50 years later, TV specials study JFK's last days
An array of documentaries and dramas will mark this month's 50th anniversary of the president's assassination in November 1963.
Fri, Nov 01, 2013 at 03:53 PM
A scene from 'JFK: The Final Hours' on National Geographic. (Photo: JFK Library/Cecil Stoughton)
It’s been half a century since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963. To mark the historical milestone, TV networks will present special programming over the next few weeks to commemorate the event and Kennedy’s presidency, outlined in this what-to-watch guide.
Five days of programming that begins November 17 on “Good Morning America” continues on “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Nightline,”
ABC radio, and ABCnews.com. “GMA” will broadcast live from Dallas on November 22, when “World News” will report on the Kennedy women and conspiracy theories about the assassination. “Nightline” will devote that night’s program to the event, interviewing witnesses and participants.
Besides anniversary week reports on its morning and evening news broadcasts, the network will present “As it Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years” in primetime on November 16. Bob Schieffer, who as a young journalist covered the event for the “Fort Worth Star-Telegram” in 1963, will anchor the program and the following day’s “Face the Nation,” live from Dallas. Also on the 17th, “CBS Sunday Morning With Charles Osgood” will include a report on Kennedy’s presidency and the Camelot mystique. On November 22, live from Dallas, “CBS Evening News’” anchor Scott Pelley interviews Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who was in the motorcade with the president (and who testifies in quite a few networks’ retrospectives).
The ten-part series “The Sixties” launches with the two-hour episode “The JFK Assassination,” focusing on the controversial conclusions of the Warren Commission and the impact the assassination had on the nation and American politics. Interviewees include historians, journalists, and Alexandra Zapruder, granddaughter of the man who captured the only film of the event. It airs on November 14, with an encore on November 21.
On November 7, the service’s “Something to Talk About” documentary series will present “JFK: A President Betrayed,” reveals that the government thwarted Kennedy’s efforts get out of Vietnam and to make peace with Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union, and posits how history might have changed if he’d lived to make those changes.
“JFK: The Lost Tapes” examines the assassination through witness testimonies, news footage, audio from radio broadcasts, police communications, and between Air Force One and the ground. The one-hour special airs November 21.
“JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide” delves into the various conspiracy theories associated with the event and polls the American public about it. The November 22 special reveals that 71% of Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. It’s followed by “Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live,” a timeline of the assassin’s actions on the final weekend of his life.
Police officers and detectives from the Dallas police department speak out for the first time in “Capturing Oswald,” a one-hour documentary premiering November 12, with an encore on November 22.
“JFK: The Final Hours” traces the final day of Kennedy’s life, interviewing people who interacted with the doomed president and examining artifacts including his Air Force One and the limousines he rode in. Narrated by Bill Paxton, who was an eight-year-old child on his father’s shoulders that day in Dallas, the documentary airs November 8, two days before the premiere of the scripted drama “Killing Kennedy,” based on the Bill O’Reilly best seller. Starring Rob Lowe as JFK, Will Rothaar as Oswald and Ginnifer Goodwin and Michelle Trachtenberg as their wives Jackie and Marina, the film depicts two very different men whose paths will tragically converge.
Those from the Baby Boomer generation can easily answer the titular question asked by Tom Brokaw’s special: “Where Were You?” when John Kennedy was assassinated? The two-hour November 22 documentary interviews people from all walks of life—including some who played a part on that day in Dallas -- about how JFK impacted them and America, and what might have been had he lived. “Today” will feature interviews relating to the 50th anniversary throughout the week, and “Meet the Press” has compiled footage of Kennedy interviews from 1960 in “MTP Remembers: JFK -- the Presidential Campaign.”
Coverage kicks off with “American Experience’s” four-hour historical portrait “JFK” on November 11 and 12, detailing his life and political career. “Cold Case JFK” takes the forensics approach, analyzing crime scene evidence and conspiracy theories with modern ballistics technology. It airs November 13, followed by the “Secrets of the Dead” installment “JFK: One PM Central Standard Time,” which begins with the shooting and ends with news anchor Walter Cronkite telling the world that Kennedy has died. Featuring an interview with President Bill Clinton, it’s narrated by George Clooney.
In “JFK: The Smoking Gun,” investigator Colin McLaren analyzes ballistic, forensic and testimonial evidence to make a startling conclusion: Oswald was the assassin, but the second bullet that killed Kennedy was accidentally fired from the gun of a Secret Service agent. Watch and decide for yourself on November 3.
The fateful day’s events are chronicled minute by minute in “The Day Kennedy Died,” airing November 17. Narrated by Kevin Spacey, the two-hour special employs archival footage, audiotapes, and interviews with reporters, photographers and bystanders who were eyewitnesses to history.
TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES
TCM pays tribute to JFK on November 21 with four documentaries by Robert Drew, beginning with “Primary,” about the 1960 race for the Democratic nomination, followed by “Adventures on the New Frontier,” focusing on the first days f the Kennedy presidency, “Crisis Behind a Presidential Commitment,” about JFK’s battle with Gov. George Wallace over racial integration, and “Faces of November”---the title refers to mourners at his funeral. The marathon continues with “Four Days In November,” Mel Stuart’s 1964 film about the assassination, and ends with “PT 109,” the 1963 drama about Kennedy’s heroism in World War II.
Related on MNN: