Sunrise At Campobello

1960, Movie, NR, 144 mins

Review

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A heartwarming look at the early years of Franklin D. Roosevelt, adapted by legendary MGM producer Dore Schary from his award-winning stage play. Ralph Bellamy is superb as Roosevelt, capturing every nuance of a man who was the most photographed and listened-to politician of his generation. Surpassing Bellamy, though, is Garson, who doesn't play Eleanor Roosevelt, she becomes her.

It's 1921 and the Roosevelt family is vacationing on the small island of Campobello, off New Brunswick. The Roosevelts are a patrician group, with plenty of money and no worries at all. Bellamy has an eye toward public service and is the assistant secretary of the Navy, over the wishes of his mother, Shoemaker, who would prefer that he spend his time leisurely alternating between Campobello and the family's estate at Hyde Park. Returning from sailing one day, Bellamy takes to bed to recover from a "chill." When his legs suddenly become paralyzed, he's whisked to the hospital where he soon learns from doctor Ferguson that he's the victim of polio and will never again walk. Shoemaker insists that Bellamy give up his political aspirations, but Cronyn, a behind-the-scenes politico, believes his friend will be better off if he stops feeling sorry for himself and gets on with his life.

Garson's excels in an atypical role; she used some prosthetic teeth to better simulate Eleanor Roosevelt's looks, but she needn't have because her acting comes from within. She's able to emulate Eleanor's unique, often quavery voice, and she submerges her own inimitable persona into that of the president's wife to such a degree that one forgets Garson ever was Mrs. Miniver. The movie was released in September 1960, just as the Kennedy-Nixon race was going strong. Kennedy's Catholicism was still an issue with many voters, and by incorporating the anti-Catholic sentiment Al Smith had faced into his screenplay, Schary helped to minimize the religious issue in the 1960 race. Since Schary was a staunch Democrat, it seems likely that the timing of the movie's release was calculated for maximum power at the polls, as well as at the box office. leave a comment

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