In 1995, just two weeks after Father died, I had to travel for business. I did not want to leave my newly widowed mother alone. So with the blessing of my employer, we began a week long road trip that took us to Philadelphia, Manhattan and the Hudson River valley. When I researched the route I discovered that the family home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the American president credited with pulling the US out of the Depression, was open for touring. The National Historic Site is located near Hyde Park, New York, in the Hudson River Valley. I never forgot that visit, often wishing that I could return to see the other buildings associated with the site. That is the reason that I rented Hyde Park on Hudson yesterday afternoon, a film about the weekend that the King and Queen of England came to stay.
Learning about the odd domestic arrangement of the Roosevelts was one of the reasons I enjoyed my visit. Franklin was a mama’s boy, who preferred to live in a room in his mother’s house than live with his wife. Eleanor’s mother-in-law was such a shrew that Eleanor built a house nearby and moved in, leaving Franklin to his peccadillos and mother. Mother Roosevelt came from money, and made sure she kept it. The film depicts her borrowing plates from the Astor’s for the dinner party she hosted for the King, Queen and President of the United States. She installed a rosewood toilet seat in the bathroom for the visit of the Royals. After the visit the seat was returned to the hardware store from which she “purchased” it. We learn Mother Roosevelt never did pay the man.
Weighty world events unfold in the background of the story told in Hyde Park on the Hudson. Based on papers found upon the death of Daisy, a Roosevelt fifth cousin, the film stars Bill Murray as FDR and Laura Linney as Daisy. The King and Queen of England are played by Samuel West and Olivia Cole. This King George VI and Queen Elizabeth are not the monarchs of the King’s Speech. Elizabeth is not stalwart, and George is not so besotted he won’t stand up to her. The script has FDR and the King discuss their equally formidable wives, acknowledging their contribution to the success of their husbands.
My interest in Hyde Park on the Hudson began in sorrow, but ends in laughter. The biopic is funny. I laughed out loud at the uncomfortable social situations. I cringed when Daisy discovers her lover’s duplicity. The situation is classic – believing he loves her Daisy overlooks the fact that her lover is married; but is completely humiliated and surprised that she is not his only mistress. Sharing Franklin seemed to be a national past time during his presidency.
Filmed on location, the movie should come with a warning: Watch with caution; the viewer may be inspired to visit the Hudson River Valley and Hyde Park on Hudson in particular.