The JFK Collection. The History Channel, 2013. 8 films, 10 hours and 30 minutes.
November 22, 2013, marks the fifty-year anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. While there has always been a large interest in the Kennedy family, this year has seen an influx in new historical scholarship about JFK’s presidency, life, and especially his assassination. The History Channel has released its own eight-film collection about JFK entitled The JFK Collection. This is a must-have film collection for any fans of the entire Kennedy Clan.
Disc One contains three films. “JFK: A Personal Story Part 1” and “JFK: A Personal Story Part 2” center on John F. Kennedy’s personal life, as their titles state. The viewer will learn about his childhood, his time in Europe while Joe Kennedy was ambassador to England, and of his military service in WWII. Additionally, the film includes details about his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, about his often poor health, and his life in politics before his election to the office of president. The third film on the disc, “Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis” spotlights the former First Lady, following her early life and education, and how this pivotal time in her life was the quintessential training for her future as Mrs. John F. Kennedy and America’s First Lady. Viewers learn about her life after JFK’s assassination and how she became part of American history.
Disc Two contains four films, all of which detail the life of other famous men from the Kennedy family. “John F. Kennedy, Jr.: The Death of an American Prince” is a biography of the slain President’s son that follows his early childhood in the White House, his life after his father’s assassination, and his adulthood that was unfortunately cut too short. In addition, the viewer learns details about John Jr.’s wife, Carolyn Bessette. “Joseph Kennedy, Sr.: Father of an American Dynasty” details the life of JFK’s father, the patriarch of the Kennedy clan. Joe Kennedy and his wife, Rose Fitzgerald, rose to prominence in American society and raised a family of nine children in the process.
“Robert F. Kennedy: His Many Sides” highlights the life of JFK’s younger brother, Bobby Kennedy. Bobby, the third of the four Kennedy boys, was born a bit too late to participate in WWII like his brothers Joe Jr. and JFK. However, he achieved his own success in politics and, in a parallel to other members of his family, also died at a young age; like his famous brother, he died at the hands of an assassin. “Ted Kennedy: Tragedy, Scandal, and Redemption” is the story of the life of the youngest Kennedy son, his scandals, and his life in politics.
Disc Three contains the last film of the series, “JFK: Three Shots that Changed America.” As the title indicates, this film focuses on the assassination of Kennedy, taking viewers through the last hours of JFK’s life, the assassination, and the immediate aftermath. However, this documentary is produced quite differently from the other films in this collection. Rather than relying on the standard documentary practice of narration and interviews of witnesses, survivors, and historians, this film instead utilizes no narration: it consists solely of archival films from that day, including JFK’s last speech, news reports, public reactions, interviews of witnesses by the local news reporters, and other footage. If the viewer is someone too young to remember the events, this film provides the opportunity to relive that day through the eyes of the American public.
Anyone with an interest in the Kennedy family or the assassination of JFK will find this collection informative and fascinating. While not ideal for scholarly research, it offers many hours of film that history buffs and historians alike will appreciate. Hard-core assassination conspiracy theorists will probably not find “JFK: Three Shots that Changed America” to be very beneficial for proving their theories. However, there is a plethora of archival footage in all of these films that many people have probably not yet seen, and this film series would be a great addition to any history buff’s documentary collection.
(Editor’s note: To read personal recollections of the day of Kennedy’s assassination—and to share your own, if you wish—see HistoryNet’s "’President Kennedy has been shot‘ – Memories of JFK’s Assassination 50 Years Later.")
About this Writer
Abigail Pfeiffer is a recent graduate of Norwich University with a Master of Arts in Military History. She lives in San Francisco Bay Area, with her husband and stepdaughter. She focuses on 20th century American warfare and American POW history, and has a special interest in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. When Abby does not have her nose in a book, she can be found hiking, swimming, running, and cooking.