Warm Springs (2005)



Director:  Joseph Sargent.

Starring:  Kenneth Branagh (Franklin Delano Roosevelt), Cynthia Nixon (Eleanor Roosevelt), David Paymer (Louis Howe), Tim Blake Nelson (Tom Loyless), Matt O'Leary (Fred Botts, disabled boy in baggage car of train), Matt Malloy (Lionel Purdy), Andrew Davoli (Jake Perini), Nelsan Ellis (Roy), Jane Alexander (Sara Delano Roosevelt), Kathy Bates (Helena Mahoney).

Made for TV movie.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt overcomes his fear of being pitied as a victim of polio to proceed with his political career


Good, inspirational movie. FDR ran unsuccessfully for Democratic vice-president with Cox running for president. Louis Howe, a key political advisor to FDR, warns his candidate that it is time for him to stop his affair with Miss Mercer, secretary to Mrs. Roosevelt. Soon after, Mrs. Roosevelt discovers the affair and the couple talk divorce. But they are both overruled by FDR's powerful mother and the couple have to work it out.

FDR is soon diagnosed with polio. Life as he knew it is over.

In 1924 FDR received a letter from George Foster Peabody praising the high magnesium content of the waters of Warm Springs (at Bullochville Railway Station) as a potential treatment for polio. FDR and his wife decide to visit the place, which they find to be very run-down. But the manager of the place, Tom Loyless, talks FDR into overlooking the faults of the place and think about the positive effects of warm water therapy on his legs. The future president of the United States decides to stay at Warm Springs. (He wants to avoid the prying eyes of the curious.)

Advisor Howe decides that if FDR cannot push himself forward politically, Mrs. Roosevelt can. She proves a very reluctant speaker, but she discovers that she is good at it. She begins to make speeches before such groups as the League of Women Voters and the Child Welfare League of America.

FDR comes to be so enamored of the possibilities of Warm Springs that he decides to purchase the 1200 acres and the buildings. His goal is to make it the first polio rehabilitation center in the world.

When Mrs. Roosevelt and Howe visit Warm Springs, they are impressed at his plans for the place and his enthusiastic spirit. Howe says: "Hes ready," that is, to go back into politics.

But then FDR receives a devastating report that his own physical situation shows very little improvement and that he will have to adjust to this truth. He becomes depressed all over again and refuses any suggestion of a future political life. He rejects all the logic and reasoning of his wife, his advisor and his physical therapist, Helena Mahoney.

From this low, how can FDR come out of his doldrums to go on to a career in politics that would include the governorship of New York state and the presidency of the United States?

Both Kenneth Branagh and Cynthia Nixon are great as Franklin and Eleanor.

Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D.



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