Jackie and John Kennedy with their children at Hyannis Port family home photo courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The Queen of Camelot and The Quest For Camelot are a history lesson in faith, allegiance, and perseverance … Two new films by WestView’s Roger Paradiso
By Will Espero
I was born in November of 1960, the same month John F. Kennedy Jr. was born to Jacqueline and U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy. Two days after my birth, Senator Kennedy would defeat Richard Nixon and become the 35th president of the United States. As a tail-end member of the baby boomers, I didn’t remember or capture the true essence of Camelot and the Kennedy administration as I was still in diapers. Ironically, fate would intervene and Richard Nixon would eventually be elected to the presidency in 1968 only to be forced out of office due to the Watergate scandal. This episode in history I remember.
Director Roger Paradiso uses first hand interviews, old news clips, facts, and theories to assist in his version of the story of the Kennedy family. It’s a tragic tale which has been told countless times over the decades, but foreign or unknown to many of our youth today. In The Queen of Camelot, the masterpiece of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis paints a story of dreams, love, fears, tragedy, survival, and resiliency. Through Paradiso’s lens, the Kennedy years and Camelot comparisons become more precise and focused.
The Queen of Camelot gave me an intriguing glimpse of the legend of Camelot at a time when television and politics were in their infancy. The childhood years of Jackie Bouvier are portrayed and displayed as her relationship with her divorced parents and especially her problematic father depict how Jackie’s life was shaped and influenced. The words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower speaking about the influence of the military industrial complex resonate today as countries and governments spend billions of dollars for offensive and defensive weapons.
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The courtship and marriage of Jackie Bouvier, the Kennedy years in Washington DC, the beginning of the Camelot era, and a renaissance of culture and the arts in the White House depict a time of joy, happiness, and hope. It reminded me of the presidency of another iconic leader, Barack Obama.
Following the assassination of President Kennedy, Jackie’s relationships with President Lyndon Johnson and her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy are uncovered and revealed. The Johnson policies of the Vietnam War clearly showed the opposing views between Jackie and the new president. Keeping the legacy of the late president alive drove Jackie Kennedy and Robert Kennedy to the point where Robert’s fate would be sealed as he embarked on a journey to also become president of the United States.
Jackie’s self-exile to Greece to protect her family and escape the American paparazzi, her return to New York City, and her efforts to memorialize John F. Kennedy show a motivated woman tested and challenged throughout her life. The love of her children guided Jackie O in all her decisions and actions.
A segment about the downfall of the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev makes one reflect about the destructive and an insane foray of Russia today. Are we now in a new dark ages or is the ember and legend of Camelot still aglow in our souls and our youth today?
The Quest For Camelot ventures into the days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as the world was stunned and shocked at this deliberate act of terror. The film dives into the psychic and mind of Jacqueline Kennedy dealing with the loss of her husband and father to her children. Thoughts of confusion and suicide were not unexpected as the violent death of JFK was forever imprinted in her being.
Replays of the infamous Zapruder tape dissect the moments an assassin’s bullet ended the life of an American hero. The video is chilling to watch. Thus, the beginning of conspiracy theories and whodunnits as the world reeled from this horrific moment in Dallas.
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The thoughts, dreams, and actions of Robert F. Kennedy following the death of his beloved brother show a man obsessed and on a mission. His disdain for President Lyndon Johnson is apparent as they differ in the Vietnam War and the direction it is going. Bobby Kennedy’s affection for the poor, disenfranchised, and underrepresented is apparent. His understanding of minorities, migrant workers, and especially Black constituents places him ahead of his time as a pioneer and statesman.
The footage of a Senate Migratory Subcommittee hearing on farm workers where Kennedy grilled and lambasted a local sheriff for his treatment of striking workers highlighted the abusive behavior of law enforcement bringing comparisons of some law enforcement today and their mistreatment of minorities.
A memorable speech by Martin Luther King accentuated the emotion and passion of the times. An era of assassinations and killings of high-profile figures foreshadowed what was to come.
Kennedy’s stance on healthcare, the anti-war movement, and the treatment of blacks reminds me of today’s conversations still ongoing and current. His predictions about the Vietnam War parallels the nature of the Afghanistan War as an unwinnable situation. His work for civil rights and politics of hope are echoed today as we struggle to heal and overcome hate and divisiveness.
Paradiso tackles the issue of why Senator Robert Kennedy wanted to be president of the United States. His ambitious father certainly played a role wanting to be a king maker when his personal dreams were derailed. With a large family of successful handsome children, the options were plentiful. Sadly, the family history of the Kennedy clan in politics is ripe with disaster and tragedy beginning with death of the older brother Joe during World War II.
Finding the planners and killers of JFK also likely motivated Robert Kennedy to run for our country’s highest office according to Paradiso. The theory of a domestic plot that could have involved the CIA, the anti-Castro movement, or organized crime was firmly planted in RFK’s mind.
Tragically and unfortunately, an unplanned walk to the back of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles ended Robert Kennedy’s crusade. I was almost eight years old at the time, and I vaguely remember the image of a young teenager going to Bobby Kennedy’s aid as he lay dying on the kitchen floor.
Incredible and fascinating footage, images, scenes, and interviews are artfully chronicled in The Quest For Camelot and The Queen of Camelot. The 60s were a time of transition and revolution similar to today. These powerful films are definitely a must see for all and for those with an interest in advocacy, history, politics, and justice. D!