Review: ‘Sunrise at Campobello’

In the journey from stage to screen this chapter from the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt loses none of its poignant and inspirational qualities, none of its humor and pathos. Dore Schary, as author-producer of the play and the film, can take just pride in this grandslam feat. And this satisfaction is to be shared also by Ralph Bellamy, whose brilliant portrayal of Roosevelt, and Vincent J. Donehue, the director, clicked so resoundingly on Broadway.

In the journey from stage to screen this chapter from the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt loses none of its poignant and inspirational qualities, none of its humor and pathos. Dore Schary, as author-producer of the play and the film, can take just pride in this grandslam feat. And this satisfaction is to be shared also by Ralph Bellamy, whose brilliant portrayal of Roosevelt, and Vincent J. Donehue, the director, clicked so resoundingly on Broadway.

The period is 1921, when polio shatters a joyous family vacation on the island retreat of Campobello, to 1924, when Roosevelt re-emerged in public to put in Al Smith’s name as a presidential hopeful at the Democratic convention and in the process, lit his own political star.

Campobello opened a new career for Schary as a playwright in 1958, shortly after he exited as production head of M-G-M. The film is also a brilliant new showcase for Greer Garson. She comes through as Eleanor Roosevelt with a deeply moving, multifaceted characterization.

There is a third tower of strength in the person of Hume Cronyn as Louis Howe, the wizened, asthmatic, devoted friend and political Svengali to Roosevelt. There is, considering the sober nature of the subject, a surprising amount of humor in Campobello and a good measure of it is deftly generated by Cronyn.

Franz Waxman’s score makes a big contribution, notably to the convention sequence. Pic begins with an overture, about eight minutes, of melodious oldtimers.

1960: Nominations: Best Actress (Greer Garson), Color Costume Design, Color Art Direction, Sound

Sunrise at Campobello

Production

Warner. Director Vincent J. Donehue; Producer Dore Schary; Screenplay Dore Schary; Camera Russell Harlan; Editor George Boemler; Music Franz Waxman; Art Director Edward Carrere

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1960. Running time: 144 MIN.

With

Ralph Bellamy Greer Garson Hume Cronyn Jean Hagen Ann Shoemaker Tim Considine

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