The List: Top actors who portrayed FDR

Jon Voight as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the movie “Pearl Habor.” (Courtesy Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

Bill Murray stars as Franklin D. Roosevelt in the film “Hyde Park on Hudson,” which tells the story of the first time a reigning British monarch made a visit to America. In June of 1939, King George VI came to stay with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams) at their house in Hyde Park, N.Y. Also in attendance was Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), FDR’s reported mistress. The List this week looks at other actors who have played FDR.

  • 13. Jack Young — His voice was used as FDR’s in “Edge of Darkness” (1943) and “This Is the Army” (1943), and two other war films in 1943.
  • 12. John Anderson — The prolific actor, who starred in “Gunsmoke” and as Dr. Herbert Stiles on CBS’ “Dallas,” was cast as FDR in “Backstairs at the White House” (1979). The four-part TV series featured what went on behind the scenes at the White House during eight administrations, as told by the people who work there.
  • 11. John Lithgow — Best known for his starring role as Dick Solomon in the 1996–2001 NBC sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun,” Mr. Lithgow played FDR in the TV series “World War II: When Lions Roared” (1994) alongside Michael Caine (Stalin) and Bos Hoskins (Churchill). Mr. Lithgow has been nominated twice for an Academy Award.
  • 10. Dan O’Herlihy — The tall and distinguished Irish actor played FDR in the Gregory Peck feature “MacArthur” (1977). In 1954, he was cast in titular role in “Robinson Crusoe” and was nominated for an Oscar for the part.
  • 9. Godfrey Tearle — The British actor was one of the first to play Roosevelt as an actual character when he appeared in the war film “The Beginning or the End” in 1947. Earlier, he had made an impression in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller “The 39 Steps” (1935).
  • 8. Art Gilmore — Famed radio announcer provided the voice of Roosevelt in “The Reluctant Dragon” (1941), “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942) and “Action in the North Atlantic” (1943). Gilmore narrated numerous TV shows, included 156 episodes of “Highway Patrol” in the 1950s.
  • 7. Kenneth Branagh — The British actor earned high praise for portraying Roosevelt in the HBO film “Warm Springs” (2005). The film follows FDR’s life after he is struck down polio at 39 years of age and how he seeks a cure
  • 6. Christopher Plummer — “The Sound of Music” star appeared in a cameo role as FDR in the HBO TV film “Winchell” (1998), seeking advice from famed newspaper columnist and gossipmonger Walter Winchell (Stanley Tucci) on how to fight Hitler.
  • 5. Jason Robards — Robards, who also played presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln, starred as Roosevelt in the TV film “F.D.R.: The Last Year,” (1980).
  • 4. Jon Voight — The Oscar-winning actor played a very credible Roosevelt in “Pearl Harbor” (2001). In one of the best scenes in the film, Mr. Voight tries to revive morale before his defeated-looking generals by standing up on his paralyzed legs. “It can be done,” he says.
  • 3. Edward Herrmann — The 6-foot-5 D.C. native, has played FDR three times, in the popular musical “Annie” (1982) and in “Eleanor and Franklin” (1976) and its sequel, “Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.” He also hosted the hosted the documentary about Roosevelt called “FDR: A Presidency Revealed” in 2005 on the History Channel.
  • 2. Robert Vaughn — Mr. Vaughn has portrayed at least three presidents during his acting career. He portrayed Roosevelt in “FDR: That Man in the White House” (1982), a television version of his famed one-man play about FDR written by Dore Schary, which opened in 1977. Mr. Vaughn also played the 32nd president in the TV film “Murrow,” (1986). He also portrayed Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Harry S. Truman. Mr. Vaughn, 80, is famous for his TV role on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and is currently starring in the BBC series “Hustle”.
  • 1. Ralph Bellamy — The soft-voiced stage actor probably produced the best portrayal of FDR on the screen. Bellamy played the popular president in “Sunrise at Campobello,” (1960) concerning the events surrounding Roosevelt’s illness, which co-starred Greer Garson. He then reprised the role in the brilliant TV miniseries “The Winds of War” (1983) and its sequel, “War and Remembrance” (1988-89).

Compiled by John Haydon
Source: IMDb, britannica.com, yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk, Chicago Sun Times and Detroit Free Press.

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