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Ratifying Greatness: Franklin D. Roosevelt in Film and Television

  • DEAN KOTLOWSKI (a1)
Abstract

Scholars rank Franklin D. Roosevelt as a great President, and Hollywood agrees. During his presidency and in the decades that followed, Roosevelt appeared in various film and television productions, emerging as an idealized leader who overcomes physical disability, inspires the public, and pursues wise policies. The origins of, reasons behind, and manifestations of this tenaciously consistent image are the subject of this article. The process began with FDR's own successful leadership and media (including film) savvy. It was sustained by the influence of Roosevelt's family and admirers in the entertainment industry. It seldom has been challenged, even as portraits of FDR widened across of a variety of film and television genres from the 1970s onward.

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6 Frame, 18.

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10 Leuchtenburg, The FDR Years, 13.

11 He hosted major studio chiefs only four times in twelve years. “FDR Day by Day: The Pare Lorentz Chronology,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (FDRL), Hyde Park, New York.

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19 Keyishian, 117.

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43 Scott, 186.

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92 Ibid.

93 New York Times, 13 Feb. 1976, 50.

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103 Reilly to Wetzel, 23 Oct. 1958, Box 52, Schary Papers, WHS. See Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, Volumes I–III (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957–1960); Friedel, Frank, Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Apprenticeship (Boston: Little, Brown, 1952); Friedel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Triumph (Boston: Little, Brown, 1956); and Friedel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Launching the New Deal (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973); Burns, James MacGregor, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1956); and Burns, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, 1940–1945 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1970).

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120 Terkel, Studs, “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War Two (New York: Pantheon, 1984); Brokaw, Tom, The Greatest Generation (New York: Dell, 1998). See also Bodnar, John E., The “Good War” in American Memory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

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124 Ibid., including the quotation.

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128 New York Times, 3 June 2001, WK17.

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131 Kotlowski, “Hollywood's West Wing,” 313; Path to War (2002) (Home Box Office, 2003), DVD.

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133 New York Times, 14 Dec. 2012, C19.

134 Hamby, Alonzo L., For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s (New York: Free Press, 2004), 419, original emphasis.

135 Keyishian, “The ‘Confidence’ President,” 123.

136 Leuchtenburg, William E., The White House Looks South: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2005), 44.

137 Leuchtenburg, William E., The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 806.

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