The Best JFK Assassination Movie

Better than Oliver Stone


Back, and to the left.
Abraham Zapruder

Yesterday my colleague Nick Gillespie noted James Wolcott's far-too-affectionate look back at the Kennedy administration. I don't have much to add to Nick's post, except that I can't resist remarking on one side comment in Wolcott's article. After reeling off a long list of JFK-themed books being released for the 50th anniversary of the assassination, Wolcott pointed out that

suspicions still flourish and theories abound that there had to be bigger puppeteers operating behind the Manchurian Candidate curtains who set up these patsies as fall guys: L.B.J., the C.I.A., the K.G.B., disloyal factions within the Secret Service, the Mafia, Fidel Castro, the gargoyle shadow government later personified by the Smoking Man in The X-Files—pick a perp. Most daringly, perhaps, Mark Shaw points the bony finger of recrimination at J.F.K.'s own father in The Poison Patriarch: How the Betrayals of Joseph P. Kennedy Caused the Assassination of JFK.

I haven't seen the Shaw book, but Kennedy's father also turns out to be the perp in my favorite of the JFK assassination movies. And now I'm in a quandry, because I want to use the Wolcott piece as an opportunity to recommend the film, but I'm wary about giving away the ending. I mean, the picture's still fun even if you know how it ends, but I figure I should insert a SPOILER ALERT right here for people who don't want to go any farther. If you want to know just what movie I'm supposedly spoiling, read on.

A year later we learned that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father, and our world turned upside-down all over again.

It's Winter Kills, released in 1979: a wild, funny ride through virtually every conceivable villain in a Kennedy conspiracy: mobsters, intelligence agencies, anti-Castro Cubans, even Hollywood itself. The Joseph Kennedy character—all the names have been changed, but it's obvious who he's based on—is played by John Huston in a suitably over-the-top style. The film was based on a novel by Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi's Honor, and it was financed by a couple of marijuana smugglers. One of those financiers was killed by the mafia while the film was in production, for daring to tell the truth about the president's murder not paying his debts; the other was sent to prison as part of the JFK cover-up because he was a drug dealer.

It used to be impossible to find the thing, but in the Internet age you can get it on Amazon. Highly recommended, even if you know how it ends.

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  1. The manhole/storm drain theory is my favorite.

  2. Spoiler Alert II: The hit show Newsroom was able to crow-bar in historical props to Kennedy while taking a shot at Reagan... in the same sentence.

    1. It's not really a spoiler because I'll never watch Newsroom.

      1. Also, you forgot the scare quotes around hit show.

        HBO's "hit show" Newsroom.

        1. Why do you hate an Aaron Sorkin liberal fantasy?

          1. That's a tautological question.

  3. What didn't Kennedy do? Escalated the war in Vietnam, almost got us into a nuclear war, made some speech on a space program he gave two monkey balls about, fucked some starlets. All in 2 1/2 years.

    1. But he looked good doing it. He really was the Paris Hilton of Presidents. And to top it off, he was never a strong believer in civil rights. He was a Boston Brahman. I bet he never had a black friend in his life.

      1. Actually, that aspect of Kennedy is probably true.

        The Navy in WW-II and the immediate post-war era was incredibly racist. Basically if you were black and in the Navy, you either got shit jobs like loading ammo on war ships, or you were a steward (basically a servant) to officers.

        Kennedy apparently insisted on shining his own shoes and expressed great contempt for the whole racist set-up, at a time when it would have done him little good.

        He was shit on so many other issues, but I think his opposition to government racism was genuine.

        But yes, if you were to do a Pareto chart of white socio-economic groups and their interaction with people of other races, the Boston Brahmins would be at or near the very bottom of the list.

        1. The story is he totally freaked out when Sammie Davis Junior showed up at the White House with is white wife. Kennedy ordered them not included in any photographs of the even they were attending.

          1. Oh, I believe that!

            I guess you could argue I am 1/4th Boston Brahmin, and miscegenation I've seen first hand how uncomfortable miscegenation makes my older Brahmin relatives.

            They accepted my grandfather who was French-Irish, but that seemed to be as far as they could go.

            It seems to be dying with my generation, though.

            1. Boston is a lot better than it once was. It is still wildly segregated. Of course it is more than a bit ironic that Kennedy, a guy who came from a family who spent their lives bitching and moaning about how hard it was to be a Catholic and Irish, could be such a racist towards blacks.

              1. Not Really. Draft Riots anyone?

        2. But he looked good doing it. He really was the Paris Hilton of Presidents.

          That describes the Kennedy administration perfectly.

          And tarran describes the pre-WWII Navy exactly with:

          The Navy in WW-II and the immediate post-war era was incredibly racist. Basically if you were black and in the Navy, you either got shit jobs like loading ammo on war ships, or you were a steward (basically a servant) to officers.

          However, even during the war many trades in the navy were opened to black sailors by FDR. This and many of the other openings that happened in the other services led to blacks becoming hopeful of gaining full equality when the conflict was over. That equality was only realized when Harry Truman (the worst president ever, except for this) integrated the services (something that did not become a reality til many years later.)

          1. I need to add that while JFK may have been completely sincere about equal rights for blacks there is no evidence that anything would have been different under Nixon.

            Nixon was seen as the extension of Eisenhower. While Eisenhower does appear to have shared the prevalent belief that black troops were inferior, he seems to have accepted the more liberal view that with proper training they could perform adequately (see also in this regard:

            After a brief deployment to England, the 761st landed in France via Omaha Beach on 10 October 1944. The unit arrived (with six white officers, thirty black officers, and 676 black enlisted men) and was assigned to General George Patton's US Third Army at his request, attached to the 26th Infantry Division.


            I would venture to say that until 1944 "thirty black officers" in a battalion was pretty much unheard of. It would have meant that most of the squadron or troop commanders were black, which was really something in an army where heretofore black soldiers had been held incapable of combat, let alone command.

          2. However, even during the war many trades in the navy were opened to black sailors by FDR.

            Umm yet he segregated work crews in the WPA which were previously private and unsegregated.

            Also the US military was segregated before and after FDR.

            Also Kennedy favored the min wage in the late 50s to stop blacks from taking white jobs.

            He probably polished his own shoes because he did not want blacks in the navy at all.

      2. He was a Boston Brahman

        Brahmin are old money Anglo-Saxon Protestants who went to Harvard.

        Kennedy went to Harvard...but that does not make him a Brahmim.

    2. fucked some starlets. All in 2 1/2 years.

      Not sure if serious. How is that failure?

      1. Who said he failed? I was listing his achievements.

    3. Also let his wife restore the White House.

    4. Didn't have the backbone to call off the Bay of Pigs, or to support it...

  4. Funny how Johnson, the guy who more than anyone is responsible for the modern liberal state, is the tar baby for so many loony left conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. The Left really has never gotten over Vietnam.

    1. I don't think LBJ had Kennedy killed, but he would have if he thought he could get away with it.

  5. Fuck Kennedy.

    Think about it...

    1. I'm thinking about it...

  6. JFK was killed by a lone gunman.
    What else is there to know?

    1. You know who else was killed by a lone gunman?

      1. Lee Harvey Oswald?

      2. Trotsky!!!

    2. I think someone from the left might correct you, like a bruised paladin, by crying that Kennedy was FATALLY killed to DEATH until he DIED! *sniff*sob*

  7. I used to point out that, if there was an assassination plot that went beyond Lee Harvey Oswald, any coverup would have required the active participation of the Attorney General of the United States.

    I disliked Bobby Kennedy for many reasons, but I don't think he would have collaborated with his brother's murderers.

    I used to say that. Until I started getting the retort. "THAT is why they killed Bobby."


    1. I'm in the lone gunman camp, too. The conspiracy theories I've heard don't make much sense, and something substantial would've leaked by now if it had been a major conspiracy.

      1. The most recent clear political conspiracy in the US was Watergate. Only about a dozen people had to keep the secret and no one would have known squat. Richard Nixon would have finished his second term a hero for his diplomatic efforts. However, someone did talk and the whole thing came out.

        A JFK conspiracy would require literally hundreds of people to keep critical secrets. Not freakin' possible.
        (And I do not care what your mother's sister's friend who knew a janitor who worked at the FBI says he heard.)

      2. The thing that makes the Kennedy assassination fishy is that the assassin was assassinated by a guy with Mob ties. It doesn't mean it wasn't a lone gunman, it just adds fuel to the fire.

        1. Easily explained. See, the Kennedys were mob guys. Ruby was a mob assassin, but he didn't kill Oswald to shut him up but for revenge for killing Kennedy.

    2. I used to say that. Until I started getting the retort. "THAT is why they killed Bobby."

      Ok, smart guy, then explain why Bobby Kennedy's killer had TWO first names?

      1. I thought it was two last names?

        1. Jerry: David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, Richard Speck...

          Alice: What about them?

          Jerry: Serial killers. Serial killers only have two names. You ever notice that? But lone gunmen assassins, they always have three names. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark David Chapman...

          Alice: John Hinckley. He shot Reagan. He only has two names.

          Jerry: Yeah, but he only just shot Reagan. Reagan didn't die. If Reagan had died, I'm pretty sure we probably would all know what John Hinckley's middle name was.

          1. I know you're kidding, but John Wilkes Boothe was identified as such because his family had a tradition of using three names in their stage names.

            The identification of Lee Harvey Oswald happened because the Dallas police gave his address verbatim from some record (his driver's license?). Everyone who knew him knew him as Lee Oswald.

          2. Who is the dude who shot Giffard?

            1. Jared Lee Loughner.

              Lee... get it?

              Oh wait, you knew that and were fuckin' with me. Well played.

              Oh, and no one mentioned James Earl Ray yet.

  8. I'd like to make a movie based on my own belief (or at least what my sense of humor wants me to believe): that Oswald was trying to kill only Connally (whom he really had it in for regarding a complaint from when Oswald was in the Marines and Connally was Sec'y of the Navy), and then SS agent James Hickey, preparing to return fire, fingered the trigger prematurely (i.e. before turning around) and accidentally blew JFK's brains out when the car Hickey was riding in hit a bump; read Mortal Error.

    The movie would be named simply Lee and would not be publicized as a movie about Oswald or the assassination, and would not even reveal who the Lee being referred to was, hiding all the giveaway details as some of the relevant portion of his history was enacted. The audience wouldn't know much about this guy except that he'd been a US Marine and had some grudge, and then finally there'd be a scene in a certain room where he'd pull out a gun and you'd see the car thru his gun sight, and even then it'd be all about Connally. And then you'd see James Hickey and the accident while the music plays the Spike Jones version of "You Always Hurt The One You Love" with the gunshots in it timed to the gunshots on screen. And there'd be a zoom into LBJ's eye and finally a closing scene where he'd say what he was purported to have said, to the effect that if he were ever killed it'd be because one of his bodyguards did so accidentally.

  9. Red Dwarf does the best coverage of the JFK assassination.

  10. Think "The X-Files" touched on that with the CSM shooting his own son?

  11. I happen to be related to a certain late member of the Warren Commission, something I don't mention much at all, but that's not the whole reason why I support the lone gunman theory; Oswald was known to have tried to kill a general once before, yet he was free to produce himself in Dallas that day and apply his USMC marksmanship, so it's not so difficult for me to figure someone's incompetence was a much larger factor in that scenario than any grand conspiracy.

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