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A&E Home Video presents
Teddy Roosevelt: An American Lion (2002)

"No other president enjoyed the presidency as I did."
- Teddy Roosevelt (voiced by Richard Dreyfuss)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: May 14, 2003

Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Kermit Roosevelt, Tweed Roosevelt, Edith Roosevelt, Nancy Roosevelt Johnson, Edward Herrmann, narrator
Other Stars: President Bill Clinton, Kathleen Dalton, Edmund Morris, H.W. Brands, Professor John Milton Cooper, Jr., Sylvia Jukes Morris, James MacGregor Burns, Governor George Pataki, Professor James O. Horton, William Seale, Dr. Douglas Brinkley
Director: David DeVries

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 03h:01m:45s
Release Date: March 25, 2003
UPC: 733961706611
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

"He must be president someday …a man you can't frighten, you can't control …you can't buy." –Bram Stoker

To today's younger generation, Teddy Roosevelt is all but unknown. Mention his name and you might be lucky to find one brainiac that might say, "isn't he one of those four dudes carved out of rock on a mountain somewhere?" And that's being optimistic, people. In fairness, I'm apt to believe that even citizens of my generation will find it hard to come up with additional factoids about the 26th President other than his inspiration for what we now know as the teddy bear, Rough Rider adventures and so on.

Leave it up to The History Channel to conjure up a massively detailed and profoundly entertaining three-hour documentary that goes beyond legends to offer proof that the Harvard-educated New York City native may have been our finest leader. Chock full of fascinating stories, reflections from noted historians, interviews with family descendants, precious historical footage and exquisitely crafted re-creations, Teddy Roosevelt: An American Lion is an amazing portrait of a multifaceted man who crammed so much into his six-decade life span, you'll feel thankful this is a two-disc set; I was grateful for the intermission at Volume One's end.

Though born to a rich family in 1858, Theodore Roosevelt's younger days were anything but easy. Very sickly as child and afflicted with severe asthma, he overcame his frailties to become an avid outdoorsman and nature lover, a part of his life that would play a key role in times to come. Shortly after graduating from Harvard, he became the youngest member of the state assembly, a forum that enabled him to develop his legendary speechmaking abilities. Before century's end, TR added stints as Civil Service Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Police Commissioner of New York to his résumé.

After an unsuccessful bid for NYC's mayorship in his mid-twenties, Roosevelt was elected governor of the state in 1898. From there, William McKinley tabbed him for running mate honors in the 1900 presidential election. Emerging victorious, the new administration had barely gotten its feet wet when tragedy struck: Days after being struck by an assassin's bullet, McKinley died, leaving Roosevelt to assume the duties of the highest office in the land.

Strengthened by similar tragedies including the premature death of his father while TR was in college and the devastating dual loss of his mother and first wife Alice within hours of each other, the youngest man to ever become president was more than up for the challenge.

Among the accomplishments of Roosevelt's two-terms in office:

TR was the first president to play host to an African-American when noted educator George Washington Carver is invited to dinner

His successful intervention as mediator in the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1903 set a precedent for the involvement of the presidency in labor matters

His creation of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and monuments (including one that would bear his likeness as an everlasting tribute)

His use of the Sherman Antitrust Act to instigate 45 lawsuits in a massive undertaking of trust reform

He paved the way for the long delayed Panama Canal construction by defying Congress and aiding the country in their battles with Columbia

After shunning requests to leave an eroding White House, Roosevelt plays interior decorator with help from his wife that results in many improvements and additions, including what would be dubbed "The West Wing"

Unlike some documentaries in which the center of attention can do no wrong, producer David deVries' doesn't stray from Roosevelt's occasional misfires, including his retreat to conservative status in racial matters following the controversial Carver visit, and a fateful 1904 post-election announcement indicating that he would not seek a third term.

In addition to nailing all the creative qualification for an effective presentation (from Edward Herrmann's narration to James Brett's fantastic period score) Mark deVries has an additional trump card: actor Richard Dreyfuss. Giving voice to Roosevelt's classic speeches and excerpts from his memoirs, the effect is stirring to the point that it makes you wish a bio-film with the actor's involvement would have gone into development years ago. It takes a mesh of confidence, cockiness and bravado to do justice to such a role. In short, the Oscar®-winner couldn't have fit the part any better.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: A very impressive presentation that balances scratchy turn-of-the-century archival footage with modern day footage splendidly. Mild edge enhancement occasionally pops up in a couple of the specially created sequences, but fleetingly brief.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The program's well-done stereo mix (showcasing James Brett's sweeping score to great effect) is nothing short of fantastic. Sporting a wideness that sounds almost Dolby Surround-ish at times, its balance and clarity are very impressive.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Documentaries
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Theodore Roosevelt: Roughrider To Rushmore Episode of A&E's Biography
  2. Teddy Roosevelt Family Tree (from Genealogy.com)
  3. Teddy Roosevelt: Background And Interesting Facts
  4. Richard Dreyfuss Biography And Filmography
Extras Review: As the three-hour program leaves virtually no stone unturned, it's really surprising that an additional profile of the twenty-sixth President finds its way to the extras file. But hey, I'll take any episode of A&E's excellent Biography series any way I can get it. The 41-minute installment is a little bit grainier and not as slickly produced as the main feature, but very handy to have around for those who may find a Cliff Notes version of Teddy's story more to their liking. Of the three remaining bonus inclusions, only the well-designed family tree proves interesting (also including a plug for the Genealogy WWW site in case you're feeling like beginning a backwards journey to trace your own family's legacy).

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

An unforgettable portrait saluting one of America's greatest leaders and arguably, its finest president. For history buffs, Teddy Roosevelt: An American Lion is an indispensable two-disc set.


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