Sunrise at Campobello

Sunrise at Campobello is a 1960 Warner Bros. biographical film telling the story of the struggles of future President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his family when Roosevelt was stricken with paralysis at the age of 39 in August 1921. Based on Dore Schary's 1958 Tony Award-winning Broadway play of the same name, the film was directed by Vincent J. Donehue and stars Ralph Bellamy, Greer Garson, Hume Cronyn and Jean Hagen.

Sunrise at Campobello
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVincent J. Donehue
Produced byDore Schary
Screenplay byDore Schary
Based onSunrise at Campobello
1958 play
by Dore Schary
StarringRalph Bellamy
Greer Garson
Hume Cronyn
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyRussell Harlan
Edited byGeorge Boemler
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 28, 1960 (1960-09-28)
Running time
144 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was produced with the cooperation of the Roosevelt family. Eleanor Roosevelt was present on the set during location shooting at the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park, New York.


The film begins at the Roosevelt family's summer home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada (on the border with Maine), in the summer of 1921. Franklin D. Roosevelt is depicted in early scenes as vigorously athletic, enjoying games with his children and sailing his boat.

He is suddenly stricken with fever and then paralysis. Subsequent scenes focus on the ensuing conflict in the following weeks between the bedridden FDR, his wife Eleanor, his mother Sara, and his close political adviser Louis Howe over FDR's future. A later scene portrays FDR literally dragging himself up the stairs as, through grit and determination, he painfully strives to overcome his physical limitations and not remain an invalid. In the final triumphant scene, FDR is shown re-entering public life as he walks to the speaker's rostrum at a party convention, aided by heavy leg braces and crutches after his eldest son James pushed his father's wheelchair near to the podium.


Historical context

Sunrise at Campobello presents events that took place over four years, from August 1921 to July 1924, culminating in FDR's speech at the 1924 Democratic National Convention.[1]

Before and during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, the extent of his disability was minimized. Sunrise at Campobello depicts the debilitating effects of FDR's paralytic illness to a greater extent than had been previously disclosed by the media.

FDR was diagnosed with polio in 1921, but his symptoms are more consistent with Guillain–Barré syndrome - an autoimmune neuropathy which his doctors failed to consider as a diagnostic possibility.[2] In any case, the film is accurate in the sense that FDR and everyone around him believed that his symptoms were caused by polio.

Awards and honors

Greer Garson won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama.[3]

The film was also entered into the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival.[4]

Academy Awards


See also


  1. "Sunrise at Campobello". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  2. Goldman, Armond S.; Goldman, Daniel A. (2017). Prisoners of Time: The Misdiagnosis of FDR's 1921 Illness. EHDP Press. ISBN 978-1939824035.
  3. "NY Times: Sunrise at Campobello". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
  4. "2nd Moscow International Film Festival (1961)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
  5. " -- Sunrise at Campobello" Archived 2014-01-14 at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
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