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Film / Teddy, the Rough Rider

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Squinting!
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Teddy, the Rough Rider is a 1940 short film (19 minutes) directed by Ray Enright.

It is a ludicrously compressed biopic of President Theodore Roosevelt. In nineteen minutes the film follows TR from 1895 to his death in 1919. We start out with Roosevelt taking office as police commissioner of New York City and rooting out corruption. The strong impression that he makes gets him picked to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley. When the Spanish-American War breaks out in 1898 Roosevelt forms his own regiment, the Rough Riders, which famously charged up San Juan Hill in Cuba. The fame Roosevelt wins in Cuba gets him elected Governor of New York in 1898, but corrupt New York Republicans, wishing to get rid of their reformist governor, get him Kicked Upstairs to the office of Vice President in 1900.

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This backfires spectacularly when McKinley is assassinated in 1901 and Roosevelt becomes President. His 7 1/2 years in office yield triumphs such as brokering the end to a coal miners' strike, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, and building the Panama Canal. The big failure of his career, his loss as a third-party candidate for President in 1912, is completely omitted.

Sidney Blackmer, who played Teddy Roosevelt in this and six other films, would later find fame playing a Satanic high priest in Rosemary's Baby.


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Tropes:

  • Biopic: Unsurpisingly, 23 years in the life of a President of the United States come across pretty superficially when they're compressed down to 19 minutes. This sort of topic was typical of the short films that the Hollywood studios made back in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Dirty Cop: A cop is shown taking a bribe. In the next shot Police Commissioner Roosevelt is taking his badge.
  • Dutch Angle: The corrupt cop is shot at a tilted angle when he's receiving a bribe, and shot from a different titled angle when Roosevelt is ripping his badge off.
  • Hand of Death: A Hand of Death completely covered in bandages, as that's all we see of the assassination of William McKinley. (Assassin Leon Czolgosz wrapped up his hand in bandages to hide the gun.)
  • Large Ham: Sidney Blackmer chews all the scenery as a bombastic Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt had a habit of squinting as he tore into a political speech; Blackmer never once opens his eyes wide over the course of the movie.
  • Narrator: Throughout the whole movie, as an amped-up narrator rattles off the high points of Roosevelt's career.
  • Snow Means Death: It's snowing outside in "the last winter of his life" as TR looks out the window while contemplating the death of his son Quentin in World War I.
  • Vice-President Who?: The New York pols who get Roosevelt nominated Vice President chortle that the office is a "political tomb."
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