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The adventurous life, political rise and personal tragedies of Theodore Roosevelt. The sheltered youth of his 5th cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The unhappy childhood of Teddy's niece and FDR's future wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.


Ken Burns




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Coyote ... Self - Narrator (voice)
Clay Jenkinson ... Self - Historian
George F. Will ... Self - Writer
David McCullough ... Self - Historian
Jon Meacham ... Self - Biographer
Doris Kearns Goodwin ... Self - Historian
Geoffrey C. Ward Geoffrey C. Ward ... Self - Biographer
Paul Giamatti ... Theodore Roosevelt (voice)
Edward Herrmann ... Franklin Roosevelt (voice)
Meryl Streep ... Eleanor Roosevelt (voice)
Adam Arkin ... (voice)
Kevin Conway ... (voice)
John Lithgow ... (voice)
Amy Madigan ... (voice)
Joanne Tucker Joanne Tucker ... (voice)


The Roosevelt family originally migrated from Holland in the 17th century. They eventually became one of New York's most prominent families with a dedication to public service. Teddy Roosevelt was the second of four children and suffered from ill-health in his youth. Teddy's father was a philanthropist who dedicated half of his time to charitable organizations. The senior Roosevelt's wife, a Southerner, begged him not to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War and he obliged, something Teddy never forgave him for and for which he tried to make amends in his own career. He studied at Harvard and met his future wife Alice there, the sister of a classmate. He was first elected to the New York state assembly at age 26 but lost his wife Alice, who died in childbirth. He became a rancher and later a New York City police commissioner. He was Under-Secretary of the Navy when the Spanish-American war broke out and at 39 years of age formed his own troop to fight in Cuba. His exploits ... Written by garykmcd

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User Reviews

It starts off very well...
20 December 2015 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

This episode begins with the birth of Teddy Roosevelt in 1858 and ends with him becoming president after the death of William McKinley. In between, the show alternates between the life of Teddy and the lives of both Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. However, not surprisingly, the bulk of the show is about the life of Teddy. Topics covered was his family background, his first wife, his moving to the Dakotas to be a gentleman rancher, his forays into politics, his co-leading the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and Teddy's odd way he came to the White House. As for Franklin, much of the show is about his youth and college life and just a big of Eleanor's family and early life is discussed.

Like most of Ken Burns' documentaries, this one is top-notch. It features the usual interviews, use of photographs with the roving camera lens as well as a few verbal re-creations. Overall, very good and extremely balanced---with much praise for Teddy as well as an examination of his many shortcomings. Among the best work Burns has done and well worth seeing...and a very promising first episode.

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Release Date:

14 September 2014 (USA) See more »

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Florentine Films See more »
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