Sinise Is Comfortable as `Harry' He Plays Truman in a Movie for Hbo

By Lynn Elber Of the | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 3, 1995 | Go to article overview

Sinise Is Comfortable as `Harry' He Plays Truman in a Movie for Hbo


Lynn Elber Of the, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WITH easy familiarity, actor Gary Sinise refers to the late President Harry S Truman simply as "Harry."

Playing the title role in the new HBO film "Truman," which airs at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, has given Sinise a fondness - and respect - for the man from Missouri.

"The story of Harry's life is great drama," says Sinise, whose knowledge of the nation's 33rd president was limited before he was approached for the role.

"I knew very little about him, other than what most people know, the `Give 'em hell, Harry' and a few other things."

David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning history, "Truman," the basis for the HBO film, piqued Sinise's interest about the president who has gained stature in recent years.

"As I began to read and study the biography I became eager to jump in," he says. "It's a very compassionate, positive book on Harry, and a really loving portrait.

"I got swept up in the life story of this simple guy from a small town who, as destiny would have it, would end up being the most powerful man in the world. He reluctantly became that; he didn't want to be president.

"When will we have that again? A guy became president who didn't want to be, and then who returned to the same place he came from."

That starting point for Truman was a Missouri farmhouse. He became a shopowner in Independence, Mo., after serving as an Army captain in World War I. With the help of a war buddy's political connections, he rose from county offices to U.S. senator.

His accomplishments in the - Senate, including an aggressive effort to cut wasteful defense spending, caught President Franklin D. Roosevelt's eye. He persuaded a reluctant Truman to join him as vice presidential nominee, as Roosevelt made his fourth bid for the White House.

Truman spent only 82 days in his new job, ascending to the presidency on Roosevelt's death.

The hammer of history fell on him quickly.

"The day he became president he found out about the atomic bomb," a project that had been kept secret from him as vice president, Sinise says.

Deciding to drop the bomb on Japan was only one of many tough issues he eventually faced, including: confronting the spread of communism in Europe and Asia; decisions about civil rights - and the new nation of Israel. …

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