Truman (TV Movie 1995) Poster

(1995 TV Movie)

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Great actors, great movie
Trond_E17 July 1999
I must admit, before seeing this movie my expectations were somewhat low. However, I was surprised to learn that it is a really intelligent, sober and most importantly, truthful TV movie describing how an "ordinary American" and farmer, Harry S. Truman, rose to become the leader of the free world in the atomic age. The acting is really impressing. Especially Sinise as Truman, is really breathtaking, showing once and for all that he is undoubtly one of Hollywood`s most underestimated actors. The movie is also true to a great number of historical details, which improves the film even more. For all you historical and political junkies out there, this is a must see.
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The buck stops here!
rimjak22 August 2004
This solid, theatrical caliber bio of President Harry S. Truman covers much ground and offers Gary Sinise giving one of his finest performances to date.

An Emmy-winning production, this also boasts lavish period detail and a strong supporting cast (lead by Diana Scarwid as Bess Truman). It also features one of my all-time favorite character actors, Richard Dysart. He plays Secretary of War Henry Stimson and is quite memorable in an otherwise minor supporting role. All in all I gave this an IMDb '10'. Even with a whitewash of some details, this has to be one of the best presidential bios ever. They obviously put lots of time, money and effort into it.
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Gary Sinise=Truman
FilmOtaku8 August 2003
I knew that I was going to be interested in this film from the beginning, having read and enjoyed David McCullough's book of the same name. What I wasn't expecting was the incredible performance turned out by Gary Sinise as Truman. While I thought that he was the *only* good thing about the film Forrest Gump, I still wasn't completely sold on his acting ability. This film changed my mind, because I felt like I was watching Truman himself in action. I can't even fathom the amount of research he must have put into his role, but he was amazing.

As for the film itself, it was very well done, used stock footage well (although I would swear that I caught a glimpse of FDR in some footage after he had supposedly died) and was a good overview of the very lengthy source it came from. Having read the book, I would have liked to have seen the film act as more of a thesis than a summary, so while adding another hour may have alienated some in terms of length; it would have provided a more in-depth portrayal of a sometimes underrated president.

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Gripping and enthralling 'biopic'
Susan_Child28 January 2002
Based on David McCullough's weighty biography of Harry S Truman, this film is a fascinating and gripping 'biopic'. By refusing to resort either to simple hagiography or revisionist 'debunking', Frank Pierson has directed an excellent account of Truman's road to and period in the White House. He lets characters and events speak for themselves rather than imposing on them some wayward, overly-personal, directorial interpretation (who knows what Oliver Stone would have made of this one). In an age when all politicians, whatever their merits, are usually the targets of ridicule, it was interesting to watch a film which portrayed the difficult, if not impossible, decisions with which political leaders are routinely faced (the use of the Atomic Bomb, the Korean War and recognition of the state of Israel were just some of problems with which Truman had to grapple). Of course, the director's job was made a great deal easier by an excellent cast and flawless acting. 'Acting' is not really an accurate or adequate way to describe Gary Sinise's portrayal of the former President and the word 'performance' suggests impersonation - on the contrary, he seems simply to have 'become' Harry Truman for the duration of the film.
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The Buck stops here!
lib-426 February 2000
Gary Sinese goes a great job portraying the farmer who became a president- a man who could make tough decisions and live with them. Though surrounded by corruption, he never stooped to it. His letters to his wife are touching- since Bess did not cotton to Washington society. The whole movie- from his early days in haberdashery to the Korea and MacArthur are documented very well. I also liked the touch of his defending he daughter Margaret against the music critic of the Washington Post- He was a strong man- stubborn as a Missouri mule but also a man of intergrity.
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After seeing Gary Sinise in this movie he became one of my favorite actors...
Meggie-21 November 1998
After seeing Gary Sinise in this movie he became one of my favorite actors. I live in Independence, the proud hometown of Harry S. Truman. I was fortunate enought to meet Gary, who is one of the friendliest actors around. ( Only said hi but he smiled and said hi back with such warmth.) I think he's a great actor who will hopefully be around for years to come!!
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most integrity of any 20th century American president
widescreenguy14 May 2006
the thing I remember most in any of the bios and books about Truman was that he was a man of his word.

which became evident to stalin for instance during his adventurisms. he didn't think America under Truman would react to the invasion of south Korea that he agitated. in fact Truman responded immediately and decisively just as he said he would.

there is an anecdote about the use of stamps at the white house, where Truman insisted the stamps for his personal correspondence were paid for by him and kept separate from those for official letters.

Truman wasn't the back room deal maker type like so many before and all since, he was straightforward and honest. and tough as they come when he needed to be. I personally have for a very long time decided he was right to order the use of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and a few days later Nagasaki. I call Hiroshima the wake up call and Nagasaki the message. these weapons allowed the Japanese civilian authority a window in which to seize control from the militarists under toejam tojo just long enough to sue for peace and surrender in tokyo bay. thereby saving somewhere between 1/2 million and 10 million Japanese civilians and American soldier's lives.

Truman's popularity was very low at the time of the end of his 2nd term. but gradually increased over time as the American people realized his great qualities. he was certainly a quick study and didn't make very many serious mistakes. Harry Truman, Mr 'The Buck Stops Here'.

the film was a real delight, well acted with the necessary physical resemblances that add to the understanding and dramatic value.

one compares the buffoons that have somehow lucked into the oval office like the present day frat boy squawking parrot for big oil and you realize just why America has so many enemies in the world now.
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Imperfect but good biographical sketch
mstomaso8 May 2005
Harry Truman was an American president of rare integrity. Steadfastly honest and loyal to his friends, his causes, and his own heart, and born into a lower middle class farming family, Truman stands out as a real anomaly in 20th century American politics. Like similar men of profound integrity, such as John Adams, his presidency was a turbulent time of great triumphs for freedom and democracy and huge problems for ethics, nationalism and human rights. And as the symbol and scapegoat of those times, Truman, again like Adams, played his role - whether cast as hero or villain - with profound dignity. This film tells his story from his enlistment in the armed forces during World War One, at the age of 33, to his retirement from politics about 35 years later.

The characters of this film are portrayed sensitively and authentically. Truman and his wife, and the controversial Generals Marshall and MacArthur are particularly impressive. In some cases - particularly the Trumans themselves - this must have been a fairly difficult effort. Truman was not a very dramatic and flashy person, and his wife was fairly detached and private. Sinise and Scarwid play the parts and the relationship perfectly.

Since the study of history is a big part of my career, I am writing from a slightly unusual perspective. "Truman" has all the pedigree for what should have been a really powerful biographical film - a great lead actor, a solid supporting cast, a good production team, a great story and a very strong writing team. And it is refreshing to see such an accurate portrayal of a true hero of American politics and such a vivid realization of his times. Despite all of this, I feel that Truman could have been a better film - more dramatic, more visually powerful and more poignant. Somewhere between the script and the directing, a bit of cinematic art was lost and never quite recovered. Historiographically, this is a satisfying film, but it does not go too far past "satisfying".
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A Superb Biographical Drama
michael_the_nermal26 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Plot spoilers ahead.

HBO Productions did very well with "Truman." Gary Sinise is excellent as our 33rd president. This movie traces Harry S. Truman's life, from his humble beginnings as a Kansas City judge, to his decade in the Senate, to both of his terms as president. This movie does not sugar coat Truman's legacy at all, and is not afraid to tackle controversy. Among the events that the movie tackles are the decision to drop the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima; Truman's decision to force railway workers to end their strike with the threat of a draft; his decision to fire popular general Douglas McArthur; and, of significantly less importance, his decision to write a fiery response to a theater critic who had panned his daughter's performance. Sinise manages to humanize Truman, and makes the role all his own. His performance was realistic and seldom over the top. This film treats Truman with the respect and dignity worthy of his place in American history.
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A Little Touch of Harry . . .
jamesashford14 August 2008
In 1963 I was about to leave a graduate program in political science at Cornell to return to California and enter law school. In an attempt to get me to come back to Ithaca, my faculty adviser, Clinton Rossiter, suggested that on the way home I pass through Independence, Missouri, and spend some time at the Truman Library, on Cornell's dime. "Why don't you write the President?" said Rossiter. I did, and by return mail got a letter from Mr.Truman, inviting me to come on down. I ended up spending a couple of weeks, and aside from some formal interviews with the man, I saw and talked to him every day---it was his custom to wander through the research stacks and sit down with anyone there, to suggest what materials might be most helpful, and generally to shoot the breeze. He was in his element as a former President, and extremely generous and kind to this then 22 year old "scholar."

Gary Sinise appeared this summer at a symposium at California State University Fresno and, I am told, said that he considered "Truman" to be his best work. Based on my experience years ago, I'd say that Sinise was at the top of his game in his portrayal. He captured the man absolutely; looks, speech, mannerisms. The film is ambitious in historical scope, perhaps too much so, but for anyone who wants to experience what Truman was like in person, this is a film to watch.
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Harry Swinowish Truman was a rare breed of statesman: an honest, thinking man of the people. The TV Movie Truman does not inflate his character, but consolidates Truman's humility.

Gary Sinise is brilliantly cast as Harry S. Truman, and brings out the honest politician to a tee. All in all, a brilliant movie- worth watching!
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Straightforward Biography.
rmax30482311 November 2013
It's like an entertaining history lesson. Here's Harry S. Truman (Sinise), a plain farmer and haberdasher from the middle of some Midwestern nowhere, who gets promoted into the Senate by a local political strong man, then becomes a nonentity as Vice President, and finally President-by-Accident for two terms, retiring in 1953.

We get to watch him politely court his wife, put up with insults from his cantankerous mother-in-law (Smith), command a battery of guns in World War I, decide to drop the bomb on Japan, duel with General MacArthur over Korea, ignore Tailgunner Joe McCarthy's rants in the Senate, and finally go home to Independence, where he more or less stayed until his death.

Sinise is pretty good. His natural voice doesn't really resemble Truman's very much but he approximates the Missouri accent. Diana Scarwid, as wife Bess, can be a fine actress given the right role. She was hilarious as the compulsive hair dresser in "Silkwood". But she's constrained by the role here, and she's not much more than the stereotypical strong supporting wife, who merely more or less submits to life in the arena while longing for the plowed fields of yesteryear.

As Truman, Sinise too is stuck with an unimaginative and schematic script. Truman was something more than the plain-spoken man from the very un-chic Midwest. Plain spoken, yes, but much of that speech was more colorful than what we hear on screen. I'm sure David McCollough's book was more detailed than this sketch is. Maybe the screenwriter and producers wanted an uplifting story of an honest patriot. But how could they leave out Truman's incandescent rant about the turnaround in Korea -- when the Chinese became "the yellow peril," and "the Chinks," and "the heathen Chinee"? Ed Flanders brought more energy and flamboyance to the role of Truman in the equally bland story of "MacArthur." I'm sorry that nobody got to play Thomas E. Dewey, New York's racket-busting DA. Dewey had an innocent but comical appearance. Someone said he looked like the little man in the tuxedo on top of a wedding cake.

It's also too bad that we don't learn more about the internal dynamics of the Truman administration. We don't even learn who his Vice President was, or his Secretary of State. The latter was James F. Byrnes, a lawyer from South Carolina who was a segregationist, who lacked diplomatic skills, and who provided Truman with advice on foreign affairs. Byrnes was an important figure but if his name is mentioned I missed it. The Marshall Plan gets about ten seconds.

Yet, I'm glad that HBO brought this out, whatever weaknesses it may have. Okay, Harry Truman is cleaned up a little for public consumption but today's kids don't even know who Truman WAS, let alone anything about his personality or his appearance.
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Our 33rd President
bkoganbing24 October 2015
Based on David McCullough's acclaimed book on the subject, Truman tells the story of our 33rd president Harry S. Truman from his days as a young adult courting Bess Wallace to the end of his presidency settling down to retirement in Independence, Missouri. Gary Sinise and Diana Scarwid play Harry and Bess Truman in this HBO film.

The personality of Harry S. Truman is pretty well indelibly set in the American consciousness and Sinise is faithful to the feisty image we have of Truman. Historians even now debate the impact his presidency had for good or bad. But the decisions he made while there no doubt shaped the post World War II we now live in.

Bess Truman has been an elusive figure though, probably the least public of the First Ladies of the 20th Century. From some of what we are shown in this film I would suggest that Margaret Truman's biography of her Mom was the source. An integral part of their life was Bess's mother Madge Wallace played here by Lois Smith. She was a warped woman who came undone at the suicide of her husband David Wallace, Bess's father. The home that is now a US landmark was Madge Wallace's though she lived in the White House with Harry&Bess. She died in 1952 and only after buying out Bess's brothers did the Trumans own that house.

Truman if nothing else prized loyalty. He was a product of the Pendergast machine and while he was Vice President for that brief time, he was criticized for attending Boss Tom's funeral. Pat Hingle fits my conception of what Pendergast was like. Unfortunately for Truman he put a lot of Pendergast wardheelers in jobs and they embarrassed him no end with a series of scandals in his elected term.

For those who accept the popular image of Harry S. Truman, Truman the film will suit you perfectly. After a while after looking and hearing Gary Sinise you'll think you are watching a newsreel of the 33rd President.
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I was actually in it...
pietvana8 August 2005
I didn't vote on it, just to be fair.

It was really pretty cool to be an extra, and to see the finished product. We shot one complete sequence at a "French" farm/farmhouse that never showed up in the final cut. It was Truman first receiving his troops. Too bad, approaching the farm outside Kanssa City, I figured the bomb-hole in the roof was faked, but could never quite focus well enough to stop fooling my eyes. It was tar paper under the red tiles of the roof, and was perfect! The horses, cannon, cheering/heckling were fun to do, too.

Shooting the opening scene, the muddy French battlefront outside KC,MO on a very cold 3AM or so Palm Sunday, they had to chip the ice off the cannon before each shot. We were being "showered", literally, with 5,000 gals of cold water (I forget what the amount on the tanker truck said). They gave up after the second load!

They had assigned me to stand on a particular hill with the younger guys. Ha, I was about 40!

We were in authentic militaria, my helmet's strap had the soldier's name, and Armentiers, I think, written in it. Some parts weren't period, but there were some re-enactors who brought the cannon, real rifles to add to the production's real and fakes, and the horses to pull them in both scenes.

I had to run in front of and dive/slip/get very muddy Gary Sinise riding into the scene. Finally, I thought I was too muddy to do it again, or be able to use the same costume for later shooting that week!

Gary Sinise was standing in the mud with the rest of us between takes. They put out ONE cannister of propane with a 1-foot square radiant heater atop. I stood a bit to the back of the group, and just hopped about, up and down, to keep my feet warm...-er. I was just concerned about keeping the same just-above-dead-frozen-yet-still- almost-completely-miserable temperature; the heater just LOOKED warm, and red, but didn't do much unless you kept spinning about, cooling off immediately, fast as you turned. It merely reminded you that you were cold.

Gary Sinise saw me hopping, felt sorry for me, and tried to get me to take his place close to it! Pretty nice guy, especially as I was just a grunt! (So much better than The Battle at the Met.)
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A better knowledge about U.S. history would definitely enhance the enjoyment of this movie
eddax20 June 2003
Harry S. Truman was much maligned in his time. Succeeding the U.S. presidency via the death of the legendary Franklin Delano Roosevelt did him no favors. Truman covers the life of the 33rd president of the United States from his humble beginnings as a farmer and haberdasher up till the point he steps down from the post of the most powerful man in the world amidst communist controversies and low popularity ratings. It would not be until historians started working on his biography that his numerous positive contributions to the American public were revealed. David McCullough, a noted historian whose recent biography of John Adams made the best-seller list, wrote the book this movie is adapted from.

Although Truman is undoubtedly a truncated version of McCullough's novel, Truman gives enough basic information about the president to appreciate his actions, but some general knowledge about U.S. history would definitely enhance the enjoyment of the movie. Throughout the movie questions about the man and his administration arose, questions that will probably never be answered unfortunately, not without plenty of time to do research and the will to do it anyway.
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Terrific Film
RJBENNETT15 April 2001
I was not particularly interested in seeing this film, but some German friends of mine had rented the videocassette, so I watched it with them. I don't know what the film is like in English, but even in the dubbed German version that we saw, it is tremendously moving. Gary Sinise's performance is masterful, and the film gave me a sense of why many people consider Truman a great American president. What is more, as I watched the film here in Europe with a group of Europeans, the film also made me - and I'm not a particularly patriotic person - extremely proud to be an American citizen.
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So underrated!
wlipman-212 January 2000
Gary Sinise is tremendous in this. It has become a favorite of my 12 year old son, which is a fine thing to see! The acting, and the painstaking accuracy make this a worthy portrayal of David McCullough's masterpiece of a book.
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This movie is riddled with historical inaccuracies
kwbench27 June 2017
One after another historical inaccuracies riddled this movie. These inaccuracies throw a shadow over some very solid acting performances. Marshall and Stimson's opinions and written testimonies are perhaps the most egregious of these inaccuracies. This movie should come with footnotes.
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Accurate, Great Acting, Lacks Punch
merylmatt31 March 2016
Having just finished David McCullough's 900 page book on Truman (this movie is based on the book), I thought I'd check this out.

I'm a fan of Gary Sinise, he does a great job in this role. The movie is accurate to the book and history. Despite the challenges Truman faced, the movie script does not reflect the drama of the times - the decision to drop the A-Bomb, facing the Cold War, rebuilding Europe, the Red Scare are but a few of the things facing the Truman administration. The actors do the best they can, but the screen play comes off as wooden.

It's too bad because Harry was an interesting president during a rough time. Good history not well told.
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Good Work By Gary Sinise In An Interesting But Somewhat Shallow Biography
sddavis633 December 2009
Gary Sinise was well cast as Harry S Truman. I've generally had some mixed feelings about Sinise. I like a lot of his supporting work, but when cast in the lead, I've considered him a bit weak and unconvincing, lacking the "presence" if you will to carry a production. That quality fit Truman, though, who suffered from some of the same perception. He was a solid politician, a product of the Pendergast Democratic machine in Missouri, but one who largely stayed in the background and resisted becoming front and centre as a national figure, partly because of his uncertainties about his own ability. Thrust into the presidency by the death of FDR after he had reluctantly agreed to run for Vice President, he came into office facing a weight more burdensome than any president save Lincoln, at a time when momentous decisions had to be made on a variety of issues, ranging from the atomic bomb to Korea to civil rights, and whether you think he was right or wrong, he made the decisions and never looked back upon them with regret. Consistently looked down upon by his contemporaries, Truman is thought of more highly by historians, and is now widely considered one of the better presidents in US history; one of the best of the 20th century.

Sinise captured the man. His solid but underwhelming (to me at least) screen presence was a perfect representation. I also appreciated Diana Scarwid's performance as Bess Truman, the reluctant and not especially happy wife of a politician who nevertheless understood in the end that Truman had to seek election in his own right in 1948 or he would live the rest of his life thinking of himself as an accident. Those good performances aside, though (and there were other good supporting performances as well) I thought this account of Truman's life was somewhat shallow. I suppose that was inevitable in some ways. How do you do justice to such a life in a couple of hours? Still, this movie left me with little understanding of what you might describe as "the making of a president." There are scenes of Truman's life from his experiences in World War I onward, but they're just scenes. Aside from his problematic relationship with his mother in law (we get the impression that she looked down upon him) and a bit of material about his relationship with Pendergast (Truman was one of the few who would sometimes stand up to him) there's really little sense of the man's development into a a great leader. Instead we get what are essentially snippets: of Truman as a haberdasher, of Truman as a judge, of Truman as a senator, of Truman with FDR, of Truman with MacArthur, etc., etc. Snippets but little substance.

That's not to say that this production is of little value. Even if it does lack depth, it's an interesting portrayal of an interesting man, and if it leads some folk to actually read some material about Truman, especially the more in depth biography by David McCullough on which this is based, then it will have served an important purpose. That earns it some points, but judged on its merits as a TV production, it gets no higher than 6/10 from me.
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An ordinary and yet extraordinary man
dimplet22 July 2013
The makeup crew deserve a lot of credit for the fantastic job they did on Gary Sinese and Diana Scarwid, especially the aging. Both actors truly captured the spirit of Harry and Bess.

The program did not provide any basic background on Bess Wallace Truman, that she was actually far above Harry's station in school and in the community, but that he never wavered over many years of courtship in his plans to marry her. It was truly an extraordinary love affair. His step- mother, though, always thought Bess had married down, even when they were in the Whitehouse!

What an ordinary and yet extraordinary person Truman was. The show conveys some of this. I hope it inspires viewers to read more about him, both David McCullough's very readable bio and Merle Miller's wonderful Plain Speaking.

The campaign of '48 is perhaps the most interesting part from a contemporary perspective because Truman's descriptions of the Republican Party and Congress sound so much like today, but better articulated. While history doesn't always repeat itself, the GOP certainly does.

There are some inaccuracies in the film. The worst is the statement that Truman was going to join the Klu Klux Klan, but Pendergast dissuaded him. This is absurd because the KKK in Jackson County was "a Republican adjunct," according to Truman - they didn't support Democrats.

The one time Truman lost a campaign was because of KKK opposition: his 1924 campaign for re-election as county judge. He heard they were holding a meeting and he went: "I got up and told them exactly what I thought of them. Got down off the platform, walked right down through the center of them, and started home."

Now, that's Truman in a nutshell. Too bad Thomas Rickman didn't put it in the film.

The portrayal of his relation with Pendergast is sort of accurate. Truman awarded all of the road work contracts to the low bidder, as he said; the film suggests there was a $10,000 favor to Pendergast, which I don't believe. Truman said Pendergast never asked him to do a dishonest thing.

Pendergast did ask him to attend a meeting with paving contractors who believed they deserved the work because they were local. Truman told them he would award the contracts to the lowest bidders, regardless of whether they were local or out of state. Said Truman: "... afterward Tom Pendergast said to me that I was to go ahead and carry out my commitments as best I saw fit, and that is what I did." (P. 120, Plain Speaking.) They were good, solid roads, too, unlike some elsewhere.

Instead, Rickman seems compelled to play up the stereotype of the evil political boss, even if it means making up facts. What Truman did do was fill some patronage jobs with Pendergast boys, but that's politics. One of the finest things Truman did was attend Pendergast's funeral; it showed real character.

The film provides a good outline of the historical decisions he faced: Korea, Gen. MacArthur, Sen. McCarthy. And I am glad to see mention of his beef with Eisenhower over his treatment of Gen. Marshall.

The film makes an important point about the Bomb, that we already were able to kill as many or more people in cities with massive conventional bombing runs. And his little speech about how he couldn't face the families of soldiers later if he didn't use it was straight out of Plain Speaking, which is good.

It would have been nice to have had a scene where he ordered Gen. Marshall to allow the plan to rebuild Europe, which was really Truman's plan, to be called "The Marshall Plan," so called because it was presented in a speech by Marshall. Marshall didn't want the public attention, and Truman didn't want the plan politicized by having his name on it. It says a lot about Truman. And he brought President Herbert Hoover out of mothballs to help administer relief aid.

There is a lot of cynicism about politics today. Harry Truman was an exceptionally fine person who became a senator and president. He is an inspiration for politicians to speak their mind honestly and directly. In some ways, Joe Biden embodies those characteristics, but there are others in office, local, state and national, who are good, honest people.

Harry Truman showed that it is possible in politics to be honest and do the right thing, as you see it.

Note: HBO's Warm Springs, about FDR's battle with polio, was much better done. But then it covered a much narrower time frame.
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His Character Shows Through
Wryter473 June 2003
A wonderful aspect of this film is showing Harry Truman as a person who is very clear about the nature of authority and role. He is unapologetic about the appropriate use of his authority as President, especially in firing MacArthur, and he is clear about role differentiation when he says things like, "I don't care what they think of Harry Truman the man, but I will not tolerate disrespect to the Office of President of the United States." This is a classic case of "taking your job seriously but never yourself." One could wish all Presidents -- indeed, all leaders -- could learn this aspect of true leadership. This a great film that bears watching more than once.
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Well told biography of an ordinary man becoming president.
sunking22 March 2000
Truman is a well acted and very catching film. The film managed to make politics an interesting story even though it is often boring to me. Looking at the first half hour you would have never thought a guy like this would be president. Worth catching.
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Bad history class
guyb-28 November 2001
Too bad for the excellent class and the great book. The screenplay sunk this one. It was like a really bad high school history class. "Just memorize the dates and events and you get an 'A'" I really have wanted to "know" Truman and this wasn't the movie to do it with.
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