Cast & Crew
Vincent J. Donehue
In the summer of 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt spends carefree months at his summer home on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada with his wife Eleanor and their five precocious children. While enjoying the sunset on 10 August, he loses strength in his legs and falls. By sunrise, he has fallen again and a specialist later diagnoses the problem as infantile paralysis or poliomyelitis. Word of Franklin's debility brings to the island his close friend and shrewd advisor, Louis McHenry Howe, who has an almost mystical belief that Franklin's political career is "ordained."
A couple weeks later, Franklin's mother, Sara Delano, an overbearing widow who finds the asthmatic Louie's dry humor and unpretentious conversation vulgar, arrives from overseas. Louie is a source of comfort and stability for Eleanor, who has been Franklin's only nurse on the understaffed island, and he is able to assure the oldest son, James, of his father's ability to win tough battles. However, with the domineering Sara, who obviously dislikes him, Louie can manage only the civilities and refuses to discourage Franklin from public service and "grandiose schemes," as she wishes. Franklin, despite his secret despair, continues to plan for a busy future and Louie orders Franklin's secretary, Missy Le Hand, to believe in him.
At the end of the summer, the time when the family usually returns to New York, Franklin is still bedridden and the press is staking out the area, clamoring to see evidence of his weakened condition. To protect Franklin's reputation, Louie arranges for his departing family to serve as a decoy to lure the press away from Franklin, who is transported separately by stretcher to a different ferry. Afterward, Louie releases a confident announcement about Franklin's expected recovery, while Franklin is hospitalized for several months. After returning to his home in New York City, Franklin is fitted into leg braces, puts wheels on a chair and invents other gadgets to help him go about his daily tasks, in the belief that he will someday completely recover. With the help of Missy and Louie, Franklin maintains a public presence through correspondence, providing support for Woodrow Wilson's efforts toward world peace. Although he keeps actively engaged in the affairs of the world, he confides to Eleanor that he feels lonely and has nightmares about being trapped in a fire. To her surprise, he explains that he is teaching himself to crawl. Perceiving "fire" as a symbol of his trials, he believes that there is a reason he must endure them and that by having "to crawl before he can walk" again, he is learning humility. Hoping the news will lift his spirits, Louie reports that the New York Democratic Party is considering him for candidacy for governor, and Louie coaches Eleanor to be Franklin's "eyes, ears and legs" in the world by delivering speeches that he writes.
Meanwhile, Franklin continues to pursue his many private interests, such as the Boy Scouts and the possibility of implementing air travel by dirigible. Claiming that the doctors have ordered Franklin to cut back on his activities, Louie urges Franklin to drop some of his organizations and interests in order to focus on upcoming Congressional elections, telling him that he should "let the people know" through his writing that he is a man of opinions and convictions. When Franklin crawls up the stairs to take a nap, Eleanor sees it as a small triumph of personal independence, but Sara is concerned about appearances. After Sara insists on trying to force her will on Franklin, Eleanor goes off alone to cry. Although Louie reassures her that she deserves a good cry, Eleanor announces that she "will never do that again."
In July 1923, the family is summering at Hyde Park, where Franklin, much recovered but still unable to walk, roughhouses with his sons. He tells Eleanor that he now feels "sure-footed," and that Eleanor's public appearances, Louie's "shenanigans" and his own written statements have kept "his head above water." In a private moment, Franklin and Eleanor, who are distant cousins, discuss with amusement how their respective families opposed their marriage. Franklin believes that he made the better bargain and admits that he was too haughty in his younger years. Eleanor confides that she was an awkward adolescent who felt unloved, until Franklin made her feel "needed." Their daughter Anna, who has been unhappy and rebellious, abruptly interrupts their conversation. When Eleanor confronts her, Anna admits she feels left out, and she, Eleanor and Franklin agree that they need to talk to one another more often.
In January 1924, the family is back in New York City, where Eleanor is gaining confidence as a public speaker. The controlling Sara, who considers politics "tawdry," urges Franklin to live a quiet life of luxury at the family's Hyde Park mansion and to give up trying to make the world the "same for all people." She reminds him that the wealthy serve the world through noblesse oblige , but he retorts that the idea is another name for indifference. An argument ensues, in which she supports herself by claiming that his cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, died because of ambition of the people around him, but Franklin will discuss the matter no more. He becomes more determined to lift himself out of the chair and walk with crutches. For the upcoming presidential election, a Catholic, Governor Alfred E. Smith, is hoping to run as the Democratic candidate, but must first combat strong anti-Catholic bias. Guessing that Smith might ask the highly respected, "Protestant, dry and rural" Franklin to make the nominating speech at the Democratic Convention, Louie suggests that doing so is a way for Franklin to prove to the world that he has a political future. However, Louie concedes, that there is the chance that Franklin could fail, because, as Eleanor points out, the speaker must be able to stand before the crowd for at least forty-five minutes. Franklin admits that, if asked, he "would have to go into training" to be able to walk to the lectern and stand that long. When Smith visits Franklin, after some seemingly idle conversation to determine Franklin's physical ability and political opinions, he asks Franklin to make the nominating speech. After Smith leaves, Franklin arranges to get a blueprint of the area of Madison Square Garden where the convention will be held, and he and Louie estimate that he will need to walk on crutches ten steps to the podium. "Work hard," Louie advises. "They're liable to be the biggest ten steps you ever took in your life." On the night of the convention, Franklin has James roll his wheelchair near the podium, having joked to his son earlier that if he falls, "be sure to pick me up in a hurry." After the chair comes to a stop, Franklin uses his hands to place his braced legs into position and then rises, as the hall becomes quiet. He walks the ten steps with deliberation and when he arrives at the podium and hands James his crutches, the crowd cheers.
Vincent J. Donehue
Francis De Sales
Robert "buddy" Shaw
Robert B. Williams
James W. Blake
George James Hopkins
Charles B. Lawlor
M. A. Merrick
Robert J. Miller
Jean Burt Reilly
John Philip Sousa
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Sunrise at Campobello - Sunrise at Campbello
The tale opens in August 1921 at the Roosevelt family's New Brunswick summer home, where Roosevelt (Ralph Bellamy) is rebounding comfortably from the prior year's rebuff of his vice-presidential candidacy in the loving company of his wife Eleanor (Greer Garson) and children. While mulling the future course of his career, he finds himself unable to shake the chill of an afternoon swim. Before long, he has lost the sensation in his legs. Under the worried ministrations of Eleanor, his mother (Ann Shoemaker), and his close advisor Louis Howe (Hume Cronyn), he recovers enough to make an audacious getaway back to New York, managing to conceal his infirmity from the encroaching members of the press.
In the months that follow, the restless Roosevelt searches for ways to direct his pent-up energies. He tirelessly corresponds with Democratic leaders over policy, encourages his reticent wife to lift her public profile so she may act as his eyes and ears, and struggles to strengthen himself so he can once again stand. Howe endeavors to keep his political ambitions burning, much to the dismay of the imperious Mother Roosevelt, who considered politics unseemly for her son even prior to his affliction. His moment of truth comes when New York Governor Al Smith offers him the opportunity to place his name in nomination at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, as long as he is able to man the podium. The spectacle of the convention makes for a memorably rousing finale.
If Schary hadn't recruited him for the stage production of Sunrise at Campobello, Bellamy's professional legacy may have primarily been his string of comic portrayals of dull fiancés who get thrown over for the leading man. He does an impeccable job of capturing the diverse facets of a larger-than-life persona--the wit, the integrity, the compassion for the common man, and the iron determination necessary to confront the hand that fate dealt him. "A peculiar thing about Sunrise is that everyone knew the story before they came to the theatre, but in spite of that there was suspense," Bellamy recounted in his 1979 autobiography When the Smoke Hits the Fan (Doubleday). "I think the appeal was the indomitability of the human spirit--the courage and will to live."
As recounted in his autobiography Heyday, Schary had considered casting Anthony Quayle as FDR when his wife suggested Bellamy, who, as fate would have it, lived in the Manhattan apartment building across the street from the Scharys. Within a few hours of the script's delivery, the actor called Schary and wanted to know when rehearsals would start. "The next morning the doorbell rang I opened the door and there stood Ralph, a cigarette holder clenched perkily in his mouth, a fedora perched on his head with the front brim turned up, and a broad smile on his face," Schary recalled. "I grabbed his hand and said, 'Mr. President, welcome.'"
At the time of Sunrise at Campobello's release, Garson took a certain amount of critical flak for her portrayal, from the dental appliance used to simulate Mrs. Roosevelt's overbite to the mannered effort to replicate the lilt of her speech. This niggling tends to obscure the fact that her work here is among the most emotionally honest of her career, from the moments of quiet spousal affection to those where the stresses of her circumstances bring brief cracks in her resolve. Her work would be responsible for the film's sole Academy Award nomination.
To helm the film, Schary retained his Broadway director, Vincent J. Donehue, who delivered a first rate film for his first Hollywood assignment. "I've always responded to young directors in film and saw no reason why I should not use the same yardstick of choice in the theater--enthusiasm, taste, a devotion to the theme, knowledge of the medium, and the breath of authority," Schary recalled of his hiring of Donehue. Among the supporting cast, Cronyn stands out as the asthmatic, sardonic Howe, and Alan Bunce is effective in reprising his stage characterization of the Happy Warrior. Smith was the first Catholic to be a major party's candidate for the Presidency, and in the year of John Kennedy's run, Schary doubtless understood the resonance of the film's sequence where Roosevelt rebuffs a bigoted politico who sought to scuttle his endorsement of Smith.
Producer: Dore Schary
Director: Vincent J. Donehue
Screenplay: Dore Schary
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Film Editing: George Boemler
Art Direction: Edward Carrere
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Ralph Bellamy (Franklin D. Roosevelt), Greer Garson (Eleanor Roosevelt), Hume Cronyn (Louis Howe), Jean Hagen (Missy Le Hand), Ann Shoemaker (Sara Roosevelt), Alan Bunce (Al Smith).
by Jay S. Steinberg
Sunrise at Campobello - Sunrise at Campbello
According to the Hollywood Reporter review, the film originally began with an eight-minute overture, and was shown with an intermission eighty minutes into the film. Neither the overture nor the intermission were retained in the print viewed, which was 144 minutes in duration. Although most sources report a 144 minute duration, the New York Times review listed 155 minutes, which May have taken into account part of the overture and intermission. The opening onscreen credits of the lead performers appears in reverse order of the ending credits, which also list character names that are superimposed on pictures of the cast members. Dore Schary's onscreen credit reads "written and produced by Dore Schary." Following the opening credits of the lead players, other cast members are listed who do not appear in the ending credits. FDR's secretary's name was spelled onscreen as "Missy Le Hand." Some sources spell the real-life LeHand's name without a space.
After most of the opening credits, a written acknowledgment appears thanking Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Congressman James Roosevelt and Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. for their "invaluable aid"; and acknowledging Dr. Herman Kahn, director of the Hyde Park Memorial Library, and his entire staff for their guidance; the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service for permission to photograph the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site; Hammer Galleries, Inc. for providing facilities at Roosevelt Cottage on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada; and to Hunter College for permission to photograph Roosevelt House in New York City. "Invictus," the poem referred to several times during the film, which ends with the phrase, "I am the captain of my soul," was written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), whose leg was amputated as a result of a childhood bout with tuberculosis.
Like the play on which it was based, Sunrise at Campobello follows four years in the lives of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) and his wife, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), before he became the 32nd president of the United States. Franklin, nicknamed "FDR" in later years, was born into an old and wealthy Hyde Park, NY family. Educated at Harvard College and Columbia Law School, he married his distant cousin Eleanor in 1905. They had six children, five of whom survived into adulthood and appeared as characters in the film: Anna Eleanor (1906-1975), James (1907-1991), Franklin Delano, Jr. (1909), Elliott (1910-1990), Franklin Delano, Jr. (1914-1988) and John Aspinwall (1916-1981).
As mentioned in the film, FDR served in the New York State Senate and as assistant secretary of the navy for Woodrow Wilson, and ran unsuccessfully in 1920 for vice president with James Cox. He was considered a leading Democrat when, in 1921, he was struck by poliomyelitis, an incurable disease that left his legs paralyzed. As shown in the film, he committed himself to recovery through an arduous rehabilitation process and mental determination that was supported by Mrs. Roosevelt and his close friends.
As depicted in the film, FDR's efforts to restore his political reputation after the onset of his illness were largely aided by Louis McHenry Howe (1871-1936), a former newspaper reporter who had turned to politics. As briefly mentioned in the film, Howe was witness to FDR's anti-Tammany Hall efforts when the latter was a New York state senator. After accepting Mrs. Roosevelt's invitation to manage FDR's 1912 re-election campaign, Howe became a devoted friend and lifelong colleague to both FDR and Mrs. Roosevelt, and, as shown in the film, was a major force in preserving FDR's political reputation during his bout with polio.
Also, as noted in the film, Howe coached Mrs. Roosevelt in her public speaking and political and literary pursuits. According to Schary in a May 1960 Los Angeles Examiner article, "most people at that time had come to think of [FDR] as a wheel-chair invalid who would be unable to lead an active life." According to modern sources, Howe's own efforts and those of Mrs. Roosevelt's, under his tutelage, were instrumental in convincing New York Governor and presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith to support FDR in his pursuit of further political offices. The Democratic National Convention, which was FDR's first public appearance after being stricken with polio three years before and which was depicted in the final sequence of the film, occurred in June 1924.
Fulfilling Howe's early prediction of his future, FDR was elected president in 1932 in a landslide victory over Herbert Hoover, campaigning on his "New Deal" policies. Howe served as FDR's personal secretary and championed several of his and Mrs. Roosevelt's causes. Howe's frail, asthmatic health was always a lifelong challenge and he died in 1936 after a lengthy hospital stay. FDR was reelected again in 1940 and served a total of twelve years as president until his death in 1945. Mrs. Roosevelt became an elder stateswoman and continued her public service throughout her life.
The film's producer-screenwriter, Dore Schary, a former head of production at M-G-M, wrote the play on which the film is based. In the preface to the published play, Schary wrote that he first envisioned the ending of the play, in which FDR is standing on the Madison Square Garden podium. In January 1957, he decided to write the play and received permission from Mrs. Roosevelt by March 1957. According to the preface, Schary read "everything that was written" about the president and noted details, such as the manner in which he was carried from Campobello, the first day he wore leg braces, his favorite readings, the conflicts with his mother Sara, his business ventures and the exact dimensions of the kitchen chair he converted into a wheelchair.
The play ran on Broadway for 556 performances from January 1958 through May 1959. Directed by Vincent J. Donehue, who also directed the film, the Tony Award-winning play starred Ralph Bellamy, who reprised his role as "Roosevelt" in the film version. According to a February 1959 New York Times article, Schary first announced his plans to make a film version of his play in April 1957. A February 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Warner Bros. paid Schary $500,000 for the film rights to the play. Although Schary had planned to make the picture for United Artists distribution, the news item speculated that he changed his plans after Lonelyhearts, his 1958 picture released by UA after his departure from M-G-M, failed at the box office. The February 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item also announced that it was "definite" that Bellamy would reprise his Broadway role.
However, a January 1959 Variety article reported that Bellamy had originally claimed that he was too old, at age 55, to portray FDR at the ages of 39 through 42 on film and announced that Marlon Brando looked set for the film role. In a February 1959 New York Times article, Schary "scotched rumors" that Brando would play the "pre-presidential" FDR. A July 1959 Beverly Hills Citizen reported that Bellamy was still concerned about playing a younger role that was being filmed in Technicolor close-ups and that Charlton Heston, who was then in his mid-thirties, was being contacted as an alternate for the part.
In addition to Bellamy, Alan Bunce and Ann Shoemaker, who portrayed "Governor Alfred E. Smith" and "Sara Delano Roosevelt," respectively, also reprised their Broadway roles for the film. Although May 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items reported that actor Henry Jones was given time out from his role in the 1960 film Cash McCall to reprise his Broadway role as Howe, Jones did not appear in Sunrise at Campobello, and Hume Cronyn played Howe in the film. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Hollywood Reporter news items add O. L. Yager and Linnea McGowan Calder to the cast.
According to an April 1960 Variety news item, Schary signed an interim agreement with the Screen Actors Guild allowing him to begin production on the film prior to the ending of the actors' strike against the major film studios, which ran 7 March-April 18, 1960. Although scenes involving Greer Garson and Bellamy were the first to be filmed, the 1924 Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden sequence, which appears at the end of the picture, was the first major sequence to be shot, according to an April 1960 Hollywood Citizen-News article.
According to studio production notes, the convention sequence was staged in the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium. Studio production notes and Hollywood Reporter news items specify that exterior sequences of the film were shot at actual historical locales: the lawn of Hyde Park and boating scenes in the Bay of Fundy at the Island of Campobello and Bangor, ME. The exact replicas of the interiors of the Campobello summer home, the Hyde Park mansion and the Roosevelts' New York City home on 65th Street were recreated on the Warner Bros. set, the latter using photographs.
Before the completed film was reviewed, Sunrise at Campobello drew attention, according to a September 1960 Daily Variety article, because its sequences about the religious bias against Catholic Democratic candidate Smith paralleled anti-Catholic sentiment against John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate (and eventual winner) of the 1960 presidential election. Although he claimed he was "under fire" for making "some sort of oblique plug" for Kennedy in his film, Schary insisted that his play, which was written several years earlier, was "based squarely on documented historical facts" and that he "never had any political motivations."
The Hollywood Reporter review described the film as "a non-partisan account of a stirring battle of personal courage." According to an October 1960 Daily Variety news item, U.S. Nazis picketed the Washington, D.C. opening and falsely reported a fire at a neighboring building to the theater, in order to block traffic and sabotage the opening, purportedly because they disapproved of FDR as the "hero" of the film. According to a June 1960 Daily Variety news item, the U.S. State Department entered Sunrise at Campobello in the Moscow Film Festival, at which, according to an August 1961 Los Angeles Mirror news item, audience members walked out, possibly after realizing that the film did not depict the war years.
Sunrise at Campbello received several Academy Award nominations, including Garson as Best Actress, Edward Carrere and George James Hopkins for Best Art Direction (Color), Marjorie Best for Best Costume Design (Color) and George Groves for Best Sound. For other films about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, see the following three documentaries, the 1933 Universal film, The Fighting President, the 1947 UA film, The Roosevelt Story and the 1965 Allied Artists film, Eleanor Roosevelt (in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40, 1941-50 and 1961-70, respectively).
Although FDR appeared as a minor character in many films of the 1930s and 1940s, Sunrise at Campobello is his first major, fictional screen biography. In the 1976-77 season, the ABC-TV network aired two miniseries, Eleanor and Franklin and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years, starring Jane Alexander and Edward Herrmann in the title roles. On April 15, 1980, Jason Robards and Eileen Heckart starred as Franklin and Eleanor in the television movie broadcast of F.D.R.: The Last Year, which was directed by Anthony Page. Kenneth Branagh and Cynthia Nixon portrayed the couple in the HBO production, Warm Springs, which was directed by Joseph Sargent and aired on April 30, 2005.
Voted Best Actress (Garson) and One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1960 National Board of Review.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the New York Times FIlm Critics.
Released in United States Fall November 1960
Released in United States Fall November 1960