I just finished watching yesterday the miniseries The Kennedys. Made for an approximate budget of $12 million it had very good acting by the principle stars--who not only looked but sounded like the characters that they portrayed. Barry Pepper should win an Emmy for his portrayal of Bobby. Having failed to meet the fine artistic standards set in recent years at the History Channel by such fare as Ice Road Truckers, Pawn Shop, Axemen, and Pickers the series ended up being broadcast on Reelz Channel, a small channel specializing in showing Hollywood films of recent decades and running movie reviews.
The miniseries, like previous Hollywood efforts on the subject, was torn between dealing with the Shakespearean elements of the Kennedy clan and the actual events of the Kennedy administration. It compromised by covering Joe Kennedy Sr.'s career in the first hour along with some flashbacks and then dealing with the Kennedy administration in five hours. John F. Kennedy's rise is shown in the second episode. The one episode that dealt with the subject matter of this blog was the sixth episode on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although the Bay of Pigs invasion is the subject of part of the third episode and Vietnam is briefly mentioned in the seventh episode.
I first studied the Cuban Missile Crisis in high school and subsequently studied it at university as an undergrad and in graduate school because, along with the start of World War I in June-August 1914, it is the classic crisis in international relations. Previously Hollywood has portrayed the crisis in the 1973 made for television Missiles of October, with William Devane as Jack Kennedy and Martin Sheen as Bobby, a 1980s miniseries on the Kennedys in which Martin now becomes Jack, and the 2000 Kevin Costner film Thirteen Days. I would say that this most recent version is superior to that of The Missiles of October but inferior to that of Thirteen Days. This is primarily because I liked the actors performance more in The Kennedys, but it lacked the budget to portray the action outside the White House taking place in Cuba and elsewhere.
The Kennedy administration only became Camelot after the assassination in Dallas and it was in retrospect that JFK was instantly transformed by the media into a second Lincoln and the family into America's royal family. I have never believed in the Kennedy assassination theories, partly because most of them make very little logical sense and ignore the evidence of the case and partly because never having been a great fan of Kennedy I never required a villainous conspiracy to give his death proper meaning. And so I do appreciate this latest effort's sticking to the facts and portraying Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin.
America has always had an aristocracy of powerful political clans that dominated politics in different eras. For the first century of American independence it was the Adams dynasty--which produced one vice president, two presidents, a secretary of state, and the vice presidential nominee of an antislavery third party. It achieved this record largely due to merit rather than due to any royalist tendencies on the part of the American people. Competing with the second and third generations of the Adams dynasty were the Harrisons of Virginia and Ohio. This clan produced two generals and two presidents: William H. who died after a month in office in 1841 and grandson Benjamin who was president from 1889 to 1893 after having served as a general in the Civil War. The next powerful family was the Roosevelts who dominated the first half of the twentieth century. They were following by the Kennedys and the Bushes. Prescott Bush was a contemporary of John F. Kennedy's in the senate and George H.W. Bush's and George W. Bush's careers coincided with the remarkable senate career of Teddy Kennedy. Incidentally the latter was never seen nor even mentioned in the miniseries, which seems a very strange omission.
The United States began as a constitutional republic populated by people who rejected a monarchy and did not want to be involved in a series of foreign wars for raison d'etat. Starting in the second half of the twentieth century with our new status as a superpower we abandoned both these beliefs. It is now about time that we abandon our two royal families, the Kennedys and the Bushes, return to a politics based on merit and wars based on real need.
So when our royal court in waiting, Hollywood, begins making miniseries about the Bush dynasty, I just ask it to use the same standards as they used in portraying the Kennedys. This should make for at least two or three movies about the ending of the Cold War, the liberation of Kuwait, and the fall of the Butcher of Baghdad. After all, the Kennedys engaged in a war against Castro and he is still in power.