Stagebound & loaded with noble sound-bites, Dore Schary’s hagiographic B’way hit on FDR’s polio crisis comes across anyway, even when it seems that the Family Von Trapp is playing all those Roosevelts. (Not perhaps so surprising as Vincent J. Donehue helmed THE SOUND OF MUSIC on B’way between stage & film duties on CAMPOBELLO.) The play must have seemed awfully old-fashioned even when new, with Donehue sticking closely to proscenium staging whenever possible. Still, Schary’s sanitized view of a difficult marriage and FDR’s gain in empathy thru losses to a crippling disease, pretty much defined Franklin & Eleanor for Baby Boomers. That’s especially so for Ralph Bellamy’s FDR, in spite of an occasional resemblance to a Disney audio-animatronic mannequin. Needlessly long at 2½ hours, the story would be historically corrected in later attempts, but all have points uniquely in their favor.
DOUBLE-BILL: In HBO’s WARM SPRINGS/’05, Kenneth Branagh & Cynthia Nixon stick closer to the facts, gaining rather than losing empathy & emotional charge with a warts & all approach.
CONTEST: Win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of your choosing by guessing the connection between character actor Louis Calhern and Janine Grandel, this film’s French governess/housekeeper.