"If he had lived, there would be no Kennedy myth, no Camelot!" said Pat Buchanan.
I, YOUR Liz, have lived through a plethora of U.S. history that a lot of people didn't get to experience; I having been here on this Earth since 1923. But nothing affected me as much as the events in my own home state of Texas on Nov. 22, 1963.
So when the promoters asked my early opinion of the film "Parkland" a few months back, I didn't really want to go see it. I didn't want to live through it again. I had had enough of Oliver Stone's LBJ-CIA movie conspiracy theories, of Jackie and Bobby's extreme efforts to control writers like Theodore White and William Manchester, who wanted to please them and write history at the same time, my own column revelations about JFK and his girlfriend Judith Exner, the congressional hearings that skirted J. Edgar Hoover's FBI efforts at control, the utterly failed Warren Commission, which swept everything under the rug, Lamar Waldron's accurate pinpoint (still coming to us in increments) history of murder-by-hire of the Marciano crime family, who allegedly killed JFK and RFK as revenge for Cuban casino interference, (although all of the Waldron-JFK papers haven't been released yet) and the end result of Mafia criminals like Sam Giancana and John Roselli, who have been accused of manipulating JFK with women and misusing campaign funds.
I have had it up to here with conspiracy theories.
But "Parkland" is something else. It is a movie that resembles a documentary, by a newcomer (to me) -- one Peter Landesman. And it is dynamite, staying as it does mostly in the immediate moments before Kennedy's assassination in Dallas and the following drama of his being taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital and including the horrible, shocking things that can only happen in emergency rooms. And these are shown along with Lee Harvey Oswald's body coming in two days later for the same emergency treatment.
There is the getting of the rifle, the disgruntled enigmatic behavior of Oswald, the enthusiastic arrival in Fort Worth the night before of the president and first lady, tumultuous greetings, a little speech, the airport scene in Dallas where Jackie is awash in glamour in her famous pink suit, the open-car trip, shots seemingly from the Texas School Book Depository, Jackie climbing on the back of the limo to clutch at her husband's partial skull, the heroic efforts by Secret Service man Clint Hill -- and the zooming limousine rush to Parkland. No examinations or hints here of "the grassy knoll" or whether the death of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit was on the level, or a part of it all. No inquiries into minor mobster lackey Jack Ruby either.
Here, the movie accelerates and begins to give us more -- Lee Harvey Oswald's brother Robert, brilliantly played by actor James Badge Dale, who comes off as a bewildered patriot; his crazy mother Marguerite Oswald, who wanted her big moment and intended her son should be buried with Kennedy; Jackie (played by Kat Steffens) shell-shocked and grief-stricken, interfering with actors Zac Efron and Colin Hanks as they try to do their emergency duties while head nurse, the Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, subtly whisks away pieces of the president's skull and brains from Jackie's bloodstained hands. There are the arguments of whether it was proper to remove the dead president's underpants, the ruthless behavior of the FBI biggie (played by Billy Bob Thornton) and real-life agent James Hosty (played by Ron Livingston), who only wanted to get the dead JFK on a plane and out of Dallas where locals were trying to take possession of the case.
You believe these actors. They seem to be the ones who received the president's body in the ER, quarreled with one another over useless protocol, endured Jackie's kissing of her husband's lifeless body and eventually gave him up for dead. The film deserts this scene chaotically, as Oswald and brother are ruthlessly grilled by Dallas police, J. Edgar Hoover tries to cover up FBI failures in Washington and LBJ, Ladybird and Nellie Connolly mill about bewildered. The film ends with the fatal arrival of Air Force One back in D.C. and the funeral.
I urge everyone to see this truly great film, which simply offers the events of four tragic days and leaves one utterly bewildered and not believing anything. And then believing and considering every possibility (even the Marilyn Monroe stuff a little later!)
Don't waste your time wondering who fathered young Ronan Farrow when you can go see "Parkland" and find out pretty much what everybody who was there and watching knew back on Nov. 22, 1963. Television was heroic then, giving everything it had to the moment. It was important.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
(c)2013 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
'Parkland' -- Just the facts on JFK's assassination
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