Theodore Roosevelt, the movie

The next story I want to see Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and their friends assemble for the big screen is the story of how a young, vigorous US president busted Victorian industrial and financial monopolies and opened the gate to the American Century.

As with Lincoln, the movie, you wouldn't want to cover the president's entire life, nor even follow the chronology of his administration.

Theodore RooseveltInstead, you'd find dramatic, emblematic incidents to express themes. You'd look to tell an intimate story with flesh and blood characters grappling in drawing rooms, railroad cars and horse-drawn carriages.

One place to begin might be the scene Edmund Morris treats in his biography, Theodore Rex, when barons of railroad, coal and finance are called by the President to Washington DC to meet with a single, mysterious, charismatic and revolutionary coal miner union leader.

The barons are not accustomed to being summoned. But they know attendance is not optional. The President of the United States will personally mediate.

Entourages do not assemble at the White House. The White House is undergoing restoration (subtext: Roosevelt is junking the dross and dowdy affects of the Victorian-era and dressing the set for a modern, imperial American era). Instead, the meeting takes place at a nearby townhouse where Roosevelt - who despite being arguably the most determined, aggressive and hard-working person ever to hold the office, won't let the presidency interfere with his camping, hunting and other wilderness forays both in the West and the deep South - is temporarily confined to a wheelchair, recovering from surgery to an injured leg.

As Morris relays the affair, reporters position themselves across the street from the townhouse, where they can peer into the second floor windows and make out the tophats of the seated barons and, by turns, their faces, when they stand to make a point or affect offense.

Roosevelt, necessarily seated because of his injury, cannot be seen from the street. The President has cannily arranged to direct the attention of the press to the wizards of capitalism.

The robber barons are dismissed by the President sooner than anyone had expected, and one by one they descend the townhouse stoop. The journalists rush across the street to try to provoke ill-considered statements. As the bearded gentlemen gambol inefficiently into their carriages, they seem perplexed and suddenly older.

One journalist, however, instinctively holds her place across the street. She sees that the union leader is standing, lingering, listening.

Why has the President retained him alone after dismissing the capitalists?

The President stands! What is Theodore Roosevelt saying as he pushes his thumb into the chest of the anguished looking union leader?

You get the idea. It would be awesome.


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