Many of us who lived through the 30’s and 40’s of the last century recall the public life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt quite clearly. However, few are aware of his private life, especially during the time that he struggled both mentally and physically with his paralysis brought on by what was thought to be poliomyelitis at the time.
The made-for-TV movie Warm Springs brings this struggle to light for us, revealing a side of FDR with which none of us is familiar. Kenneth Branagh does a magnificent job of portraying the future president, and Cynthia Nixon (Miranda in Sex and the City) made her role of Eleanor Roosevelt believable. However, it was Jane Alexander who played the ‘helicopter mom” of her son Franklin who took the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Sarah Delano Roosevelt. I always look forward to Kathy Bates in a movie and she did not disappoint.
Franklin Roosevelt lost the use of his legs at 39 years of age. Although his family and friends pressured him to resume a political career in spite of his handicap, Franklin was not comfortable in the limelight at that time and sought refuge in a Warm Springs, Georgia health spa where he remained unseen.
I was not aware that Roosevelt purchased the Rehab Center which he had learned to love and nurtured its inmates to health in mind and body, while developing characteristics which would not have emerged had he not suffered the fate that was his. We were able to witness the daily exercise of his limbs in the healing waters of the pool, his failures in trying to walk, and his exhilaration when his caregivers provided him with an automobile fitted with hand controls for his personal use.
I remember how deeply loved he was by the American people who voted him into high office four times. Of course, he passed away in 1945 before completing his fourth term as president.
There was a very brief reference to FDR’s infidelity to Eleanor which gave credence to the story, although it was not a central issue in the film and did not need further elaboration.
Many polio patients were cured through the monies raised by the March of Dimes. However, it came to light in the past decade that Franklin Roosevelt may not have had polio but may have been afflicted with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease unfamiliar to the doctors of his day.
I loved this movie, having lived through the four terms of FDR’s presidency. Seeing another more personal side of the man was a revelation and a gift. It is worth seeing.
Movie – Warm Springs