Documentary covers the political legacy of Texan John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner was vice-president during two terms under Franklin D. Roosevelt. Though many may not have heard of "Cactus Jack" Garner, he was among the most powerful vice-presidents and influential members of Congress in the twentieth century.
Directed by RTF professor Nancy Schiesari and shot and produced by Hans-Martin Liebing (RTF Ph.D. ’12) and Schiesari, "Cactus Jack: The Political Legacy of John Nance Garner," will premiere on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Bass Lecture Hall, at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.
The documentary is one-hour in length and reflects a collaborative effort between the College of Communication's Department of Radio-Television-Film, the School of Journalism and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
"Garner was one of the most powerful, but overlooked, men to ever emerge from Texas," said Minutaglio. "You could also argue that much of what FDR accomplished would never have occurred without Garner."
Born in Texas and nicknamed "Cactus Jack" because of his attempts to get the prickly pear cactus as the state flower, Garner rose to speaker of the House of Representatives and the film documents the influence he had on public policy and the White House.
"The history of modern Texas politics begins with Garner — and was forever shaped by him," said Minutaglio. "Garner had a role in the New Deal and countering the Great Depression."
Director Nancy Schiesari crafted the narrative structure of the film.
"It’s a story of a largely unknown man who has been somewhat ignored by history," said Schiesari. "The New Deal, and Garner’s ability to sell it to southern Democrats in particular, means that it likely could not have been done without him."
KLRU signed on for distribution rights and the film will likely be spread through other PBS affiliates beginning in October.
"Getting a narrative going through interviews, voice-overs and narration gave a voice to the film," said Schiesari. "We used archival footage, images, and his own life to create a story arc that showed why he was somewhat written off by history – including the consequences of his challenges to FDR in his later vice-presidential career."
Rebecca Adams (RTF BS '10) and Anne Lewis, senior lecturer in the Department of Radio-Television-Film, edited the film.
Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center for American History, acted as executive producer and Echo Uribe (RTF BS '90), assistant director for administration, served as producer for the film.
"People should see this because it reminds us that politics aren’t just black and white issues," said Schiesari. "Politics involve compromise and the fact that most people haven’t heard of this man is interesting and forces us to think about how history is shaped."
Nick Hundley, (512) 471-7209