Warm Springs and FDR -the Television Production 2005

Warm Springs and FDR- 2005

Comments added to the IMDB Website:

I have been interested in FDR for over 50 years. I am a collector of FDR memorabilia, and have over 5000 pieces, that include, buttons, books, pictures, campaign literature and ephemera of every imaginable type. Over the years I have developed a lecture called “FDR the Collector, and Collecting FDR.” Generally I liked the treatment and thought the acting was first class. In a sense it reminds me a bit of Cole Porter's remarks when he saw his film biopic “Night and Day.” He said, I quote, “Great picture, not my life.” Of course that is not completely accurate when reviewing this film.

Many, many liberties were taken with his life and the time-line regarding his life. He first nominated Al Smith at the 1924 Convention and it was at that time he first called Smith, “THe Happy Warrior.” The producers and writer seemed to morph both of the 1924 and 1928 conventions together. By 1928 FDR was much more secure in himself and was certainly contemplating elective office. Both Howe and FDR were worried about running for office in 1928, because of their fear of being caught up in a Republican year. As it turned out, they were both right and FDR won narrowly, by 25,000 votes, less then one a precinct, over Albert Ottinger, the uncle of future liberal Democratic Congressman Richard L. Ottinger of the 24th CD, Westchester County, NY.

Unfortunately the conversations between FDR and Louis Howe were patently ridiculous, inaccurate and certainly not true to their characters. Any one who has read the only definitive book on that relationship, “Roosevelt and Howe” (1962) by Professor Alfred B. Rollins, Jr would not recognize Howe. Also one could refer to his secretary Lela Stiles, profile the “The Man Behind Roosevelt” (1954) In fact no one alive then or today knows what these men said to each other. There are no real quotes and few if any documents available regarding their long relationship. Howe though frank with FDR, would have never in anyone's wildest imagination have spoken that way. In fact, his characterization, in “Sunrise at Campobello” is much more accurate to the man. Howe was a wizened little ugly man (his words), who spent his life smoking Sweet Caporale cigarettes, and certainly this production did not accurately portray him or could. Both Howe and FDR were very secretive men and it would be amazing to me to believe that they would ever reveal to anyone their thoughts or conversations.

Howe engineered a peace treaty with Tammany in 1924 and the omission of FDR's life on the house boat Larocco,and his strong affinity and life-long relationship with Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, is breezed over completely. She, in Eleanor's words was his “second” wife. The program also was confused to when and where he was diagnosed with polio. He was diagnosed with having contracted Polio first by Dr. Samuel Levine while he was on Campobello Island, and this was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lovett, the leading expert on the disease.

The facts about Warm Springs and its resort have some accuracy, but where anyone could have discerned FDR's attitude or conversations is beyond belief. The writer really suspended reality when it came to re-constructing FDR's life and emotional state in those days.

In fact the only really accurate (rumored) quote was the one by Al Smith, regarding FDR's living only one year. That quote was denied, but it remains a part of history.

Generally I like anything complementary on FDR and I admired the acting and the depiction of rural Georgia. Because of Warm Springs and his work with fellow polios, FDR always liked Georgia and had his “Little White House” cottage there, but because of the segregation and and the horrid “Jim Crow” conditions, Mrs. Roosevelt did not like to visit. Of course as it is well known FDR died there on April 12, 1945.

RJ Garfunkel, Tarrytown, NY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *