Visual historian Ken Burns has created “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” for airing on PBS fall 2014.
The 14-hour, 7-part film documents the history of the 26th and 32nd President and a renowned First Lady and how their personalities and relationships with one another influenced their accomplishments in the 20th Century.
The Filmmaker and His Work
Ken Burns’ Academy Award-winning “The Brooklyn Bridge” was on PBS in 1981, and he made several other history documentaries throughout the 1980’s. However, Burns got huge national attention for his 1990 “The Civil War” and is well-known for 2 dozen other documentaries, including:
-“Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery”
-“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”
The New Film
Having original historical sources and rare photos as a signature in all his films, Burns told The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift that the Roosevelt piece is “a factual Downton Abbey.” Its chronology runs from Theodore Roosevelt’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor Roosevelt’s death in 1962. It shows the family rivalry between FDR and his older, Rough Rider cousin, Teddy, and the struggle Teddy’s niece, Eleanor, had with her husband’s adultery. It documents FDR as a man compensating for his polio-related paralysis by being an extroverted people person. In spite of and maybe because of family dynamics, these 3 Roosevelts changed America with:
-becoming the youngest President at age 43 after the assassination of President William McKinley in Buffalo, NY
-being a war hero as a colonel of the famed Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War
-creating the Tennessee Valley Authority
-expediting the construction of the Panama Canal
-furthering conservation in the West
-being a 4-term President
-formulating the New Deal during the Great Depression
-bringing the country through most of World War II
-enduring the rigors of the office while wheelchair bound
-instituting Social Security
-assisting her handicapped husband with the duties of his office and keeping him informed
-championing the poor and underprivileged
-being a spokesperson to the United Nations
-writing a syndicated newspaper column–“My Day”
Burns uses the voice talents of Meryl Streep (Eleanor), Edward Hermann (FDR) and Paul Giamatti (Teddy). He blends the 3 separate personalities into 1 story. Other upcoming history topics for Burns are the Vietnam War, Ernest Hemingway, country music and cancer. His art seems to be as prolific as history itself.