Friday, October 19, 2012

"Ethel": History told through the retrospect of Robert F. Kennedy's widow

There is a moment early in HBO’s “Ethel” where Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, is told by her film director daughter Rory Kennedy that she is the subject of this documentary film.She is a little bit surprised. 

The gentle 95-minute recitation gives us a pretty good synopsis of the history of the country through the 50s and 60s. 

Maybe the most telling moment came when Robert asked  Ethel and his kids if they wanted to be sent west to a bunker (could that have been the Greenbrier in West Virginia?) during the Cuban Missile Crisis (which occurred exactly fifty years ago).  The kids wanted to stay to the end.  Historians say that at one point there was perhaps a 50% chance of nuclear war.

The film somewhat softpedals the 1963 assassination of John Kennedy in Dallas, but presents Robert’s decision to run for president in 1968 as a way to serve his country.  In one scene, he speaks to a crowd, without security, and tells them that Martin Luther King has been shot.  At the time, I was in Army Basic in Fort Jackson, S.C. and we were on “red alert”.  Then, the film covers in detail Robert’s own end in Los Angeles (at the hands of Sirhan) in a hotel in June 1968.  At the time, I was at Fort Myer, assigned to the Pentagon, and I remember that morning well.

But much earlier in life Ethel was involved in knocking on doors for family members’ campaigns.  She never questioned that she should “proselytize” for the family.  Now, it doesn’t sound so different from what Mitt Romney did for his church as a young man.

HBO’s official site is here

No, this has nothing to do with Fred and Ethel of “I Love Lucy”, but the title brought back even those movies of the 50s.

Wikipedia attribution link for aerial shot of Columbia SC and Fort Jackson, where I was stationed while critical parts of this film take place.

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