The “Picture Man”: The Cinematic Strife of Theodore Roosevelt

  • Brian Neve
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series


Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was the first U.S. president to have his career and life chronicled on a significant scale by motion picture companies. William McKinley may have been the first occupant of the Oval Office to be filmed and Calvin Coolidge was the first to speak on film, but neither matched the sheer volume of TR’s celluloid imagery. The first part of this chapter explores Roosevelt’s interaction with the new medium, from his emergence as a major public figure during the Spanish-American War of 1898, to his presidency (1901–1909) and subsequent public life. Consideration will also be given to the impact of Roosevelt’s writing and experience on the origins of two staple genres of American cinema—the Western and the war film. The nascent film industry, before or at the very beginning of the nickelodeon era (generally seen as dating from 1905), not only conveyed moving pictures of this highly distinctive leader to the public, but also produced early satires of his presidency. The developing film medium further recorded Roosevelt’s eventful postpresidential decade, including his epic hunting trips in Africa and Brazil (in 1909–10, and 1913), his European tour, his 1912 Progressive Party campaign, and especially his controversial last hurrah as a campaigner for preparedness and Americanism before and during U.S. involvement in World War I.


Panama Canal Teddy Bear American Cinema Early Cinema European Tour 
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© Iwan W. Morgan 2011

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  • Brian Neve

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