Kennedy (1983) mini-series
Director: Jim Goddard.
Starring: Martin Sheen (John F. Kennedy), John Shea (Robert F. Kennedy), E.G. Marshall (Joseph P. Kennedy), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Rose Kennedy), Vincent Gardenia (J. Edgar Hoover), Blair Brown (Jacqueline Kennedy), Kevin Conroy (Ted Kennedy), Charles Brown (Martin Luther King Jr.), Nesbitt Blaisdell (Lyndon B. Johnson), Peter Boyden (Pierre Salinger), Kent Broadhurst (Richard Paul Pavlick), James Burge (Peter Lawford), William Cain (Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer), Joanne Camp (Eunice Shriver), Veronica Castang (Evelyn Lincoln).
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Air Force One is heading to Japan for an economic conference. Kennedy Press Secretary Pierre Salinger is on the flight. Talking about the President, Salinger says that Kennedy himself doesnít want to be in Dallas, Texas. Over the teletype comes a message that Kennedy has been seriously wounded. The news quickly spreads.
Aides to Jackie Kennedy pick up her daughter Caroline. They will not let her listen to the news on the car radio. Bobby Kennedy gets the news. He says: "Oh, Jack." He cries. Caroline is taken out of the car and she says: "I know." She evidently heard a smidgeon from the radio. Pierre Salinger lands and learns the President is dead. The new President is the former Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Flashback. The 1960 elections. Kennedy is at his family home at Hyannis Port. Peter Lawford, Kennedyís brother-in-law, is miffed because they lost all his luggage at the airport. John Kennedy is worried. He doesnít like having to squeak through to election victory.
Richard M. Nixon, former vice-president under Eisenhower, concedes the election to John. After that, John sends the staffers home. He and Bobby stay behind to savor the moment. They both agree: "We are the new generation."
Jackie is already pregnant with the future Caroline Kennedy.
At Hyannis Port the younger Kennedys play touch football. Later John and Bobby take a walk on the beach. Bobby splits off and John goes over to see Jackie. She is a bit anxious. She doesnít want to be a public person. She says: "Iím not public property."
John receives a congratulatory telegram from Winston Churchill of Britain. John wants his father to attend the upcoming ceremonies. Joseph P. Kennedy says he doesnít want people to think he bought the election for his son. He wants everyone to think John did on all on his own. But John really wants his father to be there with the family and dad eventually gives in.
J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI does not like JFK. He says that Kennedyís great weakness is sex. He has been having sex with the Danish woman Inga Arva. And worse, his father also pursues the woman. The Kennedys use hookers and chase married women of all kinds. But, there are no black women. Hoover in disgust comments: "And this is the man we now have as President!"
JFK meets with his staff. He is bringing Bob McNamara over to his cabinet. And he is keeping Hoover. (Hoover also does not like Bobby Kennedy.) Later Bobby says that Hoover is not only a crook but a fag and warns Jack to watch out for him. Bobby also tells his brother that he should watch his sexual contacts. JFK wants Bobby to be the attorney general, but Bobby refuses. Joseph Kennedy tells John that they will have to get Ethel (Bobbyís wife) on his case.
Jackie again emphasizes that she wants her privacy. Her personal secretary is Tish Baldridge.
The head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, and Richard Bissell, CIA director of planning who planned out an invasion of Cuba for President Eisenhower, brief the new president. They tell him that Cuba is a big problem. Bissell tells him about a planed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The cost of the invasion will be $13 million dollars. JFK is favorable to the idea but he insists that there be no US military involvement in the invasion.
John works on Bobby some more about the attorney general job. He says that Bobby has a yellow streak. That doesnít really work so he tells Bobby why he wants him in the post. He says that Bobby is the one most like him: the most Irish. They both have a great feeling of loyalty to their family. And Bobby is very honest; he can be trusted.
Bob McNamara is coming, JFK tells RFK. And John works on Bobby some more. Bobby finally tells him that if he took the attorney general job, it would be a clear case of political nepotism. John emphasizes that Bobby has a chance to make a mark on history. Bobby comments that people are going to eat them alive if they do this. Then Bobby says: "I accept."
Sure enough, the newspapers take Bobby to the woodshed. The consensus is that Bobby is unfit for the office.
Jackie is going to have her baby. They call an ambulance for her. She wants Jack to be with her and wants someone to get Jack for her. Jackie has to have a cesarean section to deliver a boy, later named John.
The President has a stalker, Richard Paul Pavlick. Heís regarded as "some crazy guy" and that they must bring him in. One day when Jackie and Jack prepare to be driven someplace, Richard drives his car right into their compound. Around his waist he has eleven sticks of dynamite. Richard is taken down and arrested. Jack is mad that such a man could get so close to his family and lets his people know it.
Jackie visits Mamie Eisenhower to get a tour of the White House. Later Jackie comments that the house is "such a dreary place."
Jack is sworn in as the President. He makes his famous comment about the torch having been passed to a new generation. Later Jackie and Jack dance at an inaugural ball.
Meanwhile, Hoover asks his men what dirt they have dug up about RFK? His agents say they have not found anything bad on the man. Hoover wants them to dig more deeply for misdeeds, of "activities of disrespect to this nation."
Ted Sorenson and JFK work on the State of the Union address. They are going to stress the situation in Cuba. Jack says they are about to nail Castro to the wall.
Jackie wants to renovate the White House. Jack worries about the possible expense.
Jack talks with Bissell. He asks what if the invasion of Cuba fails? Bissell just doesnít believe that is possible. The two men talk about ways to eliminate Castro for good. Mobster Giacomo can get access to Castro. They talk about using poison for Castro.
Kennedy talks to his staff. Admiral Burke says that the invaders could possibly face any where from three to twenty thousand men. Senator Fulbright of Arkansas is against an illegal invasion of Cuba. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Defense Secretary Bob McNamara think that the invaders donít stand a choice. They agree that they cannot succeed without American troops being called in.
Jack feels that despite the odds against the success of a Bay of Pigs invasion they cannot get out of the invasion. Both Bobby and Jack know they will be defying the law.
Another problem is that Castro seems to know than an invasion is coming. Jack says: "How the hell did I ever let it get this far in the first place?" Bissel just keeps saying things like: "We canít lose." The Cuban ambassador publicly accuses the Kennedys of invasion.
Jack says: "Weíve blown it. It was all a mistake." And the whole thing was the idea of Dulles and Bissell. The CIA started it all. And now they know that Castro may have as many as 20,000 troops with tank and artillery support.
At a staff meeting Jack is really angry with Bissell. He says: "I donít want anyone to know just how bad this thing really is." He yells at Bissell: "When are the uprisings to begin?" Bissell has no idea, which makes Jack even angrier. Jack finally relents a bit and sends six unmarked jets from the aircraft Essex to fly cover for the B-26. The President says: "Itís a catastrophe."
The President gives a press conference. He is asked for the casualty figures. There are 114 dead, 1,189 prisoners and 150 wounded have been returned. Jack takes full responsibility for the fiasco.
Jack and Bobby agree that the two inventors of the idea, Dulles and Bissell, have to go. They are called in to be dismissed. Bissell objects that Kennedy approved the whole idea. Jack fumes at this, but remains quiet.
Jack and Bobby agree that they have to find a way to get the Bay of Pigs prisoners out of the Cuban jails. A man named Donovan will be used to unofficially communicate with Castro and his regime.
Hoover still rails against the Kennedys. He says to his closest agents that he knows the President is playing around. He says: "We have a President who is morally diseased."
Whites down south brutally beat and kick a light skinned black woman with two dark children. The cops just watch as the crime is committed. The attackers leave the woman on the ground all bloody. The men leave. Not long afterward, a car drives up with some black men in it. They quickly pick up the woman, put her in the car and leave.
Jack and Bobby talk about the civil rights issue. They believe they can trust Martin Luther King out of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. Freedom Riders, black and white, ride the public buses. Whites wait for them at the Birmingham, Alabama bus stop. The cop tells the angry mob that when the niggers get here, they will have fifteen minutes to do what they want. The mob is disappointed at such a short amount of time.
Jack is worried about Jackieís expenditures. She spent $34,000 dollars for the first quarter of the year. One dress of hers cost $4,000 dollars.
The Freedom Rider bus is stopped on the road and a mob descends on them. They block one door so there will be only one exit from the bus. A white man throws a primitive kind of Molotov cocktail and the bus starts burning. As the riders come out of the bus, they are viciously beaten to the great applause of the crowd.
MLK calls Bobby to tell him that the Supreme Court is impotent. And he wants to know why the delay? Why wonít the Kennedys take action immediately? MLK asks: "Do you require martyrs?" Bobby tries to assure MLK that they are doing everything they possibly can to stop the violence. MLK responds: "I do not believe you, Mr. Kennedy."
Hoover is not angry with the sadistic police chief of Birmingham, Eugene "Bull" Connnor. He is angry with the trouble-makers, the Freedom Riders. He refers to black people as niggers.
A Trailways bus arrives at the Birmingham station. As the people get off the bus they are viciously attacked. Bobby calls Alabama Governor Patterson and tells him to have his policemen do their duty.
The Kennedys decide to send Federal Marshall Seigenthaler, a southerner, down south to help protect the Freedom Riders. They want him to tell the Freedom Riders that they have the support of the Kennedys and they are keeping their promises.
Governor Patterson holds a very belligerent press conference.
MLK and some of his men have a meeting with the Kennedys. Martin is a bit upset that Hoover considers him a degenerate. Hoover says one of Kig's white advisors, Levinson, is a communist. King wants to know who is going to control Hoover? That is a near impossible task, but the Kennedys agree that they must try to stop the violence down South.
Siegenthaler speaks to a group of Freedom Riders who have been badly beaten. Many heads are bandaged. Siegenthaler wants to put them on a bus to get them out of harmís way. The spokesperson urges cooperation with the Federal Marshall, "or else no one will make it out alive." The Marshall will have them flown all the way to New Orleans for their own safety.
The Kennedys want Siegenthaler to go to Montgomery, Alabama. Both Kennedys agree that Hoover is out to wreck any progress in the civil rights area.
Hoover proudly says to his agents that the Freedom Ridersí bus will find no driver to drive it. And Bobby is informed from Alabama that the drivers refuse to drive the bus. Bobby calls down there to the operations director for the buses and says to get these people on their way! They do find a driver and Siegenthaler follows behind the bus in his own car.
The bus is driven to Montgomery, "The Cradle of the Confederacy." When the bus arrives, white toughs beat the bus riders. Marshal Siegenthaler calls Washington DC to say that there is violence this time too. When he gets off the phone, he tries to stop some of the whites from beating the riders and receives a bad beating himself.
Bobby gives the order to send in 400 Federal Marshals. He talks with Governor Patterson and tells him that there will be 50 marshals to escort MLK himself.
On television Jack Kennedy speaks up for respecting the civil rights of others.
MLK calls RFK. He says that those in jail will stay there. And again he asks: "Why do you let this go on?"
The whites in Montgomery surround Kingsís Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Some blacks come out of the church and are grabbed and beaten.
Jack Kennedy is at a reception of African diplomats and their spouses while rocks are thrown through the windows of Kingís church. The whites turn over a car in the street and set it afire. Smoke comes into the church where King is speaking to the congregation. MlK goes to the phone again to tell RFK to have this stopped! He asks Bobby: "Why are you doing nothing?"
Hoover says to his closest agents: "King is a fornicator with white women and a communist."
Hoover listens to his JFK tapes. He also has a full folder on JFKís mistress.
The Kennedys and the cabinet talk about Vietnam. They discuss the use of the cover of military advisors. Bobby also suggests that they prop up the Diem government with military advisors and a few Green Berets. Some of the guys in counter-insurgency say that the war can be won in under two years. John says they told him it could be done in eighteen months. But can you believe them? The Kennedys just donít know. JFK wants to send LBJ to Saigon. He wants his brother-in-law Steve Smith to go with him, along with his wife, Jean Kennedy Smith.
To have some good news for the public they decide to emphasize the moon. Alan Shepard is the first American to go up into space, eight years ahead of schedule.
Hoover is still fixated on Kennedyís Danish woman.
JFK tells RFK that Diem is a bum. The whole damn place is falling apart. LBJ believes they can win in Vietnam. Gen. Taylor wants troops to be sent into Vietnam, but JFK is afraid that they canít win. And because they canít win, the President will just wait. George Ball told JFK that by 1966 there will be a quarter of a million troops in South Vietnam.
Bobby complains about Hoover making no mention of the mob and he complains to Hoover directly. Hoover (of whom the mob had compromising sexual pictures of him and his male lover) says: "There is no organized Mafia." Bobby canít believe his ears. Then Bobby complains that Hoover only has five black agents out of 5,000. Hoover simply says that there wonít be any more black agents, at least, not as long as he is the director. And he says: "I know things about the President."
Jackie is going to go to Europe with John. Joseph P. Kennedy wants to send his wife Rose with Jackie and Rose likes the idea. The Kennedys go to France, then to Austria and finally to England. She is an absolute smash with the Europeans.
Hoover again speaks to Bobby about the President and women. Bobby tells him that his remarks have a "tone of blackmail" about them. Later Bobby tells Jack that Hoover has the woman under surveillance. Jack tells Bobby not to tell Hoover anything, but Bobby lets him that Hoover is planning to confront him. Jack thinks about that for a moment. He changes the subject by saying to Bobby why not let Hoover tape King. After all, Hoover won't find anything on King. Bobby asks how does all this affect Jackie?
Joseph P. Kennedy is on the golf course and says he does not feel good. They call an ambulance for him. The doctor tells Rose Kennedy that her husband has a blood clot and that he's had a serious stroke. He is holding on by a slender thread.
JFK is discussing Vietnam again. He says the Viet Cong have South Vietnam by the throat. The military keeps pressure on the President for greater military involvement, but Jack says he is not going to become involved in a war in Vietnam. Bobby phones him to tell him that their father has had a stroke. Jack hurries to the hospital. He finds out that his father will not be able to talk again. When Jackie is left alone with her father-in-law, she tells the unconscious man how much grateful she is to him for having supported and believed in her. She says that she loves him.
It is Christmas time. The Pentagon wants a full-scale war in Vietnam. At the Christmas table Jack talks about a young man named James Thomas Davis, the first American casualty in South Vietnam. And this happened during his presidency. A little later in private Bobby asks Jack if he has gotten rid of the woman. Jack says don't worry because the girl has backed off.
Jack speaks with a Mr. Blough of U.S. Steel and complains about his having raised the price of steel by $6.00 dollars per ton. The President is mad at the man, accusing him of having no patriotism. He says that having reached an agreement with his help that the union limit their wage demands, Blough came up with a "blatantly dishonest scheme" behind his back. He asks Mrs. Lincoln to get Secretary of Labor Goldberg over to his office. In the middle of speaking with Blough the woman who Jack had told Bobby she had backed off calls the President to tell him to get Hoover off her back. She can't live this way. Jacks says he will. After Jack hangs up, he immediately goes on the attack again on Blough saying what he has done has shown a clear defiance of the public interest.
Hoover learns from his agents that the Attorney General has told the agent to stop taping the woman. Hoover tells his agenst to lay off her for thirty seconds and then get back on her. In fact, double the detail.
Bobby speaks with Ambassador Dobrynin of Russia. He complains about Russian ships going to Cuba. Bobby says the Soviets have sent missiles to Cuba, but Dobrynin flatly says there are no missiles in Cuba. He adds: "You have my word." Jack tells his cabinet that no one is to talk about their plans for a possible full assault on Cuba. Later, Bobby tells Jack that he should go to Chicago and let him try to reach a consensus among the group as to what they think is best to do in Vietnam.
U.N. Representative Adlai Stevenson does not want to see Cuba attacked and he tells Jack this. Dean Acheson tells the President that he should not just stand by while Castro does what he wants. But Kennedy is still skeptical about the use of arms, because they are on the verge of war with the Soviet Union. General LeMay of the Joint Chiefs advocates military assault saying that the Russians won't respond at all. Others push for a blockade of Cuba. Jack chooses a blockade. He sends a message to Khrushchev about his plans. In a briefing with leading Congress persons Senator Fulbright of Arkansas says that he is in favor of invading Cuba. This takes Jack back a bit and he points out to the Senator that he had very definitely been against an assault in South Vietnam, but here he wants to invade Cuba. That's what he wants, says the man from Arkansas.
JFK goes on television to discuss the situation with the American people. Russian ships are approaching Cuba. There are some very tense moments in the White House because of the possibility of an explosive showdown. After awhile, Jack gets news that the Russian ships have stopped. There is a great relief in the White House now. Other key players in the affair congratulate the President. At the United Nations Adlai Stevenson insists to Ambassador Zorin that the Russian missiles must be taken out of Cuba.
Alex Fomin, the KGB station head, tells an ordinary American newsman about a deal the Russians are proposing. The Soviet Union will dismantle the sites in Cuba and Castro will accept no further missiles. All the United States has to do is agree to never attack Cuba. The newsman quickly rushes to tell the US government.
The President is very happy to agree to the Russian proposal. But just when he thinks the whole matter is settled, Khrushchev sends a second message. He wants a side deal about removing the NATO missiles in Turkey. The President will not agree to this. If he takes the missiles out of Turkey, the other NATO nations will be thinking the USA might pull out other missiles in other European countries. After the meeting is over about what to do with the second message, JFK tells an aide that he is sure he ordered those missiles to be removed from Turkey last August. He wants his aid to check this out. Talking the matter over with Bobby, the younger brother says that they should just ignore the second letter and go with the first. Jack likes the idea.
An American U-2 spy plane has been shot down by the Russians while it was flying over the Chukot Peninsula. The President sends a message to Khrushchev that this was not an act of deliberate provocation. The airplane and the pilot have both been lost. JFK reiterates that he is not abandoning the search for a peaceful solution to the Cuban situation.
Bobby speaks with Ambassador Dobrynin again. He makes it clear that the United States is ready for nuclear war.
Jack asks Bobby if he is sure that the Russian Ambassador fully understands what he told him. Bobby says yes, he made it clear that they will not pull their missiles out of Turkey and that they are prepared for a possible nuclear showdown.
The Soviet Union backs down. Jack speaks to his cabinet and says: "Thank God for Bobby." When they are alone Bobby and Jack congratulate each other.
Itís Hoover against the Kennedys again. The man obsessed with other peopleís sex lives says that Jack must cease any contact with the woman. She is intimate with organized crime. Later Bobby tells Jack that the affair has to stop. Jack says: "It has."
Police chief Bull Connors is up to his old tricks. There is violence everywhere in Birmingham, Alabama. Meanwhile, Jack has to go to West Berlin. There the President is a big hit, helped by the words in German "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner.)
Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at the Lincoln Memorial. He gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Jack and Bobby listen to the speech on the television and admire Kingís words and delivery.
Jackie gives birth to a boy they name Patrick. But Patrick has a serious respiratory problem and soon dies. To get away from everything Jackie goes to Greece for a visit. Jackie and Jack stay in contact via the phone.
Jackie returns home. The wealthy Greek Onassis has given her lots of gifts to give her children and her husband. Jack breaks the news to Jackie that they are going to Dallas, Texas. Why? Because he might lose the state in the next election.
Diem has been killed. Vietnam now goes on the back burner.
Off to Texas the presidential couple goes. Jackie is in a pink suit with a pink hat. She looks very cute in the outfit. Riding in an open convertible, Jack is shot twice. The convertible car quickly drives on to the nearest hospital.
At the hospital Jackie sits in the convertible and holds her husbandís head in her lap. When the secret service wants to take him inside the hospital, Jackie tells them to leave her alone. "You know heís dead."
The secret service finally get Jackie to let them take the body into the hospital. Inside the doctors and nurses work on Jack Kennedy, but it is to no avail. He is definitely dead.
A good mini-series about a very good president. It brought back a lot of memories for me. Of course, where I was from, the South, many people were mad at President Kennedy for helping blacks get rid of the apartheid system. But, of course, they were wrong and his support for civil rights is the most important thing that the Kennedy did. President Kennedy is a hero for just doing that alone. I remember all the fuss everyone made about Jackie. At the time I thought it was over the top. And, like most people, my wife and I both remember exactly where we were when the President was assassinated: Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida. It came over the loud speaker and everyone became very quiet and stayed that way though the rest of our school classes for that day.
America is much too puritanical for its own good. This allowed the evil J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI the opportunity to collect huge files on the sex lives of ordinary and extraordinary Americans alike. He was able to blackmail the Kennedys because of the pictures he had of Jack Kennedy. Hoover, of course, also tried to get pictures on Bobby, but there were none. I can still remember my father being so in awe of Hoover and I thought that was a bit over the top too. Of course, now we know his full story -- a story of what Hoover would have called a "perverted" life for anyone else besides himself. His own life was so "perverted" that the mob blackmailed Hoover himself from staying off their backs.
I can also remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. My Marine Corps father was on call for possible military action in the crisis. There was a feeling of possible disaster in the air. I remember a friend commenting that maybe this will be the way it ends for all of us (referring to a nuclear war).
The acting was good all around -- very information series.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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