- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2013

On 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, The List looks at 10 notable films that documented or dramatized the death of the nation’s 35th president.

  • 10. “The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald” (1964) — Probably the first movie to deal with JFK’s assassination was made by self-proclaimed “schlockmeister” Larry Buchanan, whose other films were notably “Mars Needs Women” and “It’s Alive.” This low-budget speculative trial drama was made secretly in Dallas just a year after JFK’s death. It attempted to give Oswald a fair trial in absentia and is said to be a “must see” for film assassination buffs.
  • 9. “Ruby” (1992) — Danny Aiello stars as Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald. In this film, Ruby deals underhandedly with both the Mafia and the FBI. The film tries to pin the blame for Kennedy’s death on the New Orleans mafia and the CIA. This film is so bad it makes Oliver Stone’s “JFK” look good. David Duchovny of “X-Files” fame plays J.D. Tippit, the police officer who questioned Oswald 45 minutes after the assassination and was gunned down and killed by the assassin.
  • 8. “JFK” (1991) — Just as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison failed to prove the existence of a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, so does filmmaker Oliver Stone fail to make a coherent or compelling account of Garrison’s courtroom debacle in this controversial hero-worshipping film starring Kevin Costner. The film pumped new life into conspiracy theories with its assertion that top U.S. political and military leaders arranged the 1963 assassination. While highly entertaining, the film tries to rewrite history to the verge of cinematic paranoia and has left Mr. Stone forever labeled as a fanatical conspiracy theorist.
  • 7. “Rush To Judgment” (1967) — Famed defense attorney Mark Lane, the dean of conspiracy theorists, interviews dozens of key witnesses in this compelling documentary titled after his 1966 best-selling book on the assassination of JFK. In the film, Mr. Lane is the first to publicly dismiss the Warren Commission’s report that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. He is convinced the CIA was involved. In 1978, Mr. Lane was one of the few survivors of the mass murder-suicide at Jonestown in Guyana. He had gone there to defend cult leader Jim Jones, whom he believed was a victim of a government conspiracy.
  • 6. “Parkland” (2013) — Released in October and timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, “Parkland” focuses on Abraham Zapruder, the man who filmed the carnage on Nov. 22, 1963, and other minor characters swept up in the aftermath of the trauma. “Parkland” is named for the Dallas hospital where Kennedy was treated. The the film gives insiders a view of the events surrounding the killing without the conspiracy theories. Paul Giamatti plays Zapruder, who died in 1970.
  • 5. “The Kennedys” (2011) — This TV miniseries appeared on the ReelzChannel in the U.S. after being dumped by the History channel. The Hollywood Reporter said pressure from Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver helped force History’s hand in the matter. Greg Kinnear plays President Kennedy, while Katie Holmes stars as Jackie Kennedy. The film found vindication when it was nominated for 10 Emmy’s and won four.
  • 4. “The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald” (1977) — This four-hour ABC-TV docudrama, which focuses on what might have happened if Lee Harvey Oswald lived to face prosecution, opened to a storm of controversy. ABC was accused of blending fact with conjecture. In the compelling court drama, Ben Gazzara plays the prosecutor, while Lorne Greene defends Oswald by pulling every conspiracy theory out of the bag to fit the crime. Oswald’s mother is heard muttering in the court, “They put my son up to it.”
  • 3. “Executive Action” (1973) — Before Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” this film starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan, based on Mark Lane’s book “Rush to Judgment,” set out to prove that President Kennedy might have been killed by racist right-wing government conspirators. The film was set into motion with funding from actor Donald Sutherland, who later abandoned the project. Mr. Sutherland would go on to play the Deep Throat character “X” in Oliver Stone’s “JFK.”
  • 2. “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” (1988) — This British multi-episode documentary purports that U.S. organized crime and French gangsters were behind the assassination of President Kennedy. It was first aired on A&E television in 1991 and was then shown annually on the History channel. Controversy erupted in 2003 when a new episode added to the series implicated President Lyndon B. Johnson in the assassination. The History channel was forced to apologize to its viewers and the Johnson family and to review its practices to ensure accuracy.
  • 1. Zapruder’s film of the Kennedy assassination (1963) — The 26.8-second film that caught the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza was taken by Abraham Zapruder, a Russian-born dress manufacturer and amateur photographer. The 8 mm film, taken with a Bell and Howell Zoomatic camera, consists of 486 frames. Frame 313 shows the fatal shot. The U.S. government paid $16 million to the heirs of Zapruder to confine the film in the National Archives. Zapruder’s film is probably the most examined piece of footage in human history.

Sources: John Seal review on IMDb.com, The Washington Times, Wikipedia, Newsweek, The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, United Press International and The Weekend Australian Magazine.