Truman (1995)




Director:  Frank Pierson

Starring:  Gary Sinise Harry S. Truman),  Diana Scarwid (Mrs. Bess Truman),  Amelia Campbell (Margaret Truman),  Richard Dysart (Henry L. Stimson),  Colm Feore (Charlie Ross),  James Gammon (Sam Rayburn, speaker of the House),  Tony Goldwyn (Clark Clifford, white house attorney),  Pat Hingle (Boss Tom Pendergast),  Harris Yulin (Gen. George C. Marshall),  Zeljko Ivanek (Eddie Jacobsen),  David Lansbury (Lt. Jim Pendergast),  Marian Seldes (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Based on David McCullough's Pulitzer Price biography, Gary Sinise does a wonderful job of portraying the man from Missouri who was a plain talker and straight shooter. He was senator, then vice-president, and then the 33rd president of the United States, replacing Franklin Delano Roosevelt when the wheelchair-bound president died while still in office near the end of World War II. He replaced Gen. McArthur for insubordination during the Korean War in the 1950s.



Good movie.  The movie is a biography of Truman beginning when he was 33 years old and a Captain of artillery in World War I and finishing with Truman's retirement from American politics.  There is not much point in summarizing the movie because it is such a straight forward telling of Truman's life and the political events of his time.  If you want a summary, it is simpler to just read the brief biography below, which provides some needed background information as well as the basics.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

Harry Truman:

1884  -- born to John Truman, a Missouri livestock trader, and his wife Margaret, a housewife.  His mother appreciated the arts and he, a timid child, dreams of becoming a classical pianist.

His eyes were so bad that his plans to attend the US Military Academy at West Point were spoiled.  In addition, his father's failed business spoils his plans for college.

1901  --  heads for Kansas City; studies business at Spalding's Commercial College, but drops out after one semester; job as a mailroom clerk; and as a timekeeper at a railroad construction outfit.

1903  -- goes into banking, works for Kansas City's Union National Bank.

1906  --  his father's farm fails, so Harry at age 21, returns to Grandview to help run the farm. For eight years he farms, to little avail.

1911  -- proposed marriage to Elizabeth "Bess" Wallace, the woman he has loved since childhood. She, from a prominent family, turns him down.  

1914  -- his father dies of cancer.

1916  --  invests in a zinc and lead mine in Commerce, Oklahoma, hoping to cash in on a rise in metal prices caused by WWI. Later he puts money into Oklahoma oil wells. Both ventures fail and Truman goes broke.

1917  --  joins the Second Missouri Field Artillery Regiment to fight in World War I. Trains at Camp Doniphan in Oklahoma.

1918  -- receives a captain's commission and ships out to France. Takes command of Battery D. Truman forces the rowdy Kansas City Irishmen to buckle under, rewarding those who obey, punishing those who do not.

1918, August 29  --  Battery D fires 500 rounds of artillery, but many run when the Germans attack.  Truman drives his men back to their positions.   Later, Truman leads his men across the French countryside, hammering the Germans while never losing a man. He returns home a hero.

1919  --  marries Bess Wallace and the couple lives with Bess' mother. Truman and his army buddy Edward Jacobson open a men's clothing store in Kansas City.

1922  -- store goes under.  Another army friend, Jim Pendergast, has an uncle, Tom, that runs the Kansas City Democratic political machine. Truman wins the election for commissioner of Jackson County, Missouri.

1934  -- in a rigged election, Truman wins the US Senate seat, backed by the Pendergast machine.

Truman runs with FDR as the vice-presidential candidate.

1945, April 12  -- on the death of President FDR, Truman becomes President of the United States. Decides to drop the atomic bomb on Japan to end WWII.  

1946 --  midterm elections; voters give solid majorities in both houses of Congress to the GOP.

1947, March 12  --  Truman asks Congress for $400 million in emergency aid for Turkey and Greece, which face internal and external Communist threats. In his speech, the president states what becomes known as the Truman Doctrine: "I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Congress overwhelmingly approves the aid.

1948  -- Truman faces an uphill battle against Republican Thomas Dewey, the popular governor of New York. Every poll shows Dewey the winner.  Truman begins a whistle stop tour by train.  He tars the Republicans with charges of  bias for the rich.

Henry Wallace, Roosevelt's former left-wing vice-president and secretary of commerce, runs as the candidate for the Progressive party candidate. Conservative Southerners, angered at Truman's support for civil rights, split from the Democrats after the convention to form the States' Rights Democratic party, with Strom Thurmond as their candidate. In further campaigning, Truman's battle cry becomes "Give `em hell, Harry".

1948, November 2  --  Truman defeats Dewey, even though almost everyone expected Dewey to win, and many early editions of newspapers announced a Dewey victory.

1950, June 24  -- Soviet-backed North Korea invades South Korea in an attempt to unify Korea under communism.  Truman sends weapons to South Korea and orders American bombing raids on North Korea. Truman asks the United Nations to form a US-led intervention force and gets it.

Truman approves Inchon landing by MacArthur behind North Korean lines.  The bold gamble is a success, but MacArthur brings China into the war by trying to take all of North Korea from the communists.  In November, 250,000 Chinese soldiers attack across the North Korean border and overwhelm UN forces.  The arrogant and disrespectful MacArthur gets himself fired by Truman, but the president's popularity takes a nose-dive.

1953  -- Truman leaves office with the war still raging.  President Eisenhower is finally able to bring the troops home after the war returns to where it started at a division of North and South Korea at the 38th parallel.  


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