By Andrew Hager, Historian-in-residence
PPM Picks is a weekly feature offering film, book, or music recommendations from our staff. The links provided in the article go to product listings on Amazon. Purchases made using these links support the Presidential Pet Museum. That said, we were not paid to review or promote any of the items mentioned. We just legitimately like them.
Imagine an adventure film based (loosely) on real events. Picture desert raids, swordplay, midnight escapes, pitched battles, acts of courage, and good-natured fun. If you had to imagine a real American president who would fit easily into such a world, whom would you choose?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s not Chester Arthur.
Theodore Roosevelt (a charismatic Brian Keith) is not the principal character in The Wind and the Lion, but he hurtles around the periphery of the story, boxing, shooting, and waxing poetic about America’s role on the world stage.
It’s October of 1904, and the Raisuli (Sean Connery), leader of the Berbers, has kidnapped an American woman (Candice Bergen) and her two children. He hopes to destabilize Morocco and settle a few scores. The hostages are leverage; by playing the American government against the European-backed Sultan, the swashbuckling Raisuli hopes to gain power from the chaos. What he didn’t bargain for is the fierce independence of his captive, who proves herself to be his equal in both intellect and bravery.
Part Indiana Jones, part African Queen, The Wind and the Lion succeeds where so many action movies fail. Writer-director John Milius builds effective tension and stages his battles with clarity. More importantly, the characters are allowed to develop in their own time, which adds real stakes to the proceedings. And all the while, there’s Teddy Roosevelt wielding the big stick of his forceful personality. That’s quite a bonus. The central narrative may belong to others, but the world belongs to T. R.