on October 2, 2005
Sometimes refered to as that charming cripple in the White House, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was many things to many people. He was a strong leader as evidenced by winning the presidency four times, a friendly voice as evidenced by countless radio broadcasts called "fireside chats" but first and foremost, he was a man of great determination as evidenced by the splendid HBO Production, "Warm Springs." Other reviews on this thread credit the wonderful cast and crew of "Warm Springs" so rather then repeat much that's already been said, let me say thanks to HBO for having the courage to produce such a moving and inspirational chapter of our history. F.D.R. was called many things during his life, a socialist, a political opportunist, even a traitor to his class for the federal programs he initiated such as rural electrification, a government insured banking system and social security. Viewing the HBO production "Warm Springs," will help you understand why F.D.R. was also known as a humanist.
on August 31, 2005
Branagh gives a deeply moving performance as FDR in this exquisitely directed film by Joseph Sargent. Branagh's brilliant portrayal will acquaint you with many nuances of this remarkable man's personality -- unfaithful husband, political wiz, self-absorbed aristocrat, and champion of the handicapped and downtrodden. Cynthia Nixon nearly steals the show. Her portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt rivals that of Branagh's and in some scenes she outshines him. Paymer, Bates, Tim Blake Nelson, and Alexander all weigh in with very strong supporting performances, as do most of the rest of the cast. This fine dramatic film succeeds by deftly weaving the political and personal events of the Roosevelts' lives and careers during the late 1920s and early 1930s. By the time the film reaches its dramatic conclusion, viewers will have glimpsed some of FDR's and Eleanor's most formative life experiences -- those which surely enabled him to be "the right man in the right place" during some of our nation's most crucial times and her to be one of the world's leading humanitarians of the 20th century. Don't miss this superb film.
He was already rich, but before he became famous, FDR, at the start of his political career, was struck with polio. This is common knowledge today. What is not known, and truly should be, is the struggle he undertook first to cope with, then to master, the disability that would ordinarily have torpedoed his career. Generally underappreciated as an actor, Kenneth Branagh, turns in a brilliant performance in his portrayal of an FDR never really glimpsed before - broken, bitter, depressed, then increasingly hopeful and courageous, and finally, triumphant. Toward the end of this movie, when asked if polio has changed her husband, Eleanor as acted by Cynthia Nixon smiles and says emphatically, "Oh yes... it has."
An argument can be made that polio made Roosevelt. His quest to walk again brought him into contact with people he would never have otherwise met. Good people of all races, classes, and age. It opened his eyes to the needs of his countrymen, and made him as compassionate as any wildly successful politician can be. Franklin and Eleanor, though their marriage was far from perfect, grew together into America's first power couple. No longer the arrogant, detached rich boy, he went on to become one of America's greatest presidents in one of America's most trying eras, and she one of America's most influential women. Nearly 60 years later, their legacy is generally ignored. Watch this inspiring, beautifully made movie and you will never forget them.
WARM SPRINGS is one of the finest films ever produced by HBO and clearly belongs on the theatrical screens. But until that happens the news of the release of the DVD should allow those who missed this phenomenal film to feel greeted with well-earned joy.
Writer Margaret Nagle and Director Joseph Sargent have created an isolated time in the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the inception of his polio at age 39 and the treatment of his impairment at Warm Springs, Georgia, and use this potential tragedy to demonstrate how a man of means and high political aspirations was humbled by a debilitating disease only to find healing and consolation at the hands of 'the common people', a change in his priorities that marked his popular success as a President who inherited the leadership of a country devastated by depression and war.
Kenneth Branagh is superlative as FDR, finding just the right amount of bravado and churlishness and womanizing while continuing to be the man of great potential and a loving husband to Eleanor (a surprisingly terrific Cynthia Nixon). His overbearing mother Sara Delano Roosevelt (Jane Alexander who is still remembered as a perfect 'Eleanor' in the older 'Franklin and Eleanor') tries her best to belittle Eleanor, only to enhance Eleanor's blossoming into the world respected, humanistic First Lady she became.
But much of the action is aptly placed at the healing resort of Warm Springs, a run down hot springs operated by Tom Loyless (Tim Blake Nelson) and the place where Helena Mahoney (Kathy Bates) nursed FDR back to health. The importance of this spot grows through the film and through FDR's life and in the end it is the beneficiary of his estate.
Watching Branagh tumble from political barnstormer to reluctant patient to humanized President is a heartwarming venture. His supporting cast is excellent - Bates, Nixon, Alexander, Nelson as well as David Paymer, Deborah Calloway Duke, Danny Connell, and many others. The direction by Joseph Sargent is one of simplicity, purity of purpose, and highly respectful of his story and his view of history. This is an important film. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, June 05
on June 2, 2008
This production was excellent from the standpoint of exploring the little known period of rehabilitation of FDR from the affliction of polio. Branagh is (as ever) spell-binding in his portrayal of FDR. The roles for Eleanor and FDR's mother, Sara, were either not well written or not well directed (I'm not sure which). The story seemed to play a bit footloose with a few facts of which I am aware. These being:
1.Ms Mercer's affair with the former president is portrayed as being a 'passing' dalience when in truth it lasted clear until his death with Ms Mercer at his side. So it was a significant factor in FDR and Eleanor's marital relationship.
2. Eleanor learned of the affair when unpacking FDR's suitcase and came across several letters from Ms Mercer. At that time, Eleanor demanded that FDR either end the affair or leave, which is a more contentious interaction than what the HBO presentation provides. The script has self-sacrificing Eleanor offering FDR his freedom.
3. The domineering aspect of FDR's mother, Sara, is alluded to, but not substantially portrayed. Again, going back to the affair, Sara threatened her son with disinheritance if he did not end the affair, while the presentation showed her to be disapproving, but not seemingly too distressed by the interaction.
I realize that the movie was focusing on the convalescence, however, in glossing over these familial interactions and their subsequent wounds and scars, it does a disservice to the marital relationship. At times, the film gets a bit of a 'Little House on the Prairie' feel to it. The script was obviously written as a centerpiece for Branagh, but the women's roles come off as way too flat and uninteresting. I think that more could have been done.
on September 13, 2005
I've been a Kenneth Branagh fan for years. (I always struggle with the spelling.) I watched him make his feature directorial debut in Henry V and thought, "This man is destined for greatness." He was young, talented and had great vision and drive. He had been solid in Fortunes of War before that and interesting in Dead Again after. I loved his labor of joy in Much Ado About Nothing; but, unfortunately, I hated his interest in the macabre in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I have watched him go from project to project through the years, evidently trying to find his creative self or the right part. Some of them were worthless roles - like Dr. Loveless in Wild, Wild, West; some were thankless - like Professor Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Even his role as Shackleton in the A&E miniseries by that name somehow didn't quite ring true. Then Warm Springs came along about a forty-something Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a part that seemed to be made for him - and he filled it perfectly.
If his portrayal of FDR isn't his best performance to date, it has to be one of his top two or three. He's magnificent. I felt I was watching Roosevelt himself. The role is full of the ups and downs of a good dramatic piece, with his character going from youthful joy, to tragic despair, to newfound optimism, to blind determination, back to joyful victory. He shows a broad range of life experiences in that one role, and pulls it off beautifully.
Franklin starts off as a wealthy politician with the world at his feet, totally oblivious to the feelings or circumstances of others, including his wife. He then discovers he has polio - infantile paralysis - and his life is thrown into a tailspin. After a bout with self-pity, he agrees to check himself into an obscure and run-down health spa in Warm Springs, Georgia - the other side of nowhere for a man of his background. It takes a lot to humble him, to get him to care for others and to start believing in his own recovery - but he finally makes the transition, with the help of the goodhearted proprietor of Warm Springs, Tom Loyless, played touchingly by Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou). He's also bolstered in his quest by the handicapped residents of the spa, many of whom came there because they knew he was there. Before long, they've become one big happy family, with most of the residents on the road to recovery, and Roosevelt turning the failing spa into a successful enterprise. Unfortunately, his own recovery is not so successful, and he must face a future confined to a wheelchair.
The film does not show FDR's presidency; but we are given to understand that what he accomplished at Warm Springs - his attempts at recovery, which helped build his character; his desire to connect with people, which he learned from the other handicapped residents; and his success at turning the Warm Springs spa around - all helped prepare him for his life's greatest challenge: the office of president of the United States. Even though he tried to keep his handicap a secret from the American people through four terms of office, he never lost his heart for the less fortunate, and fought for them throughout the Great Depression and World War II.
I actually got to be in this film and talk with Kenneth Branagh briefly. He seemed very much a man of the people, humble in spirit, in spite of his background - just as Roosevelt became through his tortured journey. I'm not saying Branagh has necessarily suffered as Roosevelt did; but his performance seems to testify to an empathy that could only have come from going through a place similar to Roosevelt's. I think Kenneth Branagh, director Joseph Sargent and writer Margaret Nagle have given us a very special gift in this film, and I don't think you'll ever think of FDR or Branagh in the same way again.
There are other remarkable performances as well, most notably Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) as Eleanor, and Kathy Bates (About Schmidt) as Helena Mahoney, an innovative physical therapist and friend. Director Sargent has done a superb job utilizing the actual locations of FDR's experiences in Warm Springs, Atlanta and surrounding environs. The entire production is a masterpiece, and very worthy of the sixteen Emmy's it's been nominated for.
Along with Lincoln, FDR is far and away my favorite president. I love them above all for the
The film has a number of historical inaccuracies. For instance, Roosevelt specified the design of the car he drove and it was not a surprise gift, tough as all biographies recount, he was an atrocious, very fast driver who terrified all who rode with him. The driving was, however, crucial in his development as a person because in driving around the larger area around Warm Springs, he gained a vastly deeper insight into the lives of poor, rural Americans. Early in the film he tells Louis Howe, with no intended irony, that he is a man of the people. That would eventually be true, but it was almost entirely because of what he learned in overcoming his polio and getting to know the people of rural Georgia. The scene where FDR is seen talking to a number of people surrounding his car as Eleanor rides away in the train corresponds to many accounts of his time in Georgia. Although Franklin had a serious problem with intimacy in relationships, he excelled in casual encounters with people and had an easy familiarity with casual strangers.
The worst historical inaccuracy is the depiction of Louis Howe. It is pretty much a travesty. All biographers agree that no one did more for FDR following his polio affliction than Howe. No one spent more time with him working directly with him on his rehabilitation. The film suggests that Howe was somewhat remote from him during these years. The truth is that he was the major presence in both Franklin and Eleanor's life. As was Missy Lehand. Where was she? She makes a token appearance, but she went from playing a minor role in his life in his law firm after leaving the Department of the Navy to being a major addition. She even went on boat trips with him. It was Howe who worked with FDR in his technique for appearing to be able to walk on braces while leaning on someone's arm. David Paymer did a credible job as Howe, though he was vastly too good looking for the role. Howe liked to describe himself as the ugliest man in America and good photos tend to bear this out. The film also somewhat exaggerates Eleanor's role in these years. She was crucial later as his representative to the rest of the world, but that came later. It also hints that things were a tad more affectionate between them than all accounts indicate that they were. I've not read any accounts that Eleanor was a major presence during his learning to "walk," though Louis definitely was. And it is true that he preferred to use Eliot in his walks, though James was also pressed into service.
Some of the things the film gets accurately are that FDR did spend almost all of his financial assets in buying Warm Springs. I also like that they hinted as his absolutely atrocious cocktails, which everyone agreed were undrinkable though irrefusable. Cocktail hour during his White House years was an essential daily ritual. The dreadfulness of his carefully made cocktails came, it is reported, from his heavy use of vermouth and his light use of gin. To make things worse, he used very poor gin.
But all and all I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Much of it was filmed on location, either in Warm Springs or in Hyde Park. Even though he returned to active political life after his nominating speech for Al Smith in 1924, he continually returned to Warm Springs for the rest of his life. He went there with Lucy Mercer in 1945 and died there after a brain aneurysm. he always saw it as a spiritual retreat and he never lost his attachment to the place. Branagh did not look especially like FDR, but did a credible job, as did Cynthia Nixon and Paymer. I also loved the look of the film. I never had a moment when I could not accept it for the early 1920s and I truly loved seeing the scenes at both Warm Springs and Hyde Park. It is definitely a film I recommend to others.
I enjoyed seeing a couple of people in supporting roles. I had trouble for a while identifying who the actor playing FDR's black valet Roy Collier was, but then it hit me that it was Nelsan Ellis, a couple of years before getting the role of Lafayette on TRUE BLOOD. He doesn't get a lot of lines in this film, but he gets a great deal of screen time. I liked that he was shown as a presence in FDR's life. He stayed with FDR for years, and literally put him to bed each night during his White House years and each morning helped get him up. Someone even closer to my heart is Felicia Day, who plays Heloise, one of the polio patients at the inn (she plays the red-headed former dancer who had obviously attempted suicide. She is probably best known as the creator, writer, producer, and star of the online series THE GUILD (its Season Three has just been released on DVD as an Amazon Only special). She is also known as the female lead of DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG and as a guest on BUFFY Season 7 as one of the Potential Slayers and on DOLLHOUSE as guest star on perhaps the two most celebrated episodes of the series, "Epitaph One" and "Epitaph Two: The Return." She even gets to sing a song in this one, though one of her talents, that of playing the violin, has never to my knowledge been put on display in any form. By the way, if you are a fan of THE GUILD, if you pay very close attention you will see Teal Sherer, a very beautiful handicapped actress who always appears in a wheelchair in her roles. On THE GUILD Season 3 she played the very funny Venom, the member of a rival and somewhat evil gaming guild. She had a host of very, very funny moments where she threatens others by detailing all the terrible things that she will do to herself. I wonder if this is perhaps where they met.
on April 6, 2006
It won the Emmy for Best Movie and if it had been released in theatres it would have won Best Picture. This film is up there with The Best Years of Our Lives and To Kill a Mockingbird. To tell the true story of FDR's polio and reveal the extent of his disability in todays mixed up world reminds us what true courage really is. The film tells the story of Franklin and Eleanor going on unlikely journeys far from their safe world of Hyde Park. Franklin must face the fact he is a paraplegic at Warm Springs in the backwoods of Georgia surrounded by poverty and racism the likes of which he had never imagined. Eleanor, too must find her identity without her husband. Their parallel journeys brings them back together as real friends. All the actors are brilliant. Kenneth Branagh channels the turmoil of a man who has lost his morings. Cynthia Nixon captures the deep pain of Eleanor. Tim Blake Nelson, Kathy Bates, David Paymer and Jane Alexander round out this brilliant cast. Great for all ages.
This story wasn't at all what I expected. I thought it would be about the relationship between FDR and Eleanor's social secretary. Part of the reason I thought that was the picture. It is supposed to be Eleanor, but Eleanor Roosevelt neither looked nor spoke the way she was portrayed in this film. Her spirit, however, was evident.
While the series "Franklin and Eleanor" was more about Eleanor, this one is more about Franklin and his struggle with polio. Eleanor, having been humiliated by Franklin, who only decided to stay with her because otherwise he would lose his trust fund, stays with him faithfully. When he is diagnosed with polio, she honorably steps in to support, encourage, and finally to stand in for Franklin when he was discouraged, depressed, and too ill to even consider politics. They learned from each other. He, a spoiled, privileged, mama's boy used to getting anything and everything he wanted learned compassion and sensitivity from what he saw around him as he battled polio. He traveled to Warm Springs, Georgia where he got to know and love people who were so poor they couldn't put food on the table at times. Those who were afflicted with polio as he was couldn't afford medical treatment. The story takes place as his eyes are opened to real pain and poverty and has to fight to get them the help they needed.
Franklin is depressed, feeling sorry for himself until the physical therapist, masterfully portrayed by Kathy Bates, puts things in perspective for him. That scene is worthy of an award, where she explains to him he has had a marriage, a wife, children, a successful career. Some of the other patients never have had those things and never will.
After recognizing the terrible situation and making a commitment to help, he fought to use his own personal trust, sold valuable artwork and other possessions at a time when there were few buyers, and then discovered his most powerful weapon and intellectual equal, Eleanor, to convince the medical community of the value of treatment centers such as Warm Springs. There was one scene that brought me to tears when I hadn't really thought this would be an emotional movie. It related to other polio victims struggling to walk. In another scene, the medical community will have nothing to do with Franklin. He asks to speak at their convention and they refuse him. When Eleanor visits Warm Springs and sees what he's up against, she suggests they crash the convention. With Eleanor at his side and in his corner, the rest is history. What an amazing story!
This HBO production accurately portrays the personal and emotional lives of the Roosevelts. FDR's controlling mother Sara, his personal advisor Louis Howe also got equal commendation for being people who molded FDR's career.
Although Kenneth Branagh is not physically convincing as FDR, he does work the emotional side of the man quite well, and Cynthis Nixon does a surprisingly good Eleanor that provides a strong base for this movie.
There is a lot here in this production that is important to the Roosevelts. They are both initially snobby New Yorkers turned off by southern squalor. Dirt roads and plentiful black servants to their beck and call also takes some getting used to. Louis Howe is thirsty for his share of power and always thinks of FDR's political career first. But equally important is Eleanor's getting used to her husband's (long-standing) affair with Lucy Mercer, an affair that is downplayed in this rendition. Howe is there to provide guidance for Eleanor as well, and develops in her a confident and strong woman who works feverishly for the rights of women, children and the poor.
Tom Nelson and Kathy Bates also give outstanding performances in this HBO movie, although both only appear in about a third of the movie.
Even the pools of Warm Springs look genuine.
This is not a political-oriented movie by any means. This is about FDR getting used to being inflicted with permanent paralysis and for him making polio victims no longer victims, but contributing members of a discriminating society. He learns to overcome his physical handicap through his determination and the hard work of everyone around him. This movie ends with FDR's first presidential election win.
The process of being a rich, pampered elitist to one concerned enough with the lesser-fortunate make this a very enjoyable social-issue production that can be viewed in the classroom.