Acting President

By SJWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor

Spring is in the air, thoughts of daffodils, robins & Hollywood Awards. Earlier this month I watched Wilson (1944) which really is longer than Woodrow was President. The featured actor, Alexander Knox, is as wooden as they come. I am no fan of the real Wilson but he got the fuzzy end of the lollipop in regards to cinematic biography.

This sorry waste of film made me think of the good portrayals of Presidents in movies & on TV. So for your consideration, my list of winners:

George Washington

Jeff Daniels, The Crossing (2000)

Yes I know this episode in Washington’s life predates his Presidency. Jeff Daniels’ performance of quiet strength & complexity is amazingly good. Why did a ragtag army of farmers & backwoodsmen follow Washington into seemingly unwinnable odds? If Daniels’ portrayal is close to the real man, you have a clue why.

This TV film was made by A & E back when the A actually meant art & the E equaled thoughtful enriching entertainment. It is sad how far that network has fallen.

John Adams

George Grizzard, The Adams Chronicles (1976)

William Daniels, 1776 (1972)

Grizzard captured the Adams Abigail wrote those Love Letters to & Daniels captured the hard headed visionary the rebelling Colonies needed.

Lyndon Baynes Johnson

Bryan Cranston, All The Way (2016)

Cranston set the bar so high in LBJ portrayals I pity the fool who tries to top this.

And the overall winner is …..

John Quincy Adams

William Daniels, The Adams Chronicles (1976)

Mr Daniels was born to portray JQA. It is in his dna. He is this President. I honestly cannot see a picture of the actual President & not think of William Daniels’ performance.

Wait … was the wrong winner announced?

Nah. Just tweaking you. But I do have a bonus winner.

The Absolute Best Portrayal of a First Lady

Joan Allen, Nixon (1995)

Anthony Hopkins did not impress in this film but Ms Allen blew everyone off the screen as Pat Nixon. She made this woman human. Watch it for her performance alone.

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19 thoughts on “Acting President”

  1. Why no mention of the Roosevelts? Edward Herrmann & Jane Alexander were good but portrayals of this family slip quickly into impersonations, no matter the actor. Cousin Theodore suffers from the same theatrical fate. (For a good hoot catch Chris Elliott’s FDR: A One Man Show.)


  2. Edward Hermann was born to play FDR (see also “Annie”), not so much Bill Murray who played FDR in “Hyde Park in the Hudson.”  I saw it on-demand back when I had cable.  Disturbing.  It was no “Meatballs.”

    Kennedy as portrayed by Martin Sheen sticks for me, because I saw that before I ever saw a clip of the actual JFK.

    Stan Freeburg had an album called, “ The First Family.”  I heard that daily for awhile.  The WH tour was hilarious.  Many years later, PBS aired a bit of Jackie’s actual tour.  It was no “Meatballs.”

    Also wonderful, Margaret Cho as Kim J. Un and Darryl Hammond as Donald J. Trump.  Baldwin just doesn’t do it for me.

  3. blueINdallas,

    Hammond as Bill Clinton captures his particularly sleazy side perfectly. Oozes ick.



  4. sjwny, honorable mention —at least for courage under fire — should go to alec Baldwin.

  5. John Quincy got his after Presidency actor with Anthony Hopkins plus Nigel Hawthorne as Martin Van Buren in Amistad

    Ralph Bellamy as FDR before Presidency in Sunrise At Campobello

    Gary Sinise as Truman 

    Brian Keith as Teddy Roosevelt in The Wind and The Lion


  6. Wow, i’ve missed more of these movies than I would have expected. Gonna look for them Amazon. Yes, SJ, I did see the Wilson movie, one of the worst films ever on any topic.

  7. Jamie, loved that teddy talk on the grizzly bear – “should be the symbol of America”

    in a way pretty much is considering how it was on its way to extinction due to the greed of hunters and ranchers just as America is about to be done in by greedy businessmen and politicians.  

  8. Travolta wasn’t bad as the big dawg;  but nothing could beat billy bob thornton doing an imagined Carville in primary colors.

  9. Wilson sucked as a movie. As a soporific, it wasn’t so bad. Wilson, the man, was the first president since Jefferson to put his faith in modern scientific theories and systems. Wilson’s ideas about race and international politics were all up to the minute, and wrong.

  10. Jon Lovitz …. as Sam Nunberg on SNL.

    If you would choose to think of Roger Stone as your Father Figure how [expletive deleted] is your sorry life?

    Though will admit this latest twist in the Mueller Investigation is quite interesting, as in a car wreck or a dead bloated raccoon by the side of the road. Can’t look away.


  11. Mr Crawford, would you put a knowingly drunk/impaired person on TV? Is there journalistic responsibility not to exploit, no matter how repugnant the guest? Where is the line?

  12. SJ, I suggest customs vary. In the UK, everyone on set might be drunk or sober, no matter.

  13. Well, Erin Burnett said she smelled alcohol in him, which Katy Tur could not do, it being a phone interview.

    The interview with Tur was very entertaining.  How many times did he say, “Katy, Katy…”?  He was worked up and he didn’t sound exactly sober to me.

    But why go on air and do this???  It makes no sense.  How is this a distraction and from what???

    When he said “Roger and me” a couple of times, I thought Michael Moore might want to make a completely unrelated film with the same name as his first film.

  14. Actually, I suppose the new “Roger & Me” will be an SNL digital short.

    Maybe a skit with Tommy Flannagen, Baghdad Bob, Nathan Thurm (Martin Short), and, Sam Nunberg.

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