RFK (2002)




Director:     Robert Dornhelm.

Starring:     Linus Roache (Robert F. Kennedy), James Cromwell (President Lyndon Baines Johnson), David Paymer (Dick Goodwin), Martin Donovan (John F. Kennedy), Ving Rhames (Judge Jones), Sean Sullivan (Steve Smith), Sergio Di Zio (Adam Walinsky), Marnie McPhail (Ethel Kennedy), Jacob Vargas (Cesar Chavez), Judith Goodwin (Evelyn Lincoln), Dwight McFee (Painter), Phil Craig (John McCone), David Gardner (Joe Kennedy, Sr.), Corinne Conley (Rose Kennedy), Kevin Hare (Ted Kennedy).

Made for TV movie.

story of Robert Francis Kennedy after the death of his brother JFK



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Robert Francis Kennedy, known as Bobby, comes into his brotherís outer office. John is not in because he went to Texas for the vice-president, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson comes into the office and itís obvious the two men do not get along. The tall LBJ treats Bobby too familiarly as if he was a good old boy down Texas way. RFK just has to put up with it.

November 22, 1963. Hickory Hill, Virginia. Bobby is having a pow-wow with two of his aides by his backyard swimming pool. Ethel Kennedy brings out some refreshments for the men, then she leaves. The telephone rings and Ethel gets it. She comes over to Bobby to tell him itís Hoover on the phone for him. At about the same time a workman comes running with the radio.

Bobby learns that his brother John has been shot in Dallas, Texas. Bobby is completely shocked. On the radio the talk is that Kennedy might have been shot in the head. Jackie was not hurt physically. Bobby has to tell the children.

Bobby calls his brother Teddy and tells him what happened. He apologizes to Teddy because it will have to be Teddy who breaks the news to their father, Joseph P. Kennedy.

Bobby also calls to give various workers things to do to secure things at the White House. He has the head of the CIA come over and he asks the director if his brotherís assassin had anything to do with the CIA? The director says Oswald worked for the CIA briefly during the Cuban missile crisis. Bobby wants answers and he puts the pressure on the director to get him some answers.

JFKís body is brought back east. Bobby rides in the hearse along with his brotherís coffin.

Bobby comes to the White House and speaks with his brotherís personal secretary. Evelyn is crying as she packs. She tells Bobby that Johnson wants her out by 9:30. Bobby walks into the oval office and asks Johnson what is he doing here? LBJ says: "The Russians need to know somebodyís got the finger on the button." Bobby asks canít Johnson wait a few days? Johnson tells Bobby that he is very sorry for his loss, but he is going to need Bobby in the White House more than his brother ever needed him. He says he will go and come back in the afternoon.

Newsreel footage of the laying in state of the body and the funeral procession are shown along with a brief look at Jackie Kennedy.

Bobbyís mother, Rose Kennedy, tells Bobby that now father is looking for Bobby to be the one to take over the Kennedy legacy.

Bobby puts on a flight jacket having the presidential seal on it. He imagines his brother Jack telling him the jacket is a little too broad in the shoulders for him, but it still suits him.

Ethel comes to her husband and they hug each other.

Aide Dick tells Bobby that there is talk of RFK becoming the vice-president. Bobby does not seem much interested in the office.   LBJ tells Bobby that he is not a good fit with him or with the Democratic party.  But LBJ says he still needs RFKís full support.

Bobbyís aide wants him to run for the senate from New York. Teddy says his brother can prepare to run for the presidency in 1972. Bobby asks who said he would be still alive then? A little later he agrees on the New York run saying: "May as well have somebody take a shot at me there as anywhere."

Bobby will give a speech during the senate race. He jokes around asking what state is this? Bobby has a speech coach work on making his speech delivery better, but he quickly cancels the lessons.

Bobby gets a copy of the Warren Commission Report on the Kennedy assassination. He almost immediately settles down with the book, but finds it hard actually reading the report.

November 1964, Election Night, New York Senate Race. RFK wins the race for New York senator.

July 1965, black Watts Riots in Los Angeles, California. Bobby goes and visits a black ghetto. There is some talk that Bobby should come out against the war in Vietnam. Bobby says that will not be easy to do because he was known as a hard-line supporter of the war.

February 1966. Bobby attends a hearing on poverty and its effects on those who live poor. Bobby goes out to another ghetto. He is impressed by how people survive living under such terrible conditions.  In his head, he has another "'meeting" with his brother Jack, who questions his commitment to fighting poverty.

More riots take place. A moment Bobby did not enjoy was meeting publicly with a black spokesman who basically knocked and mocked Bobbyís attempts to do something about grinding poverty. He later tells his handlers that he felt the spokesman had deliberately sand-bagged him.

Bobby gets money from his rich friends for "urban reconstruction from the ground up". They get lots of money and Bobby does improve the area in the ghetto he visited.

Bobby now travels to California to see Caesar Chavez. He holds a hearing on the farm workers union. The police make themselves look very bad and Bobby criticizes them for this. This makes Bobby a hero among the Hispanic workers. Chavez and Kennedy have a good talk together.

Bobbyís old aide Dick tells Bobby that he is resigning from the Johnson administration. The war on poverty was starting to work, but now all the available money is being siphoned off by the cost of the Vietnam War. Bobby tells Dick to come and work for him and maybe he will change Bobbyís mind on Vietnam.

Bobby goes to South Africa to help criticize the apartheid system there. He goes to Germany and meets with Willy Brandt. Then he is off to France.

LBJ really tells off Kennedy for making foreign policy without the president. Bobby gets so mad at LBJ that now he decides to come out against the Vietnam War.

LBJ watches Bobbyís speech on television and calls him a son-of-a-bitch. Johnson puts out the word he wants a scathing article criticizing Bobby and questioning his motives. It also makes Bobby question if his efforts against Castro somehow led to his brotherís assassination. (Bobby should have read the Warren Report.)

Aide Adam wants Bobby to run for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Bobby says: "I canít take on an incumbent president of my own party. . . . The country still wants this war. It still thinks we can win." Ethel agrees with Adam.

Bobby talks with his mother and father about it. And, of course, he talks with his brother Jack. He tells Jack that he doesnít want the nomination.

Bobby tells the press that he is not going to run against LBJ under any circumstances. Adam and Dick both resign.

Bobby flies out to Chavez who is on a hunger strike. Bobby reads Chavezís speech to the crowd because he is too weak to read it himself. "It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us be men."

Bobby really thinks hard about running against LBJ and decides to do it. He says we need to get candidate Gene McCarthy out of the way, but even if they canít, Bobby is going to run.

March 1968. Kennedy for President Headquarters. Adam and Dick are busy working for Bobby again. Bobby says they are going to win the nomination on the streets. When Kennedy goes out on the streets he gets tremendous crowds.

March 31, 1968. Johnson resigns his office when he says: "I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president."

Hubert Humphrey will be running on LBJís legacy, but that wonít be of much help to him.

April 1968. Indiana. A sniper assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. Bobby decides to go speak to the black people.

"Iím only going to talk to you for a minute or so this evening, because I have some sad news for you all. . . . And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee. Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between his fellow human beings and he died in the cause of that effort in this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States. It is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred, mistrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand and go beyond these rather difficult times. . . . What we need in the United Sates is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but love and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country whether they be white or whether they be black. So let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that and say a prayer for our country and for our people."

In Indiana Kennedy got 85 percent of the black vote. He also wins in Indiana and Nebraska.

May 1968. Oregon Primary. Kennedy speaks now to a more conservative crowd. Kennedy loses the Oregon primary.

June 1968. California primary. Kennedy wins California. He is going to make a speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. At the end of his speech he says now itís on to Chicago.

There is a big crowd there in the hotel. To avoid the crowd they take Kennedy through the hotel kitchen. There he is shot multiple times by a Palestinian loner named Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy died at 1:44 A.M. PDT on June 6, nearly 26 hours after the shooting.



Good movie.  Some sad memories for my wife and I.  I remember awakening one morning in our apartment at student family housing for Florida State married students and there was talk of someone having been shot.  I thought to myself who did they kill now?!  Then I found out it was Robert Kennedy.  Two Kennedys assassinated as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.  Jesus, what a country!  Much of the history in this movie I remember very well as I was highly aware of politics in my senior year and followed political events closely.  Exciting times, but a high price to pay for our political heroes.  Linus Roache (as Robert F. Kennedy) was very good.  Martin Donovan (as John F. Kennedy) was also good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)