FDR: The Show
The show chronicles FDR’s White House years including the Depression and WWII. The audience experiences his fireside chats; his controversial packing of the Supreme Court; his personal life with Eleanor and his affair with Lucy Mercer; his courage to break the Neutrality Act; his manipulation of Congress in order to get the country to have a draft; and the Pearl Harbor controversy.
Sunrise at Campobello
FDR is based on Sunrise at Campobello, Dore Schary’s play depicting Roosevelt’s early battles with polio. The play chronicled Roosevelt’s personal journey as the first and only president to be elected for four terms. Sunrise at Campobello made its Broadway debut on January 30, 1958, and was later made into a movie.
The original Broadway production was presented at the Cort Theatre by The Theatre Guild and ran for 556 performances. Ralph Bellamy starred as Roosevelt and won a Tony Award for Best Actor for his portrayal. Others in the cast included Henry Jones as Louis McHenry Howe; Mary Fickett as Eleanor Roosevelt; Anne Seymour as Sara Delano Roosevelt and, in his Broadway debut, James Earl Jones.
The production won three other Tony Awards including Best Play, Best Director of a Play (Vincent J. Donehue), and Best Featured Actor in a Play (Henry Jones). Mary Fickett was nominated for Best Supporting or Featured Actress in a Play.
In 2005, HBO Films released Warm Springs, a made-for-television film about Roosevelt’s presidency and struggle with polio, which was loosely based on Sunrise at Campobello.
FDR: The Man
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. After attending Harvard University and Columbia Law School, Roosevelt married Eleanor Roosevelt and decided to enter politics. He won a seat in the New York Senate in 1910, served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson, and was the 1920 Vice Presidential nominee. In 1921 at the age of 39, Roosevelt contracted polio, which affected him for the rest of his life. He was elected governor of New York in 1928.
FDR became President in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression and quickly created the New Deal program and other social reforms to combat America’s failing economy and bring relief to he unemployed. As the nation slowly began to recover, Roosevelt enacted even more social reforms including Social Security despite protests from the business community. In 1936, after his reelection, he attempted to enlarge the Supreme Court, but Congress failed to enact his legislation.
As the conflict and eventual war in Europe escalated, Roosevelt worked to remain neutral while still supporting the Allied nations. When Germany attacked France and England in 1940, he sent all possible non-military aid. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he led America through World War II. Roosevelt also worked to establish the United Nations so that international disputes could be settled peacefully. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945.
Due to the length of his presidency and the changes he enacted, FDR remains one of the most controversial presidents in American history. A 1999 C-SPAN survey found that historians consider Lincoln, Washington, and Franklin Roosevelt the three greatest American presidents.
Edward Asner was born on November 15, 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri. He attended the University of Chicago and also served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe. Asner has recieved seven Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards and is a member of the TV Academy Hall of Fame.
Asner is best known for his character Lou Grant, who was first introduced on the The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970. In 1977, after the end of the Mary Tyler Moore show, Asner's character was given his own show, Lou Grant, which ran from 1977-1982. Asner is the only actor to win Emmys in both Comedy and Drama for the same role.
Asner is also known for his role as Captain Davies in the mini-series Roots, which earned him an Emmy Award. In Oliver's Stone's 1991 movie JFK, Asner played an FBI operative associated with the assassination conspiracy. He also appeared as a recurring guest star as Wilson White on the television series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip in 2006. Additionally, Asner has provided voice talent for several documentaries, television shows, and films, most recently Up in 2009.
Asner’s New York City Theatre credits include Ivanov, The Tempest, Face of a Hero, King Henry V, and Born Yesterday. Other theatrical credits include Woyzck, Volpone, Windoweis Houses, Dybbuk, Red Gloves, Murder in the Cathedral, Miss Julie, The Seagull, Peer Gynt, Juno and the Paycock, and Oeipus Rex.
Isadore “Dore” Schary began his career in the entertainment industry as a screenwriter Columbia and MGM. In 1939, Schary won an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story for the film Boys Town starring Spencer Tracy. In the 1940s, Schary worked as a producer at several studios and focused his attention on projects with political messages. He was involved on both sides of the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations, protesting the Hollywood Blacklist despite helping to craft the controversial Walfdorf Statement. Schary became chief of production at MGM in 1948. He became president of MGM from 1951-1956. He then focused on writing, producing, and directing on Broadway. Schary wrote and produced Sunrise at Campobello in 1958 and wrote the screenplay for the film version in 1960. Dore Schary died in 1980.
The Theatre Guild
The Theatre Guild is a theatrical society founded in New York City in 1919. Its original purpose was to produce non-commercial works by American and foreign playwrights. It differed from other theaters at the time in that its board of directors shared the responsibilities of selecting and producing plays.
The Theatre Guild contributed greatly to the success of Broadway from the 1920s throughout the 1970s. President John F. Kennedy commissioned the Guild to assemble a US theatre company to tour the capitals of Europe and South America with works by Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder, and William Gibson. In 1968, the Guild became involved in travel by taking 25 of its subscribers to European capitals to see plays. In 1975, it instituted its Theatre At Sea program with a 17-day cruise aboard the Rotterdam; since then they have hosted more than thirty cruises.
The Guild has produced a total of 228 plays on Broadway, including 18 by George Bernard Shaw and seven by Eugene O’Neill. In the field of musical theatre, the Guild has promoted works by Richard Rodgers, teamed with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, George and Ira Gershwin, Jule Styne, and Meredith Wilson. Notable productions include Porgy and Bess, The Philadelphia Story, Oklahoma!, and Carousel.