US Presidents in the cinema

It just occurred to me that there are plenty of movies about (or including) fictional US presidents, but very few about real historical presidents. Be honest, now, when was the last time you saw a film about Harrison? Or Taft? Or for that matter, Washington? I’m betting never.

Two presidents seem to come up more than any others, Nixon and Kennedy. There are at least 3 movies each with them, and that’s without even thinking about it much. Dan Hedaya and Anthony Hopkins have played Nixon, and William Devane has played Kennedy. In fact, Hopkins also played John Quincy Adams, which probably makes him the actor who has played the largest number of presidents.

1776 had portrayals of Adams and Jefferson. One Roosevelt or the other must have been portrayed at least once.

Any others?

BTW, I’m talking about actors’ portrayals of presidents, not archive footage. Farenheit 9/11 doesn’t count. And let’s forget TV shows for now. SNL skews the whole thing.

Let’s see. So we’re talking about theatrical-release movies in which a historical president is the main character, or a major character, not just a walk-on?

Charlton Heston played Andrew Jackson. Nick Nolte played Jefferson (if we’re including movies that are about the man, but not necessarily during his Presidency). There have been several movies about Lincoln (Henry Fonda and Ramond Massey were two of the actors). Teddy Roosevelt was a major figure in The Wind and the Lion (Brian Keith; excellent casting).

Thirteen Days, in which Bruce Greenwood played JFK, and Kevin Costner played someone who should under no circumstances ever attempt a Hyannisport accent.

The miniseries The Blue and the Gray featured Rip Torn as Ulysses S. Grant (albeit before Grant was President) and Gregory Peck as then-President Abraham Lincoln.

Speaking of Lincoln, there was the guy that played him in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. “Party on, dudes!”

And in The Right Stuff Donald Moffet played LBJ.

Anthony Hopkins as Nixon.
Gary Sinise as Truman.
Bruce Greenwood as John F. Kennedy in Thirteen Days.
Richard Crenna as Ronald Reagan (and Michael Greene as George Bush Sr.) in The Day Reagan Was Shot.
Timothy Bottoms as George W. Bush in D.C. 9/11: Time of Crisis (an egregious piece of propoganda if there ever was one!)
And then there’s Allen Williams in Abe Lincoln: Freedom Fighter, dunno if you’d count that one though. :wink:

Future Presidents John Adams (William Daniels) and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) in the movie of 1776. There’s also a Josiah Bartlett in there, but I guess that doesn’t count. :wink:

Oh, forgot about John Travolta as not-really-Bill-Clinton-but-you-know-who-we’re-talking-about(wink-wink) in Primary Colors.

Marley23…Josiah Bartlett? Huh? :confused:

Anthony Hopkin as ex-President John Quincy Adams in Amistad

And since I was looking at trivia for The West Wing, I know now that Martin Sheen has played JFK and RFK. But it was all on TV and doesn’t count for this thread.

The name of the President (Martin Sheen) on The West Wing. I was kidding around. Sheen’s President Bartlett is supposed to be a descendant of the Josiah Bartlett who signed the Declaration of Independence.

1944 - Alexander Knox as Wilson. Knox was nominated for Best Actor; Bing Crosby won for his performance in Going My Way.

Lincoln is probably the president who appeared in the most films. There’s Young Mr. Lincoln, The Birth of a Nation, Hand’s Up ( silent movie starring Raymond Griffith) Gettysburg (silent, not the Ted Turner epic), Abraham Lincoln (at least two films by that name), The Lincoln Conspiracy, Travelin’ West, Mr. Lincoln, The Story of Mankind, North and South, How the West Was Won, and many more.

Woodrow Wilson was subject to a biography by DW. Griffith called Wilson.

U.S. Grant shows up in The Legend of the Lone Ranger and The Wild Wild West (Will Smith version).

Sunrise at Campobello - Ralph Bellamy as FDR.

Ralph Bellamy played FDR(before he was President) in Sunrise at Campobello, from 1960. FDR(as President) was also seen briefly in Annie.

Jon Voight was FDR in Pearl Harbor.

Van Heflin played Andrew Johnson in Tennessee Johnson.

There was a miniseries in 1979 that’s never been released on video, but I remember it as being very good. (I last saw it when it was broadcast on cable about 10 years ago). It was based on two non-fiction books by Lillian Rogers Parks, a second generation maid at the White House and was called Backstairs at the White House. Her mother entered service during the Taft (Victor Buono) administration, worked under Wilson (Robert Vaughn), the Hardings (George Kennedy & Celeste Holm) whose knock-down-drag-out marital problems they witnessed, the Coolidges (Ed Flanders/Lee Grant), Hoovers (Larry Gates/Jan Sterling), FDR & Eleanor (John Anderson/Eileen Heckert), the Trumans (Harry Morgan and Estelle Parsons) and the Eisenhowers (Andrew Duggan/Barbara Barrie). It’s a great snapshot at the presidents at home and as a kid I learned a lot about the human side of history from it. Some things I remember:

*Taft holding young Lillian and her brother on his massive lap when he finds them in the kitchen during one of his secret icebox raids (he was supposed to be on a diet)

*Lillian’s mother (Maggie) adored the first Mrs. Wilson (Kim Hunter) but refused to accept the second (Claire Bloom) until after Woodrow had his massive stroke and it became clear Mrs. Wilson was the president

*The Hardings knock-down drag-out fights

*Silent Cal’s emotional break down after the death of his son

*Hoover’s wife was an imperious bitch who trained the domestic staff to recognize her hand signals (approach, clear, leave, etc.) so she wouldn’t have to speak to them

*The staff (mostly black) loved FDR and even helped hide his mistresses, but surprisingly didn’t like Eleanor. (FDR and Lillian had a bond because like him she suffered from polio; Eleanor insisted that all of the butlers be the same height, which cost some of them their job [the short ones who couldn’t use padding in their shoes] during the Depression and the rest of the domestics never forgave this.)

*The Trumans down hominess, and the scandal of his mother being shown to the Lincoln bedroom (she grew up Confederate), the near dilapidation of the White House that caused its complete gutting and renovation, the attempt on his life by Puerto Rican nationalists at Blair House {that had him hiding behind a chair with a pistol to protect his family}, etc.

*Eisenhower’s massive heart-attack (the public never knew how serious it was) and the staff’s unanimous hatred for Mamie (a condescending faultfinding micromanaging shrew)

Lillian retired just before JFK’s inauguration.

This show needs to be put on video.

Trivia: Josiah Bartlett is a direct ancestor of Bonnie Bartlett, who IRL is the wife of William Daniels (John Adams in the movie, a teacher at John Adams High in Boy Meets World and an egotistical heart surgeon who works at a hospital under Administrator Josiah Bartlett in St. Elsewhere.)
Tom Selleck recently played Eisenhower, though not having seen the miniseries I don’t know if it went up to his presidency.

Ubiquitous leprechaun Burgess Meredith played James Madison in a film about Dolly.

Heston played Jackson in at least two movies: The President’s Lady and The Buccaneers remake.

I liked Ralph Wiggum as “FDR.”

James Whitmore received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the one-man show “Give 'Em Hell, Harry.” (Three guesses which President he played?)

Ralph Wiggum played George Washington, not FDR.