Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It is unusual, to say the least, to go to any gathering held in Washington for the past 30 years and hear Averell Harriman's name taken in vain.
But Tuesday night at the National Theater opening the Robert Vaughn's one-man show. "FDR". Vaughn the actor breathed intimations that in the early days of Roosevelt's war administration. Harriman may have been a bit of a whippersnapper.
Harriman, though invited, was not present to defend himself. But New Dealer Thomas Corcoran was among the most attentive first-nighters. At the reception following the play, Corcoran said. "At this poin in the Democratic party's history, this play shows Mr. Carter how a master does the job. Vaughn evoked memories, memories, memories.
"The thing I always loved about this fella," he said, "was that it was no chore to him. He liked to be President. I think this new presence of his should encourage Mr. Carter to make decisions and to enjoy it."
Corcoran, one of FDR's original brain-trusters, may still be a bit of a whippersnapper himself. In defense of Jimmy Carter's administration, Dot Padgett. Carter's assistant chief of protocol, allowed as how she had telephone Corcoran Monday to pick his brain.
"He represents something in this town that I would like to know more about," said Padgett. As for his implicit criticism of her boss, Padgett retorted. "Somebody once said that FDR wasn't always right. But he sure did know how to be President."
Vaughn himself, lionized at the National Press Club reception as only politicians can lionize a movie star, was told he had to be a brave fellow to come impersonate FDR in the lion's den. Vaughan, an active member of the Democratic Party in California, laughed diplomatically.
"I frankly have been so involved in this play," said Vaughn, "I haven't had a chance to assess Mr. Carter's performance."
Both Corcoran and Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-W.Va.), who is the only congressional veteran of FDR's first 100 days, said they were delighted with Vaughn's characterization of a President they had known personally.
In his research of film clips and speech tapes at Hyde Park, Vaughn found no recording of Roosevelt's voice in natural conversation. So Vaughn had dinner with FDR's son Jimmy. "I asked him. 'How did your father sound when he wasn't making a speech?'" said Vaughn. "Jimmy said, 'Well, he kind of sounded like he was making a speech.'"
Vaughn opened last night's performance with a broken finger, victim of FDR's prop wheel chair, so he used his left hand to shake hands with party guests who included Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.).