REVIEW:
"JFK: A PRESIDENCY REVEALED"
(2003 DOCUMENTARY)





"JFK: A PRESIDENCY REVEALED" (2-Disc DVD Boxed Set)
Produced by The History Channel
DVD Released on November 25, 2003

DVD Back Cover

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The History Channel's "JFK: A PRESIDENCY REVEALED" is a nice, polished presentation, featuring new interviews with many people who knew Jack Kennedy best, including brother Edward Kennedy, Robert McNamara (JFK's Defense Secretary), Cecil Stoughton (Official White House photographer during the three JFK years), Time Magazine's Hugh Sidey, and close friend Ben Bradlee, plus several others.

The main program on this double-DVD set originally aired in November 2003, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of JFK's tragic death. The program clocks in at a leisurely-paced 2 hours and 35 minutes, giving the documentary time to breathe (so to speak), with ample time given to each major event which dotted the JFK administration.

Topics range from Inauguration Day in January 1961, to the disastrous Bay Of Pigs invasion of Cuba just three months later, plus extensive chapters on the Civil Rights struggle that JFK had to face during his term, Kennedy's Vienna summit meeting with Soviet leader Khrushchev, and the frightening Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

The program also dwells a great deal on JFK's ill health during nearly every one of his 1,037 days as the 35th U.S. Chief Executive. It's hard to believe, after seeing pictures and films of him in seemingly good physical condition, that there were, in fact, many times during his tenure in office when he couldn't even bend over to pick up some papers on his desk or to tie his own shoes, because the pain in his back was so intense.

We're also treated to several audio clips from recently-released tape recordings made by JFK while in the Oval Office. There's one particular audio snippet here that's very nearly worth the price of this DVD all by itself. It has a livid (and nearly fit to be tied) John Kennedy talking with Air Force General Godfrey McHugh after the President discovers that a story has been leaked to the press regarding the rather large amount of funds that were spent for a suite of hospital rooms prepared for the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, when Jackie gave birth to the First Couple's third child, Patrick, in August 1963. (Baby Patrick, sadly, died just two days after his birth.)

In the interest of good taste, I cannot reveal in print some of the President's heated remarks that were aimed at General McHugh (and others). But hearing such invective coming from the lips of a seething President of the United States had me rolling with laughter and reaching for the remote's rewind button for an instant replay.

It's the kind of rarely-heard tape recording that (in this writer's opinion) becomes an instant "classic clip" the minute you hear it. And I'm very glad that A&E/The History Channel didn't feel the need to censor (or "bleep out") any of the rather objectionable comments spouted by the irate President during this audio clip. I commend them for its inclusion on this documentary program.

[NOTE: The telephone call between JFK and General McHugh can be heard below.]

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John F. Kennedy's presidency has been reviewed countless times since his sudden, untimely death in November 1963, but this 2003 assessment of his time in the White House ranks as one of the best overviews yet produced, in my opinion.

Volume 2 of this 2-Disc DVD set features two excellent episodes of the A&E "Biography" series. Included are bios on JFK (running time of 90 minutes) and Jack's father, Joseph Kennedy, Sr. (44 minutes).

Picture quality is top notch here, too. Much of the "stock" film footage that is shown looks almost brand new again on these DVDs. I was surprised to see a rare COLOR clip of JFK's June 1963 "Civil Rights" speech.

This handsomely-boxed set of DVDs is definitely a worthy addition to any JFK fan's video collection.

David Von Pein
January 2004

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