SUNRISE AT CAMPOBELLO (director: Vincent J. Donehue; screenwriter: Dore Schary/based on his play of the same name; cinematographer: Russell Harlan; editor: George Boemler; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Ralph Bellamy (Franklin D. Roosevelt), Greer Garson (Eleanor Roosevelt), Hume Cronyn (Louis Howe), Jean Hagen (Missy Le Hand, secretary), Ann Shoemaker (Sara Roosevelt), Alan Bunce (Al Smith); Runtime: 155; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Dore Schary; Warner Brothers; 1960)
“Inspirational biopic on the only American president to be elected for four terms.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Television director and director of the Broadway play the film is based on, Vincent J. Donehue(“Lonelyhearts”), in his first Hollywood directorial effort,does a splendid job in this inspirational biopic on the only American president to be elected for four terms. Former MGM studio executive Dore Shary’s Tony Award-winning Broadway play is the basis for the biography of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, honing in on his early life and gritty battle against infantile paralysis and with his triumphant return to politics.Ralph Bellamy reprises his Tony-winning Broadway role of FDR, a role that became the veteran actor’s signature role.
It opensin August 1921 at the Roosevelt family’s New Brunswick, Canada summer home, on the island of Campobello, where Roosevelt is getting over he was the Democrat Party’s vice-presidential candidate under Cox that lost in their bid to run the country to Harding. FDR is surrounded by his wonderful supportive wife Eleanor (Greer Garson) and his four young boys and daughter. Also present is his asthmatic guest and wise political adviser and loyal friend Louis Howe (Hume Cronyn) and his concerned imperious mother Sara (Ann Shoemaker), who considers politics beneath her son, returning from a vacation abroad. The joyous summer vacation is spoiled by FDR’s polio, and what follows is his lengthy hard fought battle to not let the illness take away his will to live as he takes up residence in his NYC residence and this time goes for his summer vacation to his residence in Hyde Park. The pic follows FDR dealing with the illness as best as he could until he reemerges in public some three years later to again successfully pick up his career in politics, as he accepts New York Governor Al Smith’s (Alan Bunce) offerto place his name in nomination for president at the 1924 Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden. The frenzied scene at the convention makes for an exciting climax, as FDR leaves his wheel-chair and while at the podium hands his crutches to his oldest son James and prepares to speak for 45 minutes in favor of the first Catholic nominated for president.
Though stagy, it captures the humor, pathos and spirit of the play. It also has some colorful photography, that reaches out further than the stage production possibly could.
REVIEWED ON 11/16/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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