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American Experience: FDR

4.9 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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(Jan 10, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Polio at age 39, president at age 50. Explore the public and private life of a determined man who steered this country through two monumental crises: the Depression and World War II. FDR served as president longer than any other, and his legacy still shapes our understanding of the role of government and the presidency. A film by award winning filmmaker David Grubin.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, David McCullough (II), Adolf Hitler, Geoffrey C. Ward
  • Directors: David Grubin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: January 10, 2006
  • Run Time: 270 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BITUWK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,581 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "American Experience: FDR" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Walter Arnstein on May 12, 2007
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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.
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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.
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You could accuse the producers of this biography of fawning over FDR. In fairness, the presentation includes the less attractive elements of Roosevelt: his guile, his disingenuous nature, and, of course, his love life.

But it still expresses such admiration of Roosevelt's personal courage, wit, intelligence, and leadership qualities. Well, if the shoe fits, wear it. Roosevelt earns the title of "best president of the twentieth century." He saw us through the worst economic events we ever experienced, and through our worst war.

Could he have done better? Sure. But Beethoven could have written a better ninth symphony, too. In demonstrating the art of leadership, he was indisputably brilliant - not perfect.

I loved the special footage here of Roosevelt's personal life. It is not only inspirational - it also shares the sheer joy of the man's existence in the face of terrible personal crisis and disappointment. Loving life is what it's all about.
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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.
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The American Experience biography series is uneven, but when it's good it's REALLY good. This 4-hour documentary about FDR is really good.

The film explores FDR's patrician, Hudson Valley background, his lonely days at Groton, his less than stellar years at Harvard, and his early adulthood and marriage to cousin Eleanor, a time when he seems to have drifted without direction, and the ever-present influence of his mother Sarah (although the film soft-pedals the extent of her manipulativeness).

FDR seems to have found himself when he entered politics. He served an appreticeship as a NY state legislator, antagonising the political machine with his independence. He became assistant secretary of the navy, and rather churlishly did his best to undercut his very gracious and patient boss. He was a vice presidential candidate. FDR was a young man on the rise--and then polio struck.

The film points out that the several years of unsuccessful therapy and soul-searching made FDR a different man, one much more able to sympathize with the sufferings of others. (During this time, he also sunk a good deal of his personal fortune into the founding of a polio clinic at Hot Springs, Georgia). After regaining confidence and a certain amoung of mo mobility, he became the reform governor of NY and soon thereafter president.

Given the economic crisis that the world is currently going through--of which, I suspect, we've only seen the initial stages thus far--"FDR's" account of Roosevelt's struggle to do something about the Great Depression is especially interesting and timely. FDR, like so many of his patrician friends, had always thought that the market ought to correct itself without governmental "interference.
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