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Dolly Payne is adored by two leaders of the fledgling American government, James Madison and Aaron Burr. She plays each against the other, not only for romantic reasons, but also to influence the shaping of the young country. By manipulating Burr's affections, she helps Thomas Jefferson win the presidency, and eventually she becomes First Lady of the land herself. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
The first plot outline describes the future Dolley Madison as the daughter of boardinghouse owners in Washington, D.C. Her father never ran a boardinghouse. Dolley's mother did that job briefly, after the death of her husband. The boardinghouse was in Philadelphia, then the nation's capital. It was there that Dolley met Aaron Burr and James Madison, when she was a young widow with a small son. Only several years later, was Washington, D.C. completed. Madison became President Jefferson's Secretary of State. Dolley served as Jefferson's official hostess in the Executive Mansion because he was a widower. See more »
I stumbled across this movie in a rather old presidential quiz book. Already knowing a great deal about Dolley Madison before I bought the movie wondering how they were going to dramatize one America's most beloved first ladies. I started the movie with mixed emotions and finished it feeling the same.
Ginger Rogers was a great actress but she doesn't pull off a convincing Dolley Madison-there's something missing. I don't know what it is, but it just isn't there. I did manage to overlook Rogers performance and applaud David Niven who was perhaps my favorite character. He pulled off the scheming Aaron Burr to perfection. From the beginning as a senator, to the tie with Jefferson in the election of 1800, to the treason trial that forced him into obscurity. It was Aaron Burr who introduced Dolley to James Madison in the first place. Reading the box I knew Burgess Meredith would play James Madison it was a shock to see him (I'm dating myself here when I say the first time I saw him was in Grumpy Old Men). I liked him second, his smallness (after all James Madison is still our shortest president at 5'6') and his quiet way made it easy to understand why Dolley Madison choice him instead of Aaron Burr.
After watching this movie I had rather hoped that Hollywood would find someone to redo this movie. I think Dolley Madison's life is just as interesting as Thomas Jefferson's. Maybe if they do choose to redo this movie they could show that she had two sons (in the movie it only mentions one son who died in the yellow fever epidemic but actually she had one older that lived). The elder son, named Payne Todd, from Dolley's first husband who died in the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1794, is the one who caused many heartaches in Dolley's later years even though she didn't admit it. He was a drunkard and a scoundrel and spent money lavishly.
To get back to the movie, overall it wasn't bad. If you like period pieces and good verses evil you'll enjoy this movie. It wasn't the best movie I've seen but wasn't the worst. The acting was good; especially David Niven and Burgess Meredith did an okay job. They played a little bit with Dolley's life but you can't expect Hollywood to get it right all the time.
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