Joseph P. Lash's Eleanor and Franklin (1971) won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Now the best-selling biography of the Roosevelts will be brought to the TV screen as a two-part, four-hour drama. The screenplay was written by James Costigan who won an Emmy last year for his teleplay "Love Among the Ruins." Daniel Petrie directs. Jane Alexander and Edward Hermann star in the title roles. Also appearing are Ed Flanders as Louis Howe, FDR's campaign manager and friend; Rosemary Murphy as the President's mother; and Linda Kelsey as Lucy Mercer.
Eleanor's father Elliott was Theodore Roosevelt's brother. He died of alcoholism when she was nine. Her childhood was lonely and unhappy spent in large part with her strict grandmother. Shy, plain, and insecure, even at the age of eighteen Eleanor lacked the social graces expected of a female in high society. Yet her fourth cousin Franklin was attracted to her. Alice Longworth, an acid-tongued cousin, noted: "Gloomy Eleanor and Franklin the frivolous. It's like mixing cod liver oil and sarsaparilla." FDR respected Eleanor's quick mind and her social concern (she spent her free time as a volunteer in a Manhattan settlement house). They married in 1905 with President Theodore Roosevelt giving the bride away.
From the start there was trouble. This drama focuses on Eleanor's battles with Sara, FDR's strong-willed mother; the problems in their marriage stemming from his love affair with Lucy Mercer, her social secretary; and the transformation of their lives when FDR was crippled by polio. It took Eleanor a long time to become secure in her own personhood. But during the Roosevelt's White House years, she finally came into her own as the independent woman who would be called "Public Energy Number One" for her political, social, and journalistic work.