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A look at Franklin D. Roosevelt's pre-presidency days, from his being diagnosed with polio one year after his unsuccessful bid for the White House as presidential nominee James Cox's running mate, through his rehabilitation in Warm Springs, Ga., to his nomination of Al Smith for Democratic Presidential candidate in 1928. Written by
Throughout the film Louis Howe (played by David Paymer) is seen wearing an old brown overcoat. The real Louis Howe was known to wear the same clothes again and again, much to the dismay of Eleanor Roosevelt. See more »
The song "I Won't Dance" was not written until the early-'30s, at least six years after the time it was shown being used in the film. See more »
This is a film that only Joseph Sargent could have directed. Mr. Sargent's work has been basically seen on television. This HBO film deals directly with Franklin D. Roosevelt's battle with polio. As written by Margaret Nagle, the film is rewarding in that one sees an aspect of this great man in human terms.
Mr. Roosevelt was a man that came from wealth and privilege. The Roosevelts and the Delanos were involved in politics most of their lives. When we first meet F.D.R. and his family, we find then living under the influence of his bossy mother, Sara Delano. His wife Eleanor is no fool, she soon realizes her husband is having affairs with other women. Eleanor's mother-in-law quickly takes command of things as she reminds the younger woman that some great men have mistresses outside the home, but that it shouldn't be a cause for a divorce, something that wouldn't have been Franklin's political death, at the time.
We watch in horror how Mr. Roosevelt is stricken with polio. In spite of his political savvy, Franklin is not ready to accept what has befallen him. With the reluctant aid of Eleanor, he answers an invitation to go to rural Georgia, to Warm Springs, where the owner has written him, some progress has been seen on people with suffering polio.
Warm Springs is more backward than what the Roosevelts expected. Franklin is determined to make a go of it. Helped by Tom Loyless, the man in charge of the springs, Mr. Roosevelt begins to see some progress. At the same time, he and other polio sufferers, are the target of some disdain and bigotry by people that have used Warm Springs for other afflictions. The arrival of a physical therapist, Helena Mahoney, works wonders for Franklin and the patients staying in the spa. Mr. Roosevelt ends up buying the place and turns it into a treatment center for people with polio.
We also watch how Eleanor, guided by the Roosevelt's loyal friend, Louis Howe, gets her involved in the political arena. She champions the cause for women to get into social issues, something she would pursue until the end of her days. Mrs. Roosevelt rises to the occasion when Franklin is taught how to walk and in an emotional finale, we see him appearing before a Democratic convention. Ironically, he would be elected on the next election and win three other terms as president of the country, in spite of his physical condition, that took a back seat to the reality of running the country.
If anyone seems to have been born to play Franklin Roosevelt, it is Kenneth Branagh. This actor bears an uncanny resemblance with the younger Roosevelt. Mr. Branagh makes an excellent characterization of the iconic man that still cast a strong shadow with the legacy he left behind. As Eleanor, Cynthia Nixon, is equally Mr. Branagh's match. With a prosthesis to change the look of her teeth, Ms. Nixon is extremely appealing as Mrs. Roosevelt.
The supporting players do amazing performances. Tim Blake Nelson who plays the kind Tom Loyless is a joy to watch, as in everything this actor does. David Paymer is the loyal friend Louis Howe. Kathy Bates is Ms. Mahoney, the therapist that is instrumental in teaching F.D.R. how to walk. Jane Alexander is also good as Sara Delano, a woman with an iron will.
"Warm Springs" takes us into the life of the man who battled infirmity with an amazing courage. Joseph Sargent is to be commended for his direction and the way he got good acting all around from his distinguished cast.
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