20th century. Except for this little twist in FDR's case- when one's relative, if a distant one, was an idolized Teddy Roosevelt who was President as he entered into manhood. That, at least as presented in this film, is a key source of FDR's presidential "fire in the belly" drive.

The unfolding of the saga of FDR's "fire in the belly" ambitions takes up the first two parts of the series. Here we find out the early family history, the various schoolboy pursuits, the private schools, the obligatory Ivy League education (Harvard), the courtship of the sublime distant cousin (and Teddy favorite) Eleanor, his first stab at elective office in New York, his apprenticeship in Washington as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the Wilson presidency, his little extramarital love affairs, his selection as Vice Presidential candidate in 1920, the seemingly political career-ending bout with polio and the fight against its physical restrictions, the successful efforts to hide this from the public, thereafter the successful return to politics as Governor of New York and, finally, the nomination and election as the 32nd President of The United States. Plenty of material for thought here.

But that is only prelude. FDR faced a capitalist system that had like today 'lost', although for different specific reasons, its moorings and was in need of deep repair (or overthrow). It is not unfair, I do not believe, to say as I have said in the headline of this entry that FDR's effort was the last gasp effort of capitalism to survive (although his fellow capitalists and their intellectual, political and media hangers-on shortsightedly called him a "traitor to his class"). The most glaring contrast in the whole documentary is that between an overwhelmed President Hoover's abject defeatism and FDR's strident confidence (a like comparison could be made, at least of the defeated presidential part, with the current Bush).

Although we now know that the ultimate way out of that Great Depression was World War II in 1933 FDR applied, piecemeal and as triage, a whole series of economic programs to jump start the system, most famously the National Recovery Act (NRA, later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court). FDR's first two terms were basically a fight to find ways, virtually any ways to keep the economy moving and get people back to work. He was running out of time and the public's patience when the rumblings of WWII came on to the horizon in Europe.

The hard-bitten fight by FDR to get America into the European War against a public opinion that was essentially isolationist, mainly as a result of the WWI experience, takes up the last part of the series. The various efforts to surreptitiously aid England are highlighted here, including the various visits by and with British war time leader Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the fight to get America militarily mobilized including imposition of a military draft, the various conferences of the Big Three (the Soviet Union being the third) to carve up the post-war world and FDR's final illness round out the story. In our house when I was a kid the mere mention of the name FDR was said, by one and all, with some reverence for his efforts to pull America out of the Great Depression and for guiding it to victory in war. For a long time this writer has not had that youthful reverence but if you want to see why my parents and why I as a youth whispered that name with reverence watch here."