New film of FDR walking from 1937Breaking News
Never before seen footage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking was unveiled today at the Pennsylvania State Archives. The film was shot in 1937 by Harrisburg native and Major League Baseball pitcher James (Jimmie) DeShong on his 8mm home movie camera.
Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett, along with members of DeShong's family unveiled the rare film.
Pres. Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down by polio in 1921. In the film, he is walking up a ramp in Washington, D.C.'s Griffith Stadium. Pres. Roosevelt is wearing braces on his legs as he holds an assistant's arm and grasps a handrail to make it up the steps.
It is one of only two known extended film clips in existence showing Pres. Roosevelt walking. It is so rare, that filmmaker Ken Burns is using it in his upcoming documentary "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" which will air on PBS beginning September 14, 2014.
"We were thrilled with the discovery of a new piece of film footage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking. Any film of him struggling to get from one place to another is extremely rare, as the Secret Service either prohibited or confiscated cameras whenever FDR was making an attempt to propel himself from his car to anywhere else," said Ken Burns. "The President wanted to minimize the public's knowledge of the devastating effects polio had had on him - he was completely paralyzed from the waist down and he could not walk without the aid of a cane and braces on both legs. The press in those days complied with his request not to be filmed."
DeShong however had extraordinary access to the field that day. He was able to get eight seconds of footage of President Roosevelt walking in a public setting.
DeShong's daughter, Judith Savastio, donated the film, and all of its associated copyrights, to the Pennsylvania State Archives so that the archives can conserve, preserve, interpret and make it accessible to the public. The Pennsylvania State Archives was determined to be the most appropriate institution to receive the film as a donation due to its rare political, sports, and Pennsylvania-related content.
"We are extremely grateful that Mrs. Savastio chose Pennsylvania's State Archives to care for and preserve this extraordinary film," said First Lady and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commissioner Susan Corbett. "Her generous donation is allowing the world to see something it has never seen before. This unique look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives us a better understanding of his physical struggles and his courage and strength in leading our country through difficult times despite personal challenges."
Along with the historic footage of Pres. Roosevelt, several Major League baseball all-stars and executives can easily be identified in the film. They include Joe McCarthy, Charlie Gehringer, Spud Chandler, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Hank Greenberg, Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Carl Hubbell, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Red Rolfe, Eddie Collins and Tom Yawkey.
In addition to the Major League Baseball and Pres. Roosevelt footage, the film also contains family and hunting scenes taken throughout Pennsylvania.
The original film was cleaned, preserved and digitized into high definition files by Florentine Films, the production company of Ken Burns.
Editors Note: The entire statement from Ken Burns is as follows:
"We were thrilled with the discovery of a new piece of film footage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking. Any film of him struggling to get from one place to another is extremely rare, as the Secret Service either prohibited or confiscated cameras whenever FDR was making an attempt to propel himself from his car to anywhere else. The President wanted to minimize the public's knowledge of the devastating effects polio had had on him - he was completely paralyzed from the waist down and he could not walk without the aid of a cane and braces on both legs. The press in those days complied with his request not to be filmed.
We thought we had found and used all the rare bits and pieces that existed. But this remarkable 8 seconds provided to us by the Pennsylvania State Archives is one of the very best pieces of film that so clearly shows what a brave struggle it was for FDR to move. The fact that he is on an incline and that it is very windy makes his walking even more arduous. The wind even presses his pants against his withered legs and you can clearly see the braces underneath.
This priceless piece of film replaces a still photograph in a key sequence in Episode Four of our series on the Roosevelts and makes the scene far more moving by allowing the audience to see FDR in action. When the film was discovered, we had already completed our series, but once we saw this terrific find, we asked PBS for permission to do a re-edit on the broadcast master of Episode Four so that we could include it.
This 8 seconds enriches our series and helps deepen the American public's understanding of the strength and fortitude this badly disabled man brought to the task of seeing our country through two of the worst crises in our history - the Depression and World War II.
Thanks so much to the wonderful folks at the Pennsylvania State Archives, especially Richard Saylor and Linda Ries, for allowing us the use of this remarkable film footage in our series for PBS - The Roosevelts: An Intimate History."
- Ken Burns, Director and Producer