News for Immediate Release
May 15, 2014
Film of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Walking Donated to Pennsylvania Historical
and Museum Commission
at 1937 All Star Baseball Game by Harrisburg Native Jimmie DeShong
Harrisburg – Never before seen footage of
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking was unveiled today at the
Pennsylvania State Archives. The film was shot in 1937 by Harrisburg native and
Major League Baseball pitcher James (Jimmie) DeShong on his 8mm home movie
Pennsylvania First Lady Susan
Corbett, along with members of DeShong’s family unveiled the rare film.
Pres. Roosevelt was paralyzed from
the waist down by polio in 1921. In the film, he is walking up a ramp in
Washington, D.C.’s Griffith Stadium. Pres. Roosevelt is wearing braces on his
legs as he holds an assistant’s arm and grasps a handrail to make it up the
It is one of only two known extended
film clips in existence showing Pres. Roosevelt walking. It is so rare, that
filmmaker Ken Burns is using it in his upcoming documentary “The Roosevelts:
An Intimate History" which will air on PBS beginning September 14,
"We were thrilled with the
discovery of a new piece of film footage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking.
Any film of him struggling to get from one place to another is extremely
rare, as the Secret Service either prohibited or confiscated cameras whenever
FDR was making an attempt to propel himself from his car to anywhere else,”
said Ken Burns. “The President wanted to minimize the public's knowledge of the
devastating effects polio had had on him - he was completely paralyzed from the
waist down and he could not walk without the aid of a cane and braces on both
legs. The press in those days complied with his request not to be filmed”
DeShong however had extraordinary
access to the field that day. He was able to get eight seconds of footage of
President Roosevelt walking in a public setting.
DeShong’s daughter, Judith Savastio,
donated the film, and all of its associated copyrights, to the Pennsylvania
State Archives so that the archives can conserve, preserve, interpret and make
it accessible to the public. The Pennsylvania State Archives was
determined to be the most appropriate institution to receive the film as a
donation due to its rare political, sports, and Pennsylvania-related content.
“We are extremely grateful that Mrs.
Savastio chose Pennsylvania’s State Archives to care for and preserve this
extraordinary film,” said First Lady and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum
Commissioner Susan Corbett. “Her generous donation is allowing the world to see
something it has never seen before. This unique look at Franklin Delano
Roosevelt gives us a better understanding of his physical struggles and his
courage and strength in leading our country through difficult times despite
Along with the historic footage of
President Roosevelt, several Major League baseball all-stars and executives can
easily be identified in the film. They include Joe McCarthy, Charlie
Gehringer, Spud Chandler, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Hank Greenberg,
Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Carl Hubbell, Dizzy Dean,
Lefty Gomez, Red Rolfe, Eddie Collins and Tom Yawkey.
In addition to the Major League
Baseball and President Roosevelt footage, the film also contains family and
hunting scenes taken throughout Pennsylvania.
The original film was cleaned,
preserved and digitized into high definition files by Florentine Films, the
production company of Ken Burns.
To view an excerpt of
the film including footage of President Roosevelt and American and National
League players visit www.phmc.state.pa.us.
Historical and Museum Commission is the official history agency of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Media Contact: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639
Editor’s Note: The entire statement
from Ken Burns is as follows:
were thrilled with the discovery of a new piece of film footage of Franklin
Delano Roosevelt walking. Any film of him struggling to get from one place
to another is extremely rare, as the Secret Service either prohibited or
confiscated cameras whenever FDR was making an attempt to propel himself from
his car to anywhere else. The President wanted to minimize the public's
knowledge of the devastating effects polio had had on him - he was completely
paralyzed from the waist down and he could not walk without the aid of a cane
and braces on both legs. The press in those days complied with his request not
to be filmed.
thought we had found and used all the rare bits and pieces that existed. But
this remarkable 8 seconds provided to us by the Pennsylvania State Archives is
one of the very best pieces of film that so clearly shows what a brave struggle
it was for FDR to move. The fact that he is on an incline and that it is very
windy makes his walking even more arduous. The wind even presses his pants
against his withered legs and you can clearly see the braces underneath.
This priceless piece of film
replaces a still photograph in a key sequence in Episode Four of our series on
the Roosevelts and makes the scene far more moving by allowing the audience to
see FDR in action. When the film was discovered, we had already completed our
series, but once we saw this terrific find, we asked PBS for permission to do a
re-edit on the broadcast master of Episode Four so that we could include it.
8 seconds enriches our series and helps deepen the American public's
understanding of the strength and fortitude this badly disabled man brought to
the task of seeing our country through two of the worst crises in our history -
the Depression and World War II.
Thanks so much to the wonderful
folks at the Pennsylvania State Archives, especially Richard Saylor and Linda
Ries, for allowing us the use of this remarkable film footage in our series for
PBS - The Roosevelts: An Intimate History."
Burns, Director and Producer