Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1960. Dore Schary Productions. Screenplay by Dore Schary, based on his play. Cinematography by Russell Harlan. Produced by Dore Schary. Music by Franz Waxman. Production Design by Edward Carrere. Costume Design by Marjorie Best. Film Editing by George Boemler. Academy Awards 1960. Golden Globe Awards 1960.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Ralph Bellamy) is enjoying wife and family at his summer home on Campobello Island in New Brunswick when pain in his back and fatigue in his legs turns out to be the onset of the polio virus. Wife Eleanor (Greer Garson) is immensely concerned and becomes devoted to his care, while his snobby mother (Ann Shoemaker, who is terrific) is determined that the son she has raised to achieve great things not be set back by something so trifling. The settings switch from the resort house to the New York Hyde Park residence as Roosevelt deals with his physical challenge while also having to keep his head high and keep pursuing the political career that will eventually lead to him being elected President of the United States. Scenes of the challenges of family life are interspersed with political conversations that are surprisingly never dry, strongly portrayed by an able cast who deliver Dore Schary’s intelligent dialogue with ease. The whole thing is a bit too plain, never all that dramatically captivating or emotionally involving, almost as if it’s working so hard to be prestigious Oscar bait that it is terrified of breaking a sweat or crossing a line (and given that Eleanor was still alive at the time of its filming, it’s easy to see why the private stuff is treated so gingerly). Even Hume Cronyn‘s almost embarrassing supporting turn as the mouthy drunk is a bid for awards glory, far too false a stock character type to make an effective contribution. Garson is given fake buck teeth and is still far too glamorous to play Eleanor, but she is also the only performer who puts across a great deal of warmth and subtlety and unintentionally makes the movie a great tribute to her enduring talent.