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American Experience: Eleanor Roosevelt 2000
Description: Eleanor Roosevelt struggled to overcome an unhappy childhood, betrayal in her marriage, a controlling mother-in-law, and gripping depressions — all the while staying real to her passion for social justice. This biography contains rare home movies, contemporary footage, and reflections from Eleanor’s closest surviving relatives, as well as biographers Blanche Wiesen Cook, Allida Black, and Geoffrey C. Ward, bringing to vibrant life one of the century’s most influential women.
Released: 10 Jan 2000 Director: Sue Williams Writers: Sue Williams Actors: David McCullough, Alfre Woodard Genres: Documentary, History
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American Experience: Eleanor Roosevelt Reviews:

Someone commented that Eleanor Roosevelt saw the globe as one vast slum project.That can be taken two ways. From her lofty social position, high above the clouds, almost anything on the ground would have struck her as shamefully deprived. But behind the gilt and grandeur, her early background was dogged by serious emotional starvation, and she may have felt she was living in some type of spiritual slum, deep inside her.Betrayal, true or perceived, was the theme. Both parents dying young - her adored father, so full of bright promises, followed by her chilly and disapproving mother who made it clear that Eleanor had allow her down by turning out plain. A fresh life in her grandmother's enchanting mansion, unfortunately dominated by a couple of mad, violent uncles. Her husband Franklin seducing her social secretary Lucy, vowing to end the affair, but then carrying on secretly with the support of their own daughter. (Lucy, not Eleanor, was with him when he died.) Even being pitchforked into the job of First Lady, which she had everytime dreaded, but had to endure into an unheard-of fourth term. No wonder she was so desperate in her lifelong find for love, affection and intimacy.Plain she was. Yet there is such a quality as ugly-beautiful. The English actress Edith Evans had it. In some of the early photos, Eleanor has it - a curious brand of femininity peeping through between those massive jowls and the mop of hair that she never bothered to groom.And so it's her personal life that continues to arouse our curiosity first, and her civil rights crusade very much second. We know that she relished a three-year break from her family, when she attended an English boarding-school, run by a headmistress who inspired her with radical feminism, but also with lesbianism.It is when her marriage has gone cold, and she begins to transport in a circle of prominent lesbians, that we first catch her in a new, uninhibited, laughing mode. Then, while campaigning for Franklin's first presidential bid, she engaged in a passionate relationship with reporter Lorena Hickock; you have only to glance at some of their unlimited letters to see through the official claim that it was platonic. At about the same time, though, she was enjoying the company of her bodyguard Earl Miller, who clearly made her happy, though he denied any intimacy. It was rather the same with fellow-activist Joe Lash, and then her doctor and travelling companion David Goreyevitch. The rumours clash and contradict. We just don't know. But a lifelong mate was asked how she would sum-up Eleanor in one word. The word was 'lonely'.Meanwhile in her civil rights work, there were plenty of true slum projects on which to lavish maternal feelings that somehow managed to by-pass her kids (though she ended as a fond grandmother). This also echoed the powerful belief that someone of her status 'owed something back' to society - a rather unfocused proposition, some of us feel. Certainly her attempt to re-build a mining city in West Virginia turned out counter-productive, reflecting a patronising attitude and a hopeless naivety. Depending how much you applaud the United Nations Charter of Human Rights - fought-through by Eleanor - you may or may not feel that she has helped to nurse and nourish the world.But at almost two-and-a half hours, this well-made documentary gives you plenty of time to judge.


When "The American Experience" did an in-depth biography of Franklin Roosevelt, I noticed that the movie really didn't talk very much about his wife, Eleanor. Fortunately, this movie corrects this oversight and focuses on an extraordinary woman.I watched this movie with my wife and for both of us, what we took away from this movie more than anything else was a sense of sadness concerning Eleanor Roosevelt. Her childhood was truly terrible and throughout her life she was, despite her very public image, a lonely and sad lady. I've known for some time about her husband's infidelities but in watching this movie brings it all home. Because of an uncaring husband, you can understand all the rumors concerning her and her nice friend, Hick as well as a several male friends. In her situation, I certainly would expect a girl to be lonely.Of course, there is a lot more of the movie that focuses on the conscience of this remarkable lady. Her tireless efforts for equal rights are laudable when seen today--but at the time, she didn't need to do this--she did it because it was the right thing to do. This powerful sense of social commitment comes through loud and clear.Overall, this is an exceptional film. It's long enough that enough time can be devoted to her without seeming overly long or too superficial. Compelling throughout and one of the better installments in "The American Experience".


What amounts to an intimate portrait of ELEANOR ROOSEVELT and her life behind-the-scenes of FDR's administration, during which time she emerged from the shadows after his polio disease and became the girl who toured relentlessly on his behalf, bringing their message to millions of folks and establishing herself gradually as the outspoken First Lady of politics.All the relationships of the Roosevelt family come into enjoy and a greater understanding of how Eleanor Roosevelt came to be the girl who stood by her husband during all the hard years before, during and after WWII, are expertly displayed in a method that any viewer could search fascinating.Summing up: Valuable as a history lesson and as an intimate portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, her life and the choices she made, both public and private, without ever diminishing her record of achievement.



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