Sunday, October 27, 2013

Robert Klara's "The Hidden White House"

Robert Klara is the author of the critically acclaimed 2010 book FDR's Funeral Train, which historian and author Douglas Brinkley called “a major new contribution to U.S. history.” Klara has been a staff editor for several magazines including Adweek, Town & Country and Architecture. His freelance work has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, American Heritage, and The Christian Science Monitor, among other publications.

Here Klara dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America's Most Famous Residence:
If they make my book into a film (and if they do, sweethearts, you’ll all be invited aboard my steam yacht), the casting director is in for a monstrous time: It took many, many people to rebuild the White House, and many of them are recurring characters in my book. So we’ll stick with the top few. I won’t let mortality get in my way nor, as you will note, will I let probable lack of financing do the same.

President Harry Truman should be played by the late Harry Morgan. Best known as Col. Potter in the M*A*S*H TV series, Morgan actually did play Truman—with uncanny brilliance—in the 1979 miniseries Backstairs at the White House. So I’d simply like a return engagement.

I would love to see what Meryl Streep could do with the role of First Lady Bess Truman, whose quiet, simple grace served as a counterpoint to her iron resolve. If you saw Streep in The Iron Lady (2011) or you’re old enough to remember how she played Danish plantation owner Karen in Out of Africa (1985), you’ll have an inkling of how well she’d channel this enigmatic, indomitable first lady.

To play the playful and feisty twentysomething Margaret Truman, I nominate Rashida Jones, whose blend of humor and intellect is perfect for the First Daughter.

Sean Connery would be magnificent as the erudite and brilliant chief architect Douglas Orr. I can see Connery in Orr’s round glasses, bow ties, and Yale tweeds, training a practiced eye on mountains of blueprints.

Lorenzo Winslow, the government architect who drew up the plans for the renovated mansion (and spent much of his spare time communicating with ghosts) is a role I would love to see what Donald Sutherland could do with, just for the hell of it.

Remember how incredible Daniel Day Lewis was as the volcanic Daniel Plainview in There Will be Blood? I’d put Lewis in the role of the White House’s tempestuous and powerful builder John McShain—another self-made man presiding over an empire with no heir.

White House maître d'hôtel Alonzo Fields was a quietly influential force in the White House—insightful and articulate, he was the eyes and ears of the domestic staff and an informal confidant of Truman’s. I can’t see anyone other than the late Scatman Crothers in this role with his deep, knowing smile, and a head full of kept secrets.

Resourceful and fussy, Usher J.B. West—a man whose ability to manage the ever-changing stage set that is the modern White House—was an indispensable force in the book’s narrative. Ben Kingsley would bring a kind of quirky magic to that role, which Mr. West has earned.

General Glen Edgerton—who supervised the entire day-to-day mess of the rebuilding effort—was a stark and steely man. Not only could Robert Downey Jr. play him, he looks like him.
Visit Robert Klara's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue