BEST PRES­I­DEN­TIAL BIOPICS

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Cover Story -

“Frost/Nixon” (2008) If you were alive at the time and old enough to ap­pre­ci­ate it, the 1977 David Frost in­ter­views with Richard Nixon were high drama at its best, as the British pre­sen­ter sought to pin down the dis­graced chief ex­ec­u­tive over what he did and didn’t know about Water­gate. Michael Sheen and Frank Lan­gella, re­spec­tively, do an ex­cel­lent job of in­ter­pret­ing th­ese men as they en­gage in a high-pro­file game of cat and mouse, with his­tory de­ter­min­ing the win­ner. “Warm Springs” (2005) Po­lio ren­dered Franklin Roo­sevelt a para­plegic for the last 24 years of his life and all of his his­toric pres­i­dency, yet he man­aged to keep his con­di­tion largely un­der wraps from the Amer­i­can pub­lic. North­ern Ireland na­tive Ken­neth Branagh makes a con­vinc­ing though un­likely pre-White House FDR as he strug­gles with his af­flic­tion at a run-down Ge­or­gia spa, aided by his wife, Eleanor, played by an equally con­vinc­ing though un­likely Cyn­thia Nixon, who took on this role right af­ter “Sex and the City.” Talk about a palate cleanser. “Abe Lin­coln in Illi­nois” (1940) No, you wouldn’t look at Ray­mond Massey and im­me­di­ately think “Lin­coln,” but he fills Hon­est Abe’s size 14s quite nicely in this his­tor­i­cal drama that be­came re­quired view­ing for many an el­e­men­tary-school stu­dent. Massey does a mas­ter­ful job as he por­trays Lin­coln from his early years as a Ken­tucky woods­man up un­til his elec­tion in 1860, paint­ing him as al­ter­na­tively con­tem­pla­tive, hum­ble and heroic. The ac­tor earned an Os­car nom­i­na­tion and the chance to play him many more times on TV, film and stage, yet he man­aged to avoid be­ing type­cast over his long ca­reer.

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