Sunrise at Campobello
Directed by Vincent J. Donehue
Written by Dore Schary
Dore Schary Productions
First viewing/YouTube rental
Ralph Bellamy is fantastic in this solid bio-pic about FDR’s battle with polio.
It is 1921. Franklin (Bellamy) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Greer Garson) are enjoying an idyllic summer vacation with their five children on Campobello island. Franklin feels a bit puny. By morning he cannot walk. His close friend and political advisor Louis Howe (Hume Cronyn) comes to help out while the doctors puzzle over his condition. Soon enough, infantile paralysis (polio) is diagnosed. FDR’s prognosis is uncertain. Howe and Eleanor nurse him tenderly
Before long, things are complicated enormously by the arrival of Franklin’s mother Sarah, who is the very definition of a stubborn, “difficult” person. Sarah detests the asthmatic Howe, whom she constantly refers to as a “vulgar little man” and so, in truth, do most of FDR’s children. It is Howe, however, that gives FDR the will to carry on by holding out the carrot of a political future. Sarah would rather have him retire permanently to the family home at Hyde Park.
Eleanor is the “heart” of the family and gives FDR loving support. She becomes a political asset when she reluctantly takes over speech-making duties. The rest of the film follows FDR’s efforts to recover leading up to the 20 steps he must take to reach the platform where he is to deliver the Democratic Convention speech nominating Al Smith. The rest is history. With Jean Hagen as FDR’s secretary.
Garson snagged the Oscar nomination but a dental prosthesis was not sufficient to make the gorgeous redhead resemble Eleanor Roosevelt in the slightest and her speech patterns also seemed off. Bellamy on the other hand is absolutely believable and was robbed at Oscar time. Hume Cronyn is fantastic as well. Recommended if the subject matter appeals.
Sunrise at Campobello was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; and Best Sound.