'Hyde Park on Hudson' Should Have Focused on Serious, Little-Known FDR Speculations Over Satire

Yahoo Contributor Network

How much do you really know about Franklin Delano Roosevelt to this day other than consistent caricatures of how he's still being depicted in film? As much as we all anticipated Bill Murray playing FDR in "Hyde Park on Hudson", critics haven't really warmed to at least the movie itself. Let's also admit that you have to watch Bill Murray upside-down and squinty eyed to really see him physically accurate in the guise of FDR.

You have to give "Hyde Park" at least one credit: They didn't shy away from the notion that FDR was shacking and shagging with another woman other than his beloved Eleanor. It's a first in a movie about FDR, even if the details about Roosevelt's relationship with his sixth cousin, Margaret Suckley, are all conjecture here. What the film generally breaks down to is pure satire, which may be the only way to tackle the lives of Presidents without getting close to image tarnishing.

A satiric lead could have been fostered by Oliver Stone's George W. Bush biopic "W." four years ago. The only exception is Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln", outside the fact it has more laugh-out-loud comedy moments than any Adam Sandler so-called comedy. Apparently "Hyde Park" wanted to find that odd balance.

The problem with FDR is that we prefer his myth rather than the painful facts available in hidden corners of the public domain. He's been resurrected as a Democratic hero during the 2012 Presidential election, particularly his "I Warn You" speech from over 75 years ago. Many people still don't want to pry into the fact that his health was closer to death's door than anybody will admit to this day.

Other than past film performances of FDR showing his struggle with Polio, it was compelling evidence he had fatal Melanoma that's been neglected in a biopic. In fact, the cover-up of FDR's health was quite extensive if you go by the rumors the FBI hid away FDR's malignant Melanoma report. But, of course, that might pale in comparison to a real glaring issue: Pearl Harbor.

Books have been written about the notion that FDR possibly let Pearl Harbor happen in order to motivate the United States to enter the war in Europe. With no other movie about FDR ever addressing that through speculation, we might have the perfect setup for a movie covering the President's last four years in office. Having said subject in confluence with the Melanoma report in 1944 adds much more fascinating layers than seeing him gallivanting with his mistresses and world dignitaries.

Yes, that's always been the problem with movies about FDR: He has to look ebullient all the time as he did when putting on his brave face. A downtrodden FDR facing certain death and guilt over the war is one that easily could have been played by Bill Murray. It's perhaps the direction he really wanted to go rather than honing in on satiric drama.

The only shame here is that the only actors who've ever looked the most like FDR and played him the most often (a tie between Ralph Bellamy and Edward Herrmann) never made something described above. Not that Herrmann still couldn't considering he now looks the age FDR was at his sickest when looking 80 at the ripe age of 63.

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