The Roosevelts Revisited

I spent last week — as did an estimated nine million other viewers — watching Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts: An Intimate History on PBS. This whopper delivered big-time. The Franklin and Eleanor episodes were the strongest probably because their personalities are more recent and accessible. Also, there is an abundance of action film from the era. The earlier Theodore Roosevelt segments had to rely upon still photos, rigorously panned in the best Burns tradition. The take-away is that these two presidents, fifth cousins, saw the rural world of our forefathers passing and by the sheer force of personality they reinvented the United States as a modern nation. Tell that to the originalists.

Above is the famous Unfinished Portrait of FDR. This preliminary likeness was sketched by the artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff at Roosevelt’s retreat in Warm Springs in April of 1945. During the sitting, FDR complained of “terrific” pain at the back of his head and had to be carried to bed. He died shortly thereafter.

The series is subtitled in Spanish. You might also want to check out the companion book by Geoffrey C. Ward. It contains more material than is found in the documentary.