Movies & TV / Columns

Ten Deep 2.28.13: Top 10 TV/Movie First Ladies

February 28, 2013 | Posted by Mike Gorman

” Top Ten TV/Movie First Ladies”

This week’s Ten Deep was completely inspired by this Sunday’s Oscars telecast, though not entirely by Seth McFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” number. You see this year’s Oscars was about First Lady surprises, namely Sally Field’s loss and Michelle Obama’s guest appearance. It seemed therefore that this would be the perfect week to explore the world of cinematic first ladies on both the big and small screens. Some of the performances below are based in fact and some are complete fiction, but the truth in all of them is that they feature compelling women. The first selection on this week’s list is definitely not your typical First Lady…

10. Sherry Palmer on 24

President Palmer’s wife, well ex-wife, on Fox’s 24 was never portrayed in a stoic or matronly light as is often the case with Hollywood First Ladies. Instead she was downright bad to the bone and possible a bit nutty, even if she did do a few favors for her ex. Sherry Palmer was as intense as the series she inhabited and it made perfect sense. Below is one of her classic moments.

9. Tess Carlisle in Guarding Tess

Tess is definitely cut from a more traditional mold when it comes to First Ladies though Shirley Maclaine fills this widow with a true fire and spirit. Her interactions with her protection, played by Nicolas Cage, reveal volumes about her life experiences and personality, and not just the good stuff. In this scene below Tess her guards meet for the first time, she is clearly not impressed by the pomp and circumstance of the matter.

8. Marsha Dale in Mars Attacks!

Cartoony and quirky, like many of the characters in Mars Attacks!, Marsha Dale is perfect foil for her power hungry husband. Portrayed with an air of madness and sophistication by Glenn Close, this First Lady is not to be taken seriously. She fits in with the tone of the film perfectly. Here is the trailer for Mars Attacks

7. Susan Stanton in Primary Colors

A not so thinly veiled portrayal of true life First Lady Hilary Clinton is at the core of Susan Stanton. Emma Thompson embraces the characters ambition and demeanor with a vengeance giving us possible insight into the life of the woman who faced many challenges while she stood by her man.

6. Laura Bush in W

In a film that could have very easily become an attack on George W. Bush’s presidency and history, W in the end tried to present us with an account of the life of a man who was often all too human. One of the biggest insights into Bush himself came through the portrayal, albeit fictionalized to an extent, of his relationship with Laura Bush. Elizabeth Banks dove right into the character bringing her to life in a way we hadn’t yet seen in the media’s portrayal of this true life First Lady. The performance was moving and a success in a film that did not really have many others. Below Banks talks about what it was like to take on the role of woman who was so recently in the world spotlight.

5. Ellen Mitchell in Dave

In Dave, the First Lady, Ellen Mitchell, has had enough of her husband’s philandering and devious ways, but eventually she starts to see signs in him of the man she once loved. Of course, unbeknownst to her it is because her husband has died and been replaced by his unknown twin. Sigourney Weaver truly comes alive in this role when she discovers the deception and works with Dave to take down the men responsible for this fiasco. Then end result, like her, is pretty brilliant. In this clip we get a pretty good picture of how she feels for her husband…

4. Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln

In many interviews for the film Lincoln, Sally Field reveals that she had to put up quite the fight to land the roll of Mary Todd opposite Daniel Day Lewis. She had to convince the producers, director and even the star of the film himself that she was up to the challenge of playing this most challenged First Lady. I, for one, am grateful that she did put that fight. She gave us one of the year’s best performances and certainly one of the most memorable First Lady roles to even grace the big screen. In this interview she speaks more about getting into the role and its challenges.

3. Marilyn Whitmore in Independance Day

Mary McDonnell shines in this small but pivotal role in Independance Day. In this film the First Lady goes through many hardships to ultimately breathe her last breath surrounded by her family. The film itself is meant to tug at your heart strings and your Patriotic bones, and the plight of the First Lady is an integral part of that story. She succeeds when she makes you want to root for her success even though you can see the inevitable looming. Her true triumph inspires greatness from her husband, the president. Her death is a powerful moment in the film and here is the portion of the score that accompanied it.

2. Abbey Bartlet on The West Wing

When I mentioned this topic to several friends and colleagues it seemed that overwhelming majority mentioned Abbey Bartlet immediately as one of the “must haves” on this countdown, and you know what? They were all right! Played with charm and brass by Stockard Channing, Abbey Bartlet was the true definition of a First Lady throughout the run of The West Wing. She put her reputation and career into jeopardy often to support her husband, specifically keeping his medical secrets, well, secret. Many of her greatest moments came in scenes with the President, like the one below.

And lastly…

1. Hilary Clinton on Saturday Night Live

For my money, Amy Poehler’s take on Hilary Clinton was and still is the best portrayal of a First Lady that we have seen on television or in film. Her long run using this character was satire at its best, often drawing praise from Hilary Clinton herself. I think her greatest success was the moments where she gave voice to the things we were all pretty sure that the real Hilary was thinking but could not express. Fans of both women were pretty shocked when Hilary showed up on one of Amy’s SNL sketches. It was clearly a calculated move to humanize her in the public’s eye, and I don’t know how successful of an attempt it was overall but it made for classic television none the less. Poehler’s portrayal of Hilary is just one in a long line of SNL political impersonations. In this clip below, Larry King talks with some of the cast, including Poehler, about what it is like to take on such famous roles.

Was your favorite First? Or did she not make it to the polls? Let me know in the comments below!

Bored? Please bookmark Are you using Twitter? You can follow me and 411mania’s zones on these pages:

My Twitter Account
411Mania’s Main Twitter
411Mania’s Wrestling Zone
411Mania’s Movie and TV Zone
411Mania’s Music Zone
411Mania’s Game Zone
411Mania’s MMA Zone


article topics

Mike Gorman

Comments are closed.