» » Terrible Teddy, the Grizzly King (1901)

Short summary

A parody of the sporting habits of Theodore Roosevelt, who at the time had recently been elected Vice President of the USA: 'Teddy' appears, brandishing his rifle, and begins blasting away. With him are a press agent and a photographer, ready to celebrate his exploits, regardless of their worth.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Clandratha
    This very brief movie consists of only two shots, and the action is simple, but even so it's incomprehensible to modern viewers without explanation. Intended as political satire, Terrible Teddy the Grizzly King was inspired by two editorial cartoons published under that name in the Hearst papers, cartoons which were critical of the newly elected Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt. The vigorous young T.R. was known as an outdoors-man, in the style later adopted by Ernest Hemingway (i.e. camping out and killing lots of animals), all very macho as we would say now. He was also known for a decided lack of shyness in publicizing his exploits. The Hearst cartoons depicted "Teddy" killing a mountain lion in Colorado, all the while making certain that his photographer and press agent record the event. Afterwards, he gallops home with his trophy.

    This film follows that scenario, but is rather heavy-handed in its approach. In the first shot, the actor playing Roosevelt dashes awkwardly into the woods, in a kind of crazed, high-speed toddle, falls, and quickly rights himself. Already, he seems foolish. Then, and only after his photographer and press agent have arrived on the scene, he fires his rifle into a tree. The body of a dark cat falls, and Teddy seizes it and stabs it repeatedly. (The photographer, by the way, is labeled "My Photographer," while the press agent writes in a big pad labeled "Press Agent." It's like an old newspaper cartoon come to life.) Once this act has been properly documented, the three men ride homeward in triumph on horseback.

    Perhaps the biggest drawback here is that the face of the actor playing Roosevelt is barely visible. In both shots the camera is distant from the actors, although we can read the signs carried by T.R.'s flacks. Perhaps it was felt that the actor's resemblance to the Vice President wasn't strong enough to permit a better look, but the satirical point is nonetheless blunted when the hunter's identity has to be explained. Still, this probably wasn't an issue when the film was first shown. There was only one "Teddy" in the news then, and his outdoor adventures were so well publicized that audiences of the time must have laughed in recognition from the moment he appeared on screen. Although this film is brief and crudely made, it's an important milestone: perhaps the first utilization of the cinema as political satire.
  • comment
    • Author: Flamehammer
    Although the film itself is of mediocre quality, this short feature is still quite an interesting piece of history, as one of the very earliest movie parodies of a public figure. Theodore Roosevelt was not yet President when the film was released in February 1901, but having recently been elected Vice President, he was very well-known and a popular, if rather controversial, figure. The movie satirizes Roosevelt's well-publicized sporting exploits, which seem to have been a large part of his public persona.

    In itself, the film is not really that good, despite some clever ideas. The actor who plays "Terrible Teddy" does not really resemble Roosevelt, yet it should have been relatively easy, even in 1901, to make a better effort at simulating Roosevelt's appearance. It's still easy to recognize 'Teddy' from his habits, and the brief story does have one or two good satirical gags, but they would have been more amusing if they had been carried out with a little more skill.

    It's still interesting in itself and in comparison with the similar, though much more involved, films of the present. It would be interesting to know how this was received by a public that generally admired Roosevelt, since viewers usually judge films with any political implications by whether they agree with the movie's viewpoint, rather than by its intrinsic cinematic quality. Human nature was probably the same in 1901.
  • comment
    • Author: Ranicengi
    While the quality of the print of this early silent film is a bit suspect (it's very dark and a little tough to see what's happening as a result of age), it's a very clever idea. Instead of the usual boring Edison Production Company film of the president (and they made many), this one is a deliberate fake that makes fun of the carefully cultivated "rugged outdoorsman" image the new president. The actor playing Teddy Roosevelt is shown making through the wilderness followed by press agents. He whips out his gun and stalks his prey and shoots--only to have a poor cat fall out of the tree! Then, in a brave and manly fashion, he whips out his knife to dispatch the terrible beast!!! This was a cute way of mocking the president but could have been a bit better--especially if at the end it had shown a fake newspaper with an appropriate headline such as "Roosevelt Dodges Certain Death" or the like! Still, for 1901 it's cute and one of the few critical films you'll find of politicians from that era.
  • comment
    • Author: Paster
    This is a 1901 film by silent film legend Edwin S. porter, but this was certainly not his brightest hour. First of all, the quality here is fairly low unfortunately, even for 1901's standards, which were actually fairly decent already. Progress went fast. Next problem is that I am not big on hunting or killing for pleasure at all. And finally, this was not even the real President Roosevelt, but merely an actor. So yeah, nothing memorable or recommendable about this very short film of only a minute roughly. There's an infinite amount of superior very early movies and my suggestion is to check these out before you give "Terrible Teddy, the Grizzly King". Apart from that, the title is rubbish too. It's not even a grizzly in here.
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