The first portion of a great biography on a very, very important American.
This is part of a multi-part series on the life of Teddy Roosevelt from the PBS series "The American Experience". Considering what a complex and amazing man Roosevelt was, it's actually surprising to me that it took this long for the series to feature his life. It's not surprising, then, that the total story of his life was stretched out to nearly four hours--and could have EASILY been much longer.
The show was narrated by Jason Robards and features a variety of interviews--mostly by various grand and great-grandchildren of the man as well as a group of historians. And, along with these, a LOT of stock footage and family photos were used. Together, they did a great job in telling the story.
I do have a few small quibbles with this first portion--and it probably comes from my having read David McCullough's wonderful book about the early years of Theodore Roosevelt. So much that I loved about the book was not in the show--such as the possible psychosomatic basis of his asthma, his exploits while at Harvard and his reaction to the deaths of his wife and mother on the same day. I do understand why the show didn't go into all this--after all, it had to trim a bit to get the story told in its allotted time. But I sure would love to see a show based on the McCullough book (McCullough, by the way, did take part in the show and you see him interviewed several times). I think I wanted to see more of this because it really helped further explain the formation of his character and helped mold him into the great man that he was. I also was a bit surprised how quickly the film talked about Roosevelt's famed charge up San Juan Hill--there was MUCH more to it and lots of interesting yet insane aspects to it that weren't mentioned (such as this cavalry unit not having room on their hastily assembled boats for most of their horses!!).
It's a testament as to how good this show was that in spite of going too quickly through his early life that I still think it earns a 10. A superb show about one of the most complicated and interesting Americans in history. By the way, while quite good, part two feels a bit anticlimactic as you watch--though it's still very, very worth seeing.
By the way, at the 63 minute mark, look for the political cartoon featuring a bound Roosevelt being drug along with McKinley's political parade. It's really quite funny--and rather cute. Also, the images of J. P. Morgan later in the episode were VERY unusual. While it was not mentioned in the film, images of Morgan that were not retouched are very rare. This is because he had a disgusting nose--truly wretched looking due to Rhinophyma and because he was so incredibly rich and powerful, he had pictures of him fixed to hide this. An odd but true fact.
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