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Liz Smith Headshot

Parkland the Movie -- Just the Facts on JFK's Assassination

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"If he had lived, there would be no Kennedy myth, no Camelot!" said Pat Buchanan.

I, YOUR Liz, have lived through a plethora of U.S. history that a lot of people didn't get to experience; I having been here on this Earth since 1923.

These include the repeal of prohibition, many moments including Czechoslovakia, Poland and France falling in the beginning days of World War II...working in an airplane factory in the days that followed... the attack on Pearl Harbor... the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert where I was living as an Army wife... being called a "communist" when I devoted myself to getting the entrance of black people to the University of Texas back in the mid 1940s...My arrival in a new "Lights on" NYC, and embracing immediately two great musicals ("Kiss Me Kate" and "South Pacific")... going to work producing for NBC News in black and white television -- and the ultimate -- experiencing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. And on and on through the present.

But nothing has affected me by these ultimate world tragedies and the series of inevitable wrong wars fought ever after, plus the new threats of terrorism, than the events of Nov. 22, 1963 in my own home state of Texas.

So when the promoters asked my early opinion of the film "Parkland" a few month back, I didn't really want to go see it. I didn't want to live through it again. I had had enough of Oliver Stone's LBJ-CIA movie conspiracy theories, of Jackie and Bobby's extreme efforts to control writers like Theodore White and William Manchester who wanted to please them and write history at the same time, my own column revelations about JFK and his girlfriend Judith Exner, the Congressional hearings that skirted J. Edgar Hoover's FBI efforts at control, the utterly failed Warren Commission which swept everything under the rug, and the ultimate on-going Lamar Waldron's accurate pinpoint (still coming to us in increments) history of murder-by-hire of the Marciano crime family who probably killed JFK and RFK as revenge for Cuban casino interference, (although all of the Waldron-JFK papers haven't been released yet)... and the end result of Mafia criminals like Sam Giancana and John Roselli who have been accused of manipulating JFK with women and mis-used campaign funds.

I have had it up to here with conspiracy theories that now dominate most of the writing of American history.

But "Parkland" is something else. It is a movie that resembles a documentary, by a newcomer (to me) -- one Peter Landesman. And it is dynamite, staying as it does mostly in the immediate moments before Kennedy's assassination in Dallas and the following drama of his being taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital -- the horrible, shocking things that can only happen in emergency rooms. And these are shown along with Lee Harvey Oswald's body coming in two days later for the same emergency treatment.

There is the getting of the rifle, the disgruntled enigmatic behavior of Oswald, the enthusiastic arrival in Fort Worth the night before of the President and First Lady, tumultuous greetings, a little speech, the airport scene in Dallas where Jackie is awash in glamour in her famous pink suit, the open car trip, shots seemingly from the Texas School Book Depository, Jackie climbing on the back of the limo to clutch at her husband's partial skull, the heroic efforts by Secret Service man Clint Hill ---and the zooming limousine rush to Parkland. No examinations or hints here of "the grassy knoll" or whether dead police officer Tippitt was on the level or a part of it all. No inquiries into minor mobster lackey Jack Ruby.

Here, the movie accelerates and begins to give us more -- Lee Harvey Oswald's brother Robert, brilliantly played by actor James Badge Dale, who comes off as a bewildered patriot...his crazy mother Marguerite Oswald who wanted her big moment and intended her son should be buried with Kennedy...

And Jackie shell-shocked and grief-stricken, (Kat Steffens) interfering with actors Zac Efron and Colin Hanks as they try to do their emergency duties while head nurse, the Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden, subtly whisks away pieces of the president's skull and brains from Jackie's bloodstained hands. There are the arguments of whether it was proper to remove the dead President's underpants...the ruthless behavior of the FBI biggie (played by Billy Bob Thornton) and real-life agent James Hosty (actor Ron Livingston) who only want to get the dead JFK on a plane and out of Dallas where locals are claiming possession of the case.

You believe these actors. They seem to be the ones who received the president's body in emergency, quarreled with one another over useless protocol, endured Jackie's kissing of her husband's lifeless body and eventually gave him up for dead. The film deserts this scene chaotically in periods as Oswald and brother are ruthlessly grilled by Dallas police, J. Edgar Hoover tries to cover up FBI failure in Washington, LBJ and Ladybird and Nellie Connolly mill about bewildered and the film ends with the fatal arrival of Air Force One back in D.C. and the funeral.

This is a harrowing experience. It doesn't draw conclusions; these were to be drawn out over and over endlessly and still go on. There are numbers of books and other films coming out now to commemorate this horrible happening.

One of the things that struck me about it all was the general remembrance of Dallas as a hateful place with a conservative contingent wishing for the death of a president. But the people onlooking, cheering, greeted and faced with gruesome tragedy in the moments after seem genuine and the people seem mostly sorrowful and grief-stricken.

Oh, yes, we also get the true Walter Cronkite in his tearful verdict on TV. And soon we get the film taken by Paul Giamatti as the businessman, Abraham Zapruder, whose home movie became infamous with Time/Life busy buying it. (Thank God they did!)

I vividly recall pausing to watch in multiple TV shops along 57th replaying the tragedy as I ran east on the street in a race from lunch back to my office. I remember I went home after being ordered to "Go back to work; he's dead!" by my boss Allen Funt. I got in bed with a bottle of vodka and for about 48 hours watched TV and cried.

Then Oswald was shot in real time before our very eyes. He was taken to Parkland where the emergency room gave him the same ministrations as they had JFK only days before.

The revelation of "Parkland, " the movie, to me is Oswald's brother who I had never paid much attention to before. Actor Dale is a revelation. This entire memory is such -- about the way we were, dominated as we are by politics-via-stealth-and-assassination and easy guns as a way of American life.

I urge everyone to see this truly great film which simply offers the events of four tragic days and leaves one utterly bewildered and not believing anything. And then believing and considering every possibility (even the Marilyn Monroe stuff a little later!)

I say don't waste your time on absurd social media explosions over who is the father of young Ronan Farrow when you can go see "Parkland" and find out pretty much what everybody who was there and watching knew back on Nov. 22,1963 and in the hours after. Television was heroic then, giving everything it had to the moment. It was important.

The Internet reaction is just momentary and the opinion of millions of people seem loathsome at times.

Whether Frank Sinatra is Ronan's father is not very important and all those railing and carrying on over this question should be only a fraction concerned as well about the next primary elections which may decide this nation's fate. Will they react in the millions then over something important?

Are we going to go on together or wait for the inevitable revolution that will be staged by the have-nots against the rich!