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The Many Loves of FDR

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The new movie HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, with Bill Murray playing Franklin Roosevelt, is a flawed, frustrating melodrama but it raises important questions about historical perspective.

The movie dramatizes a 1939 visit by Britain’s King and Queen to FDR’s country estate while the wheelchair-bound president juggled demands of his wife, mother, and two adoring mistresses. Laura Linney plays a fifth cousin of the president who, according to many historians, became one of his several lovers during his last years. The film shows Roosevelt’s callous treatment of these women and raises uncomfortable questions: how did he hide his caddish behavior while he was alive, and why do hero-worshiping history books mostly ignore his shortcomings?

As with President Kennedy, most chroniclers will overlook or obscure even the most irresponsible, contemptible conduct if it’s perpetrated by a dashing liberal leader.

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