This episode of the 1950s TV series The Greatest Drama tells the story of the great “Crusader,” Fiorello H. La Guardia, also known as the “Little Flower.” La Guardia addresses a crowd at a political rally. He sits in a chair at his home and reads a book (01:14). Footage shows New York City’s impoverished lower east side (01:55), where La Guardia grew up. La Guardia serves in World War I as a pilot, and footage shows several planes taking off, while a photograph shows La Guardia in uniform. He was involved in an investigation of the sinking of the S4 submarine (02:52); a salvage ship works where the sub went down. He runs for mayor of New York against Jimmy Walker, who stands smiling in a crowd (03:34). La Guardia speaks passionately to an audience and the camera about reform (04:12). The episode shows City Hall (04:22); inside, newly elected Mayor La Guardia sifts through papers on his desk (04:37). Police officers sit at an event or talk (05:06); La Guardia shows his tough-on-crime attitude using a sledge hammer to destroy slot machines confiscated from mob boss Frank Costello. Firefighters drive through the city’s streets then put out a fire (05:40). La Guardia and his wife sit on a couch with their two children (06:27). The episode shows a parade as part of a rally against Nazi Germany in 1939 (06:50), and La Guardia speaks at the rally. He is then shown speaking in 1940 at the dedication of the new La Guardia Airport (07:20). Women of local air defense units prepare for potential air raids during World War II. La Guardia reads the comics over a radio broadcast, in this case a Dick Tracy comic (08:07). La Guardia walks into City Hall on his last day as mayor (09:05); he turns his office over to successor William O’Dwyer. He is soon working to help the refugees in Europe after the end of World War II. La Guardia speaks at a United Nations meeting (09:36), and, as head of the U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, he supervises the exporting of grain to Europe. La Guardia travels to Europe and inspects a camp for displaced peoples. La Guardia speaks at a U.N. conference in Switzerland (10:30). He returns from Europe, climbing out of a plane (10:50). The episode concludes with photographs and film clips of La Guardia, the “Great Crusader.”
Fiorello Henry La Guardia (December 11, 1882 – September 20, 1947) was an American politician. He is best known for being the 99th Mayor of New York City for three terms from 1934 to 1945 as a Republican. Previously he had been elected to Congress in 1916 and 1918, and again from 1922 through 1930. Irascible, energetic, and charismatic, he craved publicity and is acclaimed as one of the greatest mayors in American history. Only five feet, two inches (1.57 m) tall, he was called "the Little Flower" (Fiorello is Italian for "little flower").
La Guardia, a Republican who appealed across party lines, was very popular in New York during the 1930s. As a New Dealer, he supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, and in turn Roosevelt heavily funded the city and cut off patronage for La Guardia's enemies. La Guardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in City Hall. He unified the transit system, directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds, and parks, constructed airports, reorganized the police force, defeated the powerful Tammany Hall political machine, and reestablished employment on merit in place of patronage jobs. La Guardia is also remembered for his WNYC radio program "Talk to the People," which aired from December 1941 until December 1945.
La Guardia was seen as a domineering leader who verged on authoritarian but whose reform politics were carefully tailored to address the sentiments of his diverse constituency. He won elections against the historically corrupt Tammany Hall political system, presided during the Great Depression and World War II, implemented New Deal welfare and public works programs in the city, and gave political support to immigrants and ethnic minorities. He was also supported by President Roosevelt. La Guardia was known as a reform mayor who helped clean out corruption, brought in experts, and made the city responsible for its own citizens. His administration engaged new groups that had been kept out of the political system, gave New York its modern infrastructure, and raised expectations of new levels of urban possibility.
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