American Presidents on DVD

Lincoln Memorial Source: MarkusR, Flickr
Lincoln Memorial
Source: MarkusR, Flickr

In February, we celebrate President’s Day as a national holiday. Much has been written and recorded about our chief executives, especially on film. Throughout American history, our presidents were in the forefront of issues facing our nation.

 Founding Fathers (2000 TV-Mini-Series), with a cast including Brian Dennehy as George Washington, James Woods as John Adams, and Randy Travis as James Madison, portrayed our initial American chief executives as fallible human beings as well as movers and shakers with their likenesses on our coins and paper money.

Our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, provided and still provides a rich vein of material about a conflicted and resolute leader who kept the nation together and was assassinated in the process. In Lincoln (2012), Steven Spielberg created an excellent opus on the final days of this noble man. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) fictionalizes and satirizes aspects of Lincoln’s rise to the presidency as a fight against evil as personified by bloodthirsty vampires being dispatched by Lincoln’s silver-tipped axe.

The American Presidents 1890-1945, The Emergence of Modern America, The Great Depression & World War II and The American Presidents 1945-2010, Post War & Contemporary United States (2010) is a fairly comprehensive overview of America’s ongoing development as a superpower geared toward the juvenile set. Throughout these narratives, what clearly emerges are the roles of America’s commanders-in-chief. From Teddy Roosevelt “walking softly and carrying a big stick” to Barack Obama as the first African American chief executive, this series delivers a goldmine of info.

 Other recent Hollywood treatments of past presidents include JFK (1991), Nixon (2000), and Hyde Park on Hudson (2012). In JFK controversial director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Salvador, etc.) slants his film toward the conspiracy theory involved in Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas. In Nixon, Stone again treats the viewer to a Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) portrayal of a complex, paranoid Nixon as an adult resigning in disgrace. Hyde Park on Hudson has Bill Murray play FDR during the late 1930s and into WWII as a dynamic leader despite his disability (polio) along with his human frailty (adultery).