Today in 1882, the birthday of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
He wound up being America’s longest serving president, but at one point FDR had a very different destiny in mind for himself: he wanted to write screenplays for movies.
Motion pictures and presidents have been connected for a long time.
President Ronald Reagan, for example, was a movie star before he got into politics.
And plenty of modern presidents have been movie buffs.
Jimmy Carter reportedly watched two to three movies a week while he was in the White House.
But FDR didn’t necessarily want to star in them, or just watch them.
His dream was writing a movie.
And he tried to make that dream come true in 1923.
Roosevelt was almost a decade away from being elected president then, but he had already run an unsuccessful campaign for vice president and he’d served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
The story goes that Roosevelt used his naval experience to write a screenplay about the life of the American Revolution’s naval hero John Paul Jones.
He then sent his proposal to Paramount Pictures, which created a conundrum for Adolf Zukor, the studio’s co-founder.
Zukor wasn’t interested in filming the screenplay, but he also didn’t want to upset the well-connected Roosevelt.
So he told one of his staffers to go to the budding screenwriter and “let him down easy.”
FDR eventually took the hint, but when he bumped into the staffer years later, when he was president, he said that the rejection was one of the toughest setbacks of his life, that he’d really wanted to be a writer.
But it was during his presidency that he got to be a writer, and, eventually, for movies.
Roosevelt loved mystery novels, but he was complaining to a magazine editor once that most mystery stories were based on the same basic premise.
He had a different premise in mind: a guy who was stuck in a dead-end job and a by-the-book marriage decides to disappear with $5 million and start over.
The magazine editor took the president’s idea and gave it to a group of well known mystery writers.
They each wrote a chapter in a serialized story known as The President’s Mystery Story, and in 1936 it came to the big screen under the name The President’s Mystery.
And the credits at the start of the movie read “Story conceived by Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
Today in 1951, the birthday of musician Phil Collins.
Back in 2019, a church in Mexico got a lot of attention for commissioning and then installing a statue that was supposed to look like baby Jesus but actually looked just like Phil Collins.
The little guy looks like he’s saying, take a look at me now…
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Patriot, Statesman, and Would-Be Hollywood Screen Writer… (Old Magazine Articles)
The President’s Mystery (Futility Closet)
Photo by Underwood & Underwood, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Francis A. DiMauro