FEBRUARY 4, 1958
SARASOTA, Fla.—I saw the opening night performance last week in New York of the play, "Sunrise at Campobello", which depicts nearly three years in the life of my husband.
I found to be quite true what my son, Elliott, had told me about the play. It is remarkably good and well acted, but I was happy that the actors recognized it as a play and did not try to make it too real. As a result, just as Elliott had said, I was able to see it as drama and not think of it as depicting each individual as he or she really was.
Dore Schary, the author, did a remarkable job of gaining an insight into the characters as they were at the time—in 1921. Louis Howe, for instance, who is a delightful and amusing person, could easily have said any of the things that were put into his mouth and I enjoyed the portrayal of him thoroughly, although he could never have looked like the gentleman cast in his role.
I thought Miss Mary Fickett did an excellent job of being a very sweet character, which she is in the play. I am afraid I was never really like Mr. Schary's picture of myself, so I could even look upon the portrayal of myself in a fictional light!
Ralph Bellamy, as my husband, did a remarkable job of showing, in his study at the Institute for Crippled and Disabled, the way people with polio feel and the patience, hard work and determination that goes into doing each new thing. He suggested my husband very successfully.
Dramatically and emotionally, the play carried a real impact. Because it is about a victory over polio and leaves out all political questions, it may have a wider appeal and much more sympathetic audience than if stress had been laid on later political achievements. To people who have had and have overcome polio, it will have a very personal appeal, and it will dramatize for many the character-building that inevitably accompanies a lengthy illness of this kind in which patience and determination play such a great part in final achievements.
In real life, of course, there was one point which came later in my husband's life, as it frequently does in the lives of other polio victims. This was the point in which he made his decision as to whether he would devote himself to his efforts toward recovery or accept his disabilities in order to play a more active role in the life he was leading.
Sometimes, as in my husband's case, such a decision will be to go on with a political career. Sometimes it will be a decision to pick up again a home or business or professional life and work with the disabilities rather than devoting more time to complete recovery.
That is a subject, perhaps, for another play. In the meantime, I want to congratulate Mr. Schary and the producer, the Theatre Guild, and every member of the cast for a remarkably good performance and an extremely interesting play.