How Steve Jobs Was Convinced To Dress Up As Franklin Roosevelt To Declare War On IBM

How Steve Jobs Was Convinced To Dress Up As Franklin Roosevelt To Declare War On IBM

Steve Jobs dressed as FDR tries to rally the troops against IBM.

Steve Jobs dressing up as Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rally Apple’s troops is one of the weirdest bits of ephemera about Apple history.

The internal video — which followed Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial and was meant to motivate Apple’s international sales force — features Jobs doing a bizarre caricature of the beloved four-term president that borrowed just as much from FDR’s real mannerisms as it did from Burgess Meredith’s interpretation of the Penguin.

How the heck did something this weird come about?

The man behind the video, Michael Markman, has now spilled the beans on the making of the video.

As Glenn and I listened to Mike talk about beach head and market penetration, and as we watched him draw on his white board, the parallels to the landings at Normandy seemed obvious. I think Glenn was first to connect 1984 to 1944. And the idea clicked in almost immediately.

Given the way Steve had positioned Apple against IBM, it just seemed to fit. Glenn, Mike, and I began brainstorming right there in the office. Ideas came tumbling out. IBM had Charlie Chaplin for P.C. advertising. And, it turns out that Charlie Chaplin not only had a Hitler-like mustache, he had actually done a Hitler sendup in The Great Dictator. We’d show oppressed workers liberated by the brave forces of Macintosh. We got so excited by the idea that Mike wanted to rush right in and pitch to Steve.

I called Chris in L.A. to outline what we were thinking. War movie. Stock footage from the D-day landings. Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel hanging on the wall. Mac marketing team in cameo roles. And the topper: Steve as FDR. He said he’d start looking for a director (or maybe he had one in mind).

Most tellingly, originally, they wanted a professional to do FDR’s voice acting. They were just going to dub his take over Steve’s performance. Steve wanted to do it himself, though. He said he could do the voice. I’m not sure posterity agrees.

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  • vmstan

    “features Jobs doing a bizarre caricature of the beloved three-term president”


    Not to nitpick, but FDR actually was a four term President. He died shortly into term number four, which was finished out by Truman.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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