Edited by Mark Fason
Written by Don Campbell
Narrated by Edward Herrmann
- Biography Episode: “Teddy Roosevelt: From Roughrider to Rushmore”
- Additional Roosevelt biographical information
- Roosevelt family tree
- Richard Dreyfuss filmography
Released by: A&E Home Video.
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Rent It.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States of America, confuses a lot of people. He is a mass of contradictions: he was from a rich family, but championed the working class; he preserved the American wilderness, but went to safari in Africa; he won the Nobel Peace Prize, but almost single-handedly started the Spanish-American War. He was also the ultimate contradiction as a historical figure: he was a legend, but also a man. Teddy Roosevelt: An American Lion explores these juxtapositions and examines this extraordinary life through his sickly childhood and his adulthood as a warrior, crusader, and statesman.
[ad#longpost]The History Channel has been putting out some good documentaries lately, like Russia: Land of the Tsars, and this one is no exception. Its presentation of historical reenactments to simulate events is to be expected, but they also use actual film clips of Teddy to bring the man’s intensity across. Using Richard Dreyfuss as Teddy’s voice was inspired since he can deliver all of Teddy’s passion and tenacity in his signature high-pitched delivery. Along with the usual historians and researchers to discuss Roosevelt’s life and place in history, they also had surviving members of his family on hand for some personal anecdotes, and even President Clinton and Governor of New York George Pataki to discuss Teddy’s influence on politics. The documentary also shows some of Teddy’s weaknesses, like how after the near-firestorm caused by his dinner with Booker T. Washington, he backed away from race politics. There’s also how he would attack his political rivals, like William Taft and Woodrow Wilson, both personally as well as politically. This was an all-around, well-handled portrayal of a larger than life man.
The features are pretty minor except for the extra Biography episode. The Roosevelt family tree and some more information on Roosevelt is nice and the filmography of Dreyfuss is a nice plug for him. The Biography episode, however, goes over the same material while adding very little new insight. And the actor they used in this to be Roosevelt’s voice is absolutely horrid; he sounds like he’s talking through his nose. They should have included an episode of one of Roosevelt’s contemporaries like one the industrial robber barons or political foes.
Still, if you want to find out about the man, renting An American Lion is a good idea. Just skip the Biography episode.