Portrait of a Badlands Dandy

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 8.06.56 PMI have just recently set aside a little time to have a look at Ken Burns’s latest effort: The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Visually, it’s exactly what I expected – period film clips conjoined with vintage photographs presented in Burnsian fashion (pan right…pan left…cue Ashokon Farewell, et cetera). Though I find it hard to imagine that Burns will ever duplicate his epic 1990 nine-part documentary masterpiece, The Civil War in either innovation or public acclamation, The Roosevelts is nevertheless worthy of recognition. I particularly appreciated the film’s take on the remarkable transformation of a young Theodore Roosevelt from ninety-eight pound asthmatic to robust outdoorsy American icon – the blue-blooded sheltered wimp to Bull Moose narrative. The juxtaposition of New York patrician and rugged Dakota Badlandian is especially absorbing…right down to the custom tailored hinterland garb and Tiffany silver-plated Bowie knife. I suppose in one sense, you can take the boy out of the posh but not the posh out of the boy. But what’s most intriguing is that frontier fopism notwithstanding, TR had the goods to tough it out with the best of them…earning the respect of the Badlands rough and tumble. And Burns does a lovely job telling that story. Bully!

With compliments,


4 thoughts on “Portrait of a Badlands Dandy”

  1. Keith, should you be in New York anytime soon I’d be happy to give you a tour of the Roosevelt Birthplace where I volunteer. The Roosevelt Birthplace is one of the great sites here in the Big Apple.

    I’ve been enjoying the series too. What I am most happy about is that Burns and Geoffrey Ward show how inter-connected the two sides of the family were. It is a part of Roosevelt history lost on many today.

    1. Thanks Keith – while I do not have any immediate plans to visit NYC I have been talking about the possibility of a trip during the holidays. If I do come, I will happily take you up on your offer. Thanks very much!

  2. I found last night’s episode on FDR particularly interesting with regards to New Deal programs. The Supreme Court’s ruling slowing FDR’s policy for more federal government programs and subsequent mellowing of the court following FDRs threat to pack the courts. This would of course become moot as FDR then appointed a new majority of justices following their retirement.

    1. I am looking forward to watching that one, Luke – thanks for the comment. I have been interested in FDR’s court packing plans since undergrad days. This should be a compelling episode to be sure.

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