Rare Footage: Home Movie of FDR’s 1941 Inauguration

The vintage video above is an excerpt from a 16 mm home movie showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 20, 1941, the day of his Third Inauguration. This silent color movie was shot by FDR’s son-in-law (Clarence) John Boettiger, who was then working for the Motion Picture Association of America, and the quality of this rare footage is quite outstanding. Watch the full 14-minute version here.

FDR can first be seen at 2:45, heavily supported by his oldest son James. This is one of the rare moments on film where Roosevelt can actually be seen walking, and it’s obvious how difficult it was for him to walk after polio left him paralyzed from the hips down in 1921. Next, FDR is seen on the presidential platform with his wife Eleanor and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, taking the Oath of Office and giving his Inaugural Address. The full text of the address can be read courtesy of Yale Law School, and a high-resolution scan of the Inauguration Ceremonies Program has been uploaded by The Library of Congress.

FDR was the first American president to successfully run for a third term due to the precarious international situation in 1941. (Get the audio file of FDR’s State of the Union from January 6, 1941 here). After George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796, it had become an unwritten rule to follow his lead. But it was not until the 22nd Amendment from 1947/1951 (“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.”) that this restriction was enshrined into law. FDR was, of course, elected for a fourth term in 1945, but died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.



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  • Anvower Mill

    I was struck again, after all these years, by the nobility shown by Franklin Roosevelt. He dared not show us then how he labored to walk that distance to the podium. Few of us then could look past the disease wasted legs and the heavy steel braces to see the strength and character that would carry us through the years ahead.

  • http://gphemsley.wordpress.com/ Gordon P. Hemsley

    Someone should sync up this color footage with the audio broadcast, particularly of the speech. And the parts that weren’t recorded can be replaced with the older black and white footage.

    It would also be awesome if a lip-reader could transcribe what people were saying outside of the official ceremony production.

  • KarenG

    A small correction: FDR also (I believe) appears in the beginning of the clip, as the driver of the car. He is in shadow, but he was very adept at driving with his manual-control car. His face appears, looking out at the camera as his passenger exits. That had to be some of the reason for that part of the film.
    I, too was struck by how adept he had become by this time at hiding his rocking-motion “walk” on the (very strong right) arm of his son, aided by his own very strong arms and chest. One author wrote a book called “A Brilliant Deception” for the toll this took on FDR to hide what was a central part of his life. I noticed that even this personal film did not show the “transfers” from walking to twisting to go to the podium for the swearing in, to the next podium for his speech. They were probably less graceful.

  • KarenG

    A small correction: FDR also (I believe) appears in the beginning of the clip, as the driver of the car. He is in shadow, but he was very adept at driving with his manual-control car. His face appears, looking out at the camera as his passenger exits. That had to be some of the reason for that part of the film.
    I, too was struck by how adept he had become by this time at hiding his rocking-motion “walk” on the (very strong right) arm of his son, aided by his own very strong arms and chest. One author wrote a book called “A Brilliant Deception” for the toll this took on FDR to hide what was a central part of his life. I noticed that even this personal film did not show the “transfers” from walking to twisting to go to the podium for the swearing in, to the next podium for his speech. They were probably less graceful.

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