Warm Springs
Written byMargaret Nagle
Directed byJoseph Sargent
StarringKenneth Branagh
Cynthia Nixon
Kathy Bates
Tim Blake Nelson
Jane Alexander
David Paymer
Theme music composerBruce Broughton
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducerChrisann Verges
CinematographyRobbie Greenberg
EditorMichael Brown
Running time121 minutes
Production companiesHBO Films
Mark Gordon Productions
The Mark Gordon Company
Original release
ReleaseApril 30, 2005 (2005-04-30)

Warm Springs is a 2005 made-for-television biography drama film directed by Joseph Sargent, written by Margaret Nagle, and starring Kenneth Branagh, Cynthia Nixon, Kathy Bates, Tim Blake Nelson, Jane Alexander, and David Paymer. The screenplay concerns U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1921 illness, diagnosed at the time as polio, his struggle to overcome paralysis, his discovery of the Warm Springs resort, his work to turn it into a center for the rehabilitation of polio victims, and his resumption of his political career. Roosevelt's emotional growth as he interacts with other disabled people at Warm Springs prepares him for the challenges he will face as president during the Great Depression.


The film opens in 1924 with a handicapped Franklin D. Roosevelt living in semi-isolation on a Florida houseboat with two male attendants. He reminisces about running as vice president during the 1920 presidential election. Franklin, a Harvard-educated lawyer, New York assemblyman, and assistant Secretary of the Navy, gave a rousing speech in which he mentioned his cousin President Teddy Roosevelt's own run as vice president. Republican Warren Harding won the election, but Franklin's political rise had begun, though his opponents consider the arrogant Franklin a political lightweight.

When Franklin's wife, Eleanor discovered his extra-marital affair, they remained married but with mostly separate lives. When Franklin was suddenly stricken with what was diagnosed as polio, leaving his lower body paralyzed, devastated and refusing to be a burden, Franklin then left for Florida to live on the houseboat.

When a storm wrecks the houseboat, Franklin and his attendants go to a nearby restaurant. Louis Howe, Franklin's political adviser, arrives and attempts to persuade Franklin to return to New York and resume his political career. However, at the same time Franklin receives a letter from an old friend George Foster Peabody who invites Franklin to the Meriweather Inn, the resort he owns in Warm Springs, Georgia. Peabody claims a handicapped boy was able to walk while in the therapeutic mineral waters. Intrigued, Franklin heads to Warm Springs, along with Eleanor.

Franklin and Eleanor discover the Meriweather Inn is extremely rundown. Franklin rejects staying in a two-story residence, fearing being trapped upstairs in a fire, but settles for a small one-story cottage. Once in the pool, Franklin is unable to stand, though resort manager, Tom Loyless, says he will in time. Meanwhile, Eleanor realizes Franklin intends to stay in Georgia.

Appalled by the differences between Georgia and New York and the dilapidated resort, Eleanor urges Franklin to return to New York City, saying it has the best doctors and hospitals in the country. He refuses, believing Warm Springs gives him a chance to walk again. Eleanor returns to New York where Louis launches her career as a social activist. Meanwhile, Franklin is eventually able to stand and move around in the buoyant waters. His celebrity results in an interview with the local newspaper. Franklin feels residents pity him, but Tom assures him that is not the case.

The resort closes for the season. Franklin returns in the spring to discover that after his newspaper interview was nationally syndicated, other polio victims have come to the resort. Franklin angrily storms out; Tom chastises him, saying it is not Franklin's private resort and accuses him of having the same prejudices and pity that other people have towards polio victims.

At the train station, Franklin is about to return to New York. Tom is there to pick up Fred Botts a newly arriving polio patient. Franklin is appalled that the young man was forced to ride in the baggage car alone and is barely conscious. Franklin berates the indifferent conductor, and he and Tom take the man to the resort to recover since the nearest hospital is all the way in Atlanta and the nearest doctor is also too far away. Tom informs Franklin that, due to the able-bodied guests fearing polio, he cannot use the pool during regular hours or eat in the dining room.

Soon after, physical therapist Helena Mahonny arrives to work at the resort, inspired by Franklin's interview. Helena says the waters are helping Franklin but he needs more pool time than is allowed. Franklin decides to buy the resort and turn it into a polio rehab center.

Franklin learns that Tom has terminal cancer and is returning home to die. Franklin's domineering mother, unable to understand Franklin's purpose at Warm Springs, sends Louis and Eleanor to stop him buying the spa and bring him back to New York. Upon arriving, Eleanor is supportive. She and Franklin begin fund-raising and accept a doctor's offer to evaluate the resort.

Louis believes Franklin is ready to resume his political career, aiming for Governor of New York. Meanwhile, Franklin receives the visiting doctor's unfavorable medical report in which he disputes hydrotherapy's benefits. With plans to turn the resort into a polio rehab center and regain his ability to walk possibly being derailed, Franklin becomes depressed. Helena, Louis, and Eleanor persuade him to revive his political career. They devise a method enabling Franklin to appear in public with a cane in his hand and supported by leg braces and minimal human assistance so he can be seen moving around in public without crutches and his wheelchair. The plan works and Franklin is elected Governor of New York.

The epilogue reveals that Franklin won the U.S. presidency four years later and became the only person elected to more than two terms, serving until his death while in office, at his Warm Springs cottage in 1945. The rehab center was Franklin's life insurance beneficiary and continues to operate to this day.


Actor Role
Kenneth Branagh Franklin D. Roosevelt
Cynthia Nixon Eleanor Roosevelt
Kathy Bates Helena Mahoney
Tim Blake Nelson Tom Loyless
Jane Alexander Sara Delano Roosevelt
David Paymer Louis McHenry Howe
Melissa Ponzio Lucy Mercer
Marianne Fraulo Missy LeHand
Brian F. Durkin Elliott Roosevelt
Turner Dixon James Roosevelt
Tripp Hennington Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr.
Sam Frihart John Roosevelt
Carrie Adams Anna Roosevelt
Wilbur Fitzgerald Al Smith
Felicia Day Eloise Hutchinson

Actress Jane Alexander, who plays FDR's mother Sara Delano Roosevelt, also played Eleanor Roosevelt in the acclaimed 1976 telefilm Eleanor and Franklin and its 1977 sequel Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years. Many of the bit part actors in the film are actually physically disabled, though Branagh and several other of the principal actors are not. The withered appearance of Branagh's legs was achieved through the use of CGI.


The film was produced by HBO Films and directed by Joseph Sargent. The majority of the film was made at Warm Springs, Georgia and its surrounding locations. Other Georgia locations include Madison, Atlanta,Summerville,and Gainesville.[1]

The producers strove to make sure that many of the physical details were as authentic as possible. For example, Kenneth Branagh, as Roosevelt, is seen driving the very same specially-equipped automobile that FDR was taught to drive at Warm Springs. The cottage that Roosevelt stays in during the film is one of the cottages that the real FDR stayed in. And the swimming pool in which the patients swim in is the actual therapeutic swimming pool at Warm Springs, refurbished specifically for the film.


Tom Jicha of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found the film "more educational than entertaining", but said "Kenneth Branagh offers an exemplary turn".[2] Rob Owens of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said, ""Warm Springs" isn't a revolutionary or ground-breaking film, but it is a solid depiction of a time in the life of a figure who loomed large in 20th century American history."[3] Sid Smith of the Chicago Tribune said that Branagh and Nixon "play these familiar icons as real, flesh-and-blood people", and also noted memorable work by Paymer, Bates, and Nelson.[4] Kevin McDonough of United Feature Syndicate called the film "intimate and powerful".[5]

Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel takes some issue with some of the writing, but says the film is "impressive" and that " Tim Blake Nelson is heart-rending as the spa's proprietor." He also noted that before Roosevelt died at Warm Springs, he listed the rehabilitation center as beneficiary of his $562,000 life insurance policy.[6]


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Artios Awards Outstanding Achievement in Movie of the Week Casting Lynn Kressel Nominated [7]
International Film Music Critics Association Awards Best Original Score for Television Bruce Broughton Nominated [8]
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Motion Picture Made for Television Won [9]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Kenneth Branagh Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Cynthia Nixon Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Jane Alexander Nominated
Kathy Bates Nominated
Best Direction of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Joseph Sargent Nominated
Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Margaret Nagle Won
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Lighting in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Makeup/Hairstyling in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Music in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Bruce Broughton Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Made for Television Movie Mark Gordon, Celia D. Costas, and
Chrisann Verges
Won [10]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Kenneth Branagh Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Cynthia Nixon Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Jane Alexander Won
Kathy Bates Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Joseph Sargent Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Margaret Nagle Nominated
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie Sarah Knowles, Scott Ritenour,
Thomas Minton, and Frank Galline
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or Special Lynn Kressel and
Shay Bentley-Griffin
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie Robbie Greenberg Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Hope Hanafin and Keith G. Lewis Nominated
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Taylor Knight and Vanessa Davis Nominated
Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Non-Prosthetic) Carla White and Donna M. Premick Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score) Bruce Broughton Won
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Richard Taylor, David Beadle,
Jane Boegel, Russell DeWolf,
Andrew Ellerd, Juanita F. Diana,
Sonya Henry, Patrick Hogan,
Eileen Horta, Jason Lezama,
Stuart Martin, Todd Murakami,
Brian Thomas Nist, Robert Ramirez,
Mark Cookson, Ed Kalnins,
James Bailey, and John Benson
Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie Mary H. Ellis, Rick Ash, and
Adam Jenkins
Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture Made for Television Nominated [11]
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Kenneth Branagh Nominated
Best Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Cynthia Nixon Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or
Motion Picture Made for Television
Tim Blake Nelson Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or
Motion Picture Made for Television
Jane Alexander Nominated
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best TV Movie Nominated [12]
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Non-Commercial Television Michael Brown Nominated [13]
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Mini-Series/Pilot Robbie Greenberg Won [14]
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design Award – Television Movie or Mini-series Sarah Knowles, Scott Ritenour,
and Thomas Minton
Nominated [15]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series Hope Hanafin Nominated [16]
Critics' Choice Awards Best Picture Made for Television Nominated [17]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television or Miniseries Joseph Sargent Won[b] [18]
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Nominated [19]
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Kenneth Branagh Nominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Cynthia Nixon Nominated
Humanitas Prize 90 Minute or Longer Network or Syndicated Television Margaret Nagle Nominated [20]
Producers Guild of America Awards David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Mark Gordon, Celia D. Costas, and
Chrisann Verges
Nominated [21]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Kenneth Branagh Nominated [22]
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Cynthia Nixon Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program Camille Cellucci, Jonathan Keeton,
Kirk Cadrette, and John Baker
Nominated [23]
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Original Margaret Nagle Won [24]

See also


  1. ^ Tied with John Paul Kelly, Emma MacDevitt, and Sara Wan for The Lost Prince.
  2. ^ Tied with George C. Wolfe for Lackawanna Blues.


  1. ^ "Kimbler, Scott. "FDR movie filmed, in part, in Gainesville to air on HBO", WDUN, April8, 2005
  2. ^ Jicha, Tom. "HBO film 'Warm Springs' Shows an FDR American Seldom Saw", South Florida Sun-Sentinel, April 30, 2005
  3. ^ Owens, Rob. "Kenneth Branagh humanizes Roosevelt", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 24, 2005
  4. ^ Smith, Sid., "'Warm Springs' explores FDR's retreat, politics", Chicago Tribune, April 30, 2005
  5. ^ McDonough, Kevin. "'Warm Springs' looks at FDR, polio", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane), April 30, 2005
  6. ^ Boedeker, Bob. "A Refreshing Look at FDR's struggles", The Orlando Sentinel, April 224, 2005
  7. ^ "2005 Artios Awards". www.castingsociety.com. Retrieved 1 November 2005.
  8. ^ "2005 IFMCA Awards". International Film Music Critics Association. 3 January 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  9. ^ "9th Annual TV Awards (2005)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  10. ^ "Warm Springs". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Nominees & Winners – Satellite™ Awards 2005 (10th Annual Satellite™ Awards)". International Press Academy. Satellite Awards. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  12. ^ Newcott, William R. (March 2006). ""Fifth Annual Movies for Grownups"". AARP the Magazine. Washington, DC. pp. 50–51.
  13. ^ "Nominees/Winners". IMDb. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  14. ^ "The ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography". Archived from the original on 2 August 2011.
  15. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Art Directors Guild. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  16. ^ "7th Costume Designers Guild Awards". Costume Designers Guild. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  17. ^ "The BFCA Critics' Choice Awards :: 2005". Broadcast Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  18. ^ "58th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Warm Springs – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  20. ^ "Past Winners & Nominees". Humanitas Prize. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  21. ^ McNary, Dave (22 January 2006). "PGA on cowboy trail". Variety. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  22. ^ "The 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  23. ^ "4th Annual VES Awards". Visual Effects Society. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  24. ^ "Previous Nominees & Winners: 2008 Awards Winners". Writers Guild Awards. Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2014.