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In spite of some liberties being taken with events and personages for
dramatic effect, this is a remarkably well-done retelling of the first
four years after Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with infantile
This version is less sentimental and perhaps more truthful than "Sunrise at Campobello", Dory Shary's play and film, from 1958 and 1960, covering the same events. Perhaps that is because many of the people involved were still living at the time, and the events and personages were still in living memory for so many in the audience for that piece, in 1960.
This version, however, minces no words and does not turn away from the grim reality of all the challenges Franklin faced, emotional and physical, in dealing with his illness. The performances of all involved are excellent. It is a challenge to portray people so well known to so many, and these actors, all of them, shine in their roles.
Central to all of this of course must be the performance of the actor playing FDR. For many, after "Sunrise at Campobello", only Ralph Bellamy could play Roosevelt, and he did it with great panache, even to repeating his performance twice, twenty and thirty years later, in the miniseries "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" in the 80s.
Without a doubt Kenneth Branagh gives what must be one of the best performances on film I have ever seen. He never descends to caricature or impersonation, he does not really look like FDR, he only gives suggestions of Franklin's speech rhythms and accent. But this actor inhabits the character as written so completely, with such wide emotional, physical and vocal range that I for one was totally convinced. This is truly a great film performance, worthy of any awards that it gets. And I hope it is recognized.
I can vividly recall my fifth grade teacher telling us (in the late
1950s) that if Franklin Delano Roosevelt were still alive, people would
come out in droves to reelect him to a fifth term as President. The
brilliant film "Warm Springs" demonstrates Roosevelt's strength of
character, his human touch, and his courage to overcome his physical
limitation due to polio.
Director Joseph Sargent carefully recreates the environment of the 1920s, capturing the political climate, as well as rural poverty and segregation in the Deep South. Screenwriter Margaret Nagle deserves credit for her detailed character portraits and crisp dialogue, based upon sound historical research. It was impressive that the character of Eleanor Roosevelt was substantially developed alongside that of her husband. The costuming, décor, and set-ups in this film were first-rate. In the artistic values, every moment of this film rang true.
Kenneth Branagh and a stellar supporting cast (Kathy Bates, Cynthia Nixon, David Paymer, and Tim Blake Nelson are all standouts) embody their characters with meticulous attention to historical detail and accuracy. The range is impressive, as the cast must depict both the patrician society of New York and the hardscrabble world of rural Georgia.
Branagh probes deeply into the emotional life of Franklin as he struggles to come to terms with his disability. FDR is remembered as a ruthless politician. But the film is remarkable for the sensitive and vulnerable side of this titanic figure, which is often downplayed by historians. The only shortcoming of Branagh's rich performance was in his inability to capture the stentorian voice and the melodious inflections of FDR. Given Branagh's background in the theatre and in performing Shakespeare, it was surprising that his voice was not a closer match to one of the most distinctive sounds of the past century, which kept the spirits of Americans buoyed with his regular radio fireside chats.
"Warm Springs" is a made-for-television movie with all of the attributes of an Academy Award-winning feature film. The story was taut and economical as it focused on the years at Warm Springs prior to FDR's political ascendancy. In those years, Roosevelt drew upon his administrative skills by raising consciousness about the therapeutic value of the hot waters in the treatment of polio, leading to the establishment of the nonprofit Warm Springs Foundation in 1927. It was in this period that a great American discovered within himself the personal resolve and courage that would lead Americans through the Great Depression and World War II. From start to finish, this powerful yet sensitive film walks tall just like our thirty-second President.
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.
In what I have said before has been a very good year for movies with
such amazing films as Finding Neverland, Ray, Million Dollar Baby and
so on. Along comes an absolute remarkable find...and a television movie
nonetheless. Warm Springs is quite possibly one of, if not THE, best
movie I have ever seen, I can't recommend this enough. I can't promise
that everyone will feel the same about it but I can guarantee you can't
not like it and not feel passionate about it.
Warm Springs is the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt following his unsuccessful bid for vice president. A year following that bid at 39 years old he is struck down with infantile paralysis, better known as Polio. The powerful man is devastated by the crippling disease. His life as he knew it is over. He drinks his way out of public life and hides himself away, ashamed by the disease. After trying many different healing methods and medicines he is informed of a place in the backwoods of Georgia called "Warm Springs" a mineralized pool resort where a crippled boy found he was able to walk in the waters because of the high mineral concentration. Desperate to try anything Roosevelt goes to the location. He is shocked by the state of the resort which is run down, and poorly operated. Out of desperation he stays out of his element in order to try the water. After several treatments in the water he suddenly finds himself revitalized and able to step in the water. He falls in love with the run down Warm Springs and agrees to an interview with a local newspaper. Despite the reporters attempt to make the interview about Roosevelt, Roosevelt talks about Warm Springs to no end. Next thing he knows Polio victims from all over are risking everything to come to Warm Springs. They can't pay, most of them are poor, and the "healthy" guests are threatening to check out fearing they will catch the disease. The waters are miraculous and Roosevelt finds a whole new public and a whole new reason to live in his fellow sufferers. His wife meanwhile keeps the Roosevelt name in the public eye by becoming spokeswoman to different organizations and gearing Roosevelt up for his return to politics which would ultimately lead to one of the greatest Presidencies in history.
Three things make this such an incredibly film that it should walk away with any and all awards it is eligible for. First, the acting, the casting of this film was so brilliantly done. They are all just phenomenal. The writing, Margaret Nagle, is obviously a beautifully well spoken writer. And finally the directing, Joseph Sargent who is absolutely no stranger to directing made the most passionate film, and for Television nonetheless, I have ever seen. Kenneth Branagh, who is always an intense actor, plays Roosevelt with such feverish passion from his highest highs to his lowest lows. Granted as everyone keeps pointing out he didn't look a lot like him and his English accent was a little misplaced but his performance was so moving and so incredibly it's easily overlooked. Kathy Bates as the determined, and fevered supporter of Roosevelt's Warm Springs, is a wonderful if not slightly underused addition to the cast. She is always a brilliant actress. A real treat was Cynthia Nixon who is really only known as Miranda from Sex and The City (a show which I personally can't stand.) Cynthia Nixon instead puts across such an incredibly performance as the socially withdrawn, but dedicated and loving wife Eleanor Roosevelt, bravo to her. The rest of the supporting cast is just unbelievable. No one turns in a less than remarkable performance. Tim Nelson stands out in my mind as manager of Warm Springs and someone who becomes very close to Roosevelt, Tom Loyless. For the first time in many, many years I literally found myself in tears during a film. All in all, this movie is an absolute must see for anyone interested in political history, or just for a beautifully directed film. 10/10
This is a beautifully acted and directed HBO movie about Franklin
Delano Roosevelt's battle with polio, his rehabilitation, and his
eventual taking over of the Warm Springs center.
Kenneth Branagh gives a riveting, detailed performance as FDR (leave it to the British to portray our great Americans). One sees a vital man struck down and feels his pain as he struggles to walk again and deal with the ramifications of his illness on his political life.
The film brings to life the prejudice and shunning of the handicapped and the fear people had that they could actually catch polio from another person. It was unheard of for a person of FDR's stature to continue his career once he developed polio. Yet, as we all know, he did, and no one ever called him a cripple.
Cynthia Nixon gives a beautiful portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt, who, though disillusioned in her marriage, remains a true partner to FDR. Their marriage was much more than one of love or even partnership - her admiration and commitment to this man, and his to her, was very real in spite of their problems.
I highly recommend this very beautifully done film.
In this splendid new HBO film about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor says to him, "You have done a brilliant thing here, a magnificent thing." She's speaking of his work at Warm Springs, the polio rehabilitation center in Georgia, but the same can be said for Kenneth Branagh's charismatic portrayal of America's almost legendary president, who was elected four times and died in office in 1945. So many fine comments have been made about the film that I won't go over the same ground. It has obviously been created with love and care -- the production values are top notch, the screenplay and direction are strong. The casting could not been better -- there's not a weak performance in it, down to the smallest role. Mr. Branagh leads a superb company which includes Cynthia Nixon, David Paymer, Kathy Bates, Jane Alexander -- I add a special word for Tim Blake Nelson who gives a heartbreaking performance as the manager of Warm Springs. I can't imagine anyone who would fail to enjoy this film. Bravo, HBO!
Having been a a patient at Warm Springs for many years during the 1930s and late 1940s, I feel qualified to critique the HBO movie, Warm Springs. The feel of the period and the scenes of the Warm Springs area were fairly realistic. The Meriwether Inn and the surrounding grounds were located on top of a hill, and not on flat ground. The pool where everyone swam was the authentic pool that FDR asked his friend Edsel Ford to build for him, after he acquired the property. I have swum in the pool many times. FDR was a man of great humor, and this is what is lacking in Kenneth Branagh's portrayal. Branagh completely missed the essence of the man, but so would any actor who attempted to portray FDR. Fred Botts was a great friend of mine, and when he arrived in Warm Springs, it was in the baggage car of the train. His brother accompanied him, and had modified a packing crate for him to rest in. He couldn't sit up for very long without experiencing great discomfort. He could stand up, or he could lie down, so he asked his brother to build him the crate so he could ride in comfort from Pittsburgh to Warm Springs. FDR's first words to him upon Fred's arrival were, "You must be the skeleton from Pennsylvania." Fred was tall and very thin. In 1916, Fred was working toward his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Among his admirers and supporters was Enrico Caruso. When polio struck him, his singing career ended, and he returned home to Pennsylvania, where he remained a prisoner in his family home for 10 years. When he arrived at Warm Springs, he and FDR immediately became great friends, and he remained as the registrar of the hospital until his death in the 1950s. He was FDR's favorite singer, and he used his great bass voice to lead the Companions (the term for the first patients of Dr. Roosevelt) in singing at the many picnics that FDR had up on Pine Mountain. He was not the callow youth portrayed in the movie. Tom Loyless was, in fact, the co-owner of the Columbus, GA Ledger, and not a failed newspaperman as portrayed in the movie. Doctor Lovett was the first doctor at the hospital, and he did much good work among the patients. The report he supposedly wrote about FDR's condition is a fiction, as far as I know. The trip to the medical convention in Atlanta was mostly Hollywood propaganda. The pushboys were FDR's invention, and not Helena Mahoney's. FDR's appearance at the Democratic Convention in Houston happened much the way it was portrayed in the movie. Overall, the movie portrayed FDR's family situation fairly accurately. He experienced great pressure from his mother to come to Hyde Park and hide in the family home. It is to his great credit that he did not do this. A final note, it's a pity that FDR's law partner in New York, Basil O'Conner, was left out of the film. FDR persuaded O'Conner to become the Chairman of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It wasn't long until the March of Dimes became the major funding effort for the National foundation, and Warm Springs was on solid financial ground. Comedian Eddie Cantor came up with the March of Dimes idea.
I'm in shock that two people gave this excellent film a 1 out of 10. I
can perhaps see how some didn't enjoy it quite as much as I did, but to
rate it as awful shows just plain ignorance to me.
Not only is this gem beautifully scripted, wonderfully shot and edited, as well as tremendously directed, but Cynthia Nixon and Kenneth Branagh dominate. I am familiar with a wide selection of Branagh's work, and this is one of his best performances to date! FDR is my favorite President, and I surely feel that Branagh does justice to the man.
On a personal note, I was brought to tears on three separate occasions when watching this film. Now, this may not seem like much, but rare is it that a tear falls from my eye even once during a showing.
Please, please see this film, if only for it's inspiration. I believe this is a sadly overlooked masterpiece, and we must not allow it to be forgotten. If you liked his Hamlet, you'll love his Franklin.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A movie that changes the way I see the world is, to me, a great movie.
And this is a great movie. I will never think of FDR the same. What he
went through is almost beyond comprehension. The movie conveys this,
without getting mawkish.
I have met many politicians. While there are some who are in it out of self-interest, there are some who truly care about others and who are great human beings, not perfect, but great nevertheless. That is what we see of FDR in Warm Springs. We see a person of privilege getting to see and know the common man, and caring so much that he is willing to lay his entire fortune on the line in the risky proposition of buying this decrepit spa, against family opposition, and serving people who often cannot pay so that they may regain some small degree of their health.
While the movie does not spell it out, it does not take much imagination to see how this affected FDR's understanding of what people were going through in the Depression; he had lived among them.
And while the American public may not have known the details of this story, Winston Churchill likely would have. And it is interesting to ponder the parallels between their lives. For Churchill also was consigned to the political backwaters after WWI, with no realistic hope of a return to power. So this likely led to even greater sympathy between the two leaders.
This is a movie that needs to be seen widely, perhaps even in secondary school history classes. It brings history alive.
The acting is fine, all around. I don't know how much is the script, and how much the acting, but the movie succeeds in making us care about even the minor characters, which is an extraordinary accomplishment in any film. And there is character development successfully depicted in numerous secondary characters in the film. Everyone involved deserves credit for a job well done.
I don't want to spoil the plot, but did you know that Roosevelt got elected president five times - four after getting polio??
If you get a chance, watch it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Franklin D. Roosevelt's struggles with late onset polio after-effects
were largely kept out of the media from 1933-1945 during his 3 terms as
US President. "Warm Springs" is an intimate drama starring renowned
British actor Kenneth Branagh as FDR, Cynthia Nixon as FDR's very
active & socially influential wife, Eleanor Roosevelt & US Oscar
winning actor, Kathy Bates, as the physical therapist at Warm Springs,
who treated & began to have remarkable results doing warm water therapy
for people with polio after-effects.
Warm Springs is the name of the place where FDR began swimming in order to 'cure' himself of polio after-effects shortly before he became the US President. It was at first a motel with a large pool. But, after its able-bodied patrons were bigoted & ignorant enough to refuse to swim with the people with polio after-effects who FDR attracted to the Warm Springs pool, FDR convinced his wife & her brother to help him purchase the place & turn it into a polio treatment center.
It's a true story. One that has been kept 'under the carpet' for over half a century due to prejudices against people with disabilities. FDR believed his political career was over, due to his physical limitations that prevented him from walking without much assistance. Disabilities were viewed as character weaknesses, more or less, & would certainly not be becoming for a potential US President.
The film's director, Joseph Sargent, was fortunate to have a marvelous cast, a heck of a true story & fine screenplay about the WWII & Great Depression Era US President. Kathy Bates gives a superb performance as the Warm Springs miracle worker of physical therapy. Kenneth Branagh does not disappoint as the most convincing FDR I've ever enjoyed on the screen. Cynthia Nixon, perhaps, has the toughest character to portray because the real First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was larger than life before, during & after FDR took over the Presidency. I feel she succeeds with flying colors.
In all, "Warm Springs" is a fine historical film that could interest a wide variety of audiences.
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