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Meryl Streep brings Eleanor Roosevelt to life in Ken Burns' epic documentary

Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
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Ken Burns likes to take a topic and expound as he educates and entertains.
PBS Distribution is releasing The Roosevelts: An Intimate History on DVD and Blu-ray on September 16. The new seven-part, 14-hour documentary weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics. The series marks the first time their individual stories have been woven into a single narrative.
“The Roosevelts have played significant roles in other stories we’ve told before, from the National Parks to World War II,” says Burns. “It’s impossible, in fact, to visit many parts of the American experience without encountering their presence. But beyond simply sharing a bloodline or political success, they each shared a passionate belief that America is at its strongest when everyone has an equal chance. And on a personal level, they each struggled to overcome their own fears while maintaining a public face of courage.”
The run time of the documentary is approximately 14 hours on seven discs. The DVD and Blu-ray include special features–13 bonus videos, making of The Roosevelts, and deleted scenes with an introduction by Ken Burns. This film will also be available for digital download.
“The Roosevelts follows the family’s story for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th president of the United States, and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry Franklin, a fifth cousin of theirs from a different branch of the family, who became the 32nd president. Together, they redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, and redefined, as well, the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses all the history the Roosevelts helped to make–the creation of National Parks and the digging of the Panama Canal; the New Deal and the defeat of Hitler; and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights around the world in which Eleanor Roosevelt played a central role. But it is also an intimate human story about love and betrayal, family feeling and personal courage and the conquest of fear.
Meryl Streep portrays Eleanor Roosevelt in readings from her personal letters and writings. Of her performance, Burns said, “As we’ve seen time and time again, Streep is a magician. Here, she completely transformed herself into Eleanor Roosevelt, simply through her voice. It was remarkable to witness. The entire cast delivers what I consider to be some of the finest voice-over work we’ve ever been fortunate enough to present.”
Joining Streep are Paul Giamatti as the voice of Theodore Roosevelt and Edward Herrmann for his performance as Franklin Roosevelt, as the voice of FDR.
Rounding out the cast are Patricia Clarkson, Adam Arkin, Philip Bosco, Keith Carradine, Kevin Conway, Ed Harris, John Lithgow, Josh Lucas, Carl Lumbly, Amy Madigan, Carolyn McCormick, Pamela Reed, Billy Bob Thornton and Eli Wallach.