Parkland

I have very few DVD’s in my possession. I used to own hundreds. But I sold almost the lot of them in 2005. Why keep a bunch of discs that I’ll never bother watching again? I kept just a handful. Amongst them is the box set of the 1983 production ‘Kennedy’, starring Martin Sheen. I watched it at the time and was instantly fascinated by the JFK story. Especially, of course, the assassination. And the multitude of conspiracies that belong to that event.

I remember the trailers for Kennedy. A gravelly voice, with all the forced incredulity that could be mustered, asked the viewer, ‘Was it really twenty years ago?’.  I was ten years old, and completely missed the gist of the question. To a ten year old it was already ancient history. We’re coming up to the fifty year anniversary in a few days. We’re further away from that 1983 production now that we were to the assassination back then. I don’t know the owner of that gravelly voice, but if he ever comes along to these parts….then now I get you.

I bought into several of the conspiracy theories, and remained so for a long time. It was, perhaps, only in the earlier part of this century that I began to grasp the concept of the US conspiracy theory. There are lots of unanswered questions about the assassination, just as one would expect. But I disengaged myself from the theories a long time ago. Oswald almost certainly killed Kennedy. End of story.

But I still remain fascinated by the man, the family, the presidency and the assassination. The whole era, in fact.  I’m instantly drawn to anything new. The newest is Parkland, a 90 minute film loosely based around the hospital for those three days in November 1963. It’s tough to fill ninety minutes just in a hospital. So there’s filler material, from the offices of the FBI, the life of Abraham Zapruder and the family of Lee Oswald.

It’s not the most compelling production I’ve ever watched on the Kennedy theme. Once the drama of the the killing is done, there’s more than one dull moment. Perhaps that’s actually a commendation, not a criticism. This is not a film examining who killed him. Just the act and the immediate aftermath. This isn’t a film designed to bring in new adherents to the Kennedy myth, ala Oliver Stones’ JFK. This is very much a film for those who are already interested in Kennedy. Which, it must be acknowledged, is hardly a niche market. Even after all this time.

What the film does do well, is to put a more human face on that fateful day. To put the event into the context of it’s era, and to strip away the myth, the hyperbole and the other-worldly atmosphere that you’ll find in most JFK movies. Such as Stone’s fanciful but entertaining flick. There were real doctors and nurses in a real hospital suddenly faced with the lifeless body that had, until minutes earlier, embodied the hopes and aspirations of millions.

There was a normal guy behind the Bell video camera that was shooting from the knoll that day. Run of the mill cops patrolling the streets. It was just another day in Dallas up till those shots rang out. It was the same real life cast involved in the most dramatic televised event after those shots were fired. This is their story. You feel for them. Especially, perhaps, for LHO’s brother. Who’d be in his shoes?

Is there anything for the conspiracy theorist though, to get their teeth into? Really, no. But perhaps this is the sort of film that might have some who are wavering coming to their senses. There is an expectation amongst them that there should be no missing pieces in the jigsaw of this crime. No unturned corners. No flaws in the investigation. A slick and well oiled procedure put into place the moment things go pear shaped. Life is never like that. Ever.

7 Comments

    • Ed, if Opera shutting down means you comment more here, then that’s fine by me! That was a really interesting story. I still hope to do a morbid Kennedy tour of Dallas. Alas, I’m too late for some of it….

  • I was confined to Parkland Hospital for about 5 days in 1983. Eventually I grew bored (one of the chief problems of hospital stay) and since my doctors were saying after a few days that I should take some walks down the hallway I put on my robe and did so.

    Well let’s just say that my walk continued longer than I expected and eventually I took the elevators down and somehow ended up in the basement. Walking down a long hallway I came to an intersection of two halls, on the edge of what seemed to be the Emergency Unit. Rather lost and not wanting to get any more so I turned around. Only to see, up on the wall, a plaque.

    The plague said that here in 1963 John F. Kennedy died. I have kept that in my mind every since. It was so strange being on the exact spot (or very very close).

    Strange thing is last year I was looking at the Parkland website, and even though they have a memorial for Kennedy there now, there was no photo whatsoever of the plaque in the hallway.

    Looking into this a little deeper, I leaned that they had literally destroyed the ER room where they had worked on him. I don’t remember the date, but the ER was broken apart and the pieces of it, even down to the tiles of the walls, but into barrels.

    The new plaque they show now simply says that it was the location of Trauma Room 1, where he died. As you can see all of it looks new — much newer than when I was there.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JFK_Plaque.JPG

    So what was that plaque I saw in the hallway?

  • I’ve been to the assassination site in Dallas. Prior to that I didn’t know a lot about the conspiracy theories. I read your post yesterday and then last night I saw a documentary on ABC TV here in Australia made by National Geographic ‘The Lost Bullet’. A lot of the amateur video has now been digitally enhanced. The program seemed to conclude that all three shots came from Oswald and the first shot (the lost bullet) was blocked by a traffic light – all very intriguing! Have you seen it? http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2013/11/11/3885332.htm

    • Visiting the scene of the assassination is on my list of things to do before I kick the bucket. I almost made it there once. I stopped in Dallas to connect to another flight. I had three hours to kill. I questioned a few taxi drivers to see if a drive down Elm Street would fit in. It would’ve been tight. So I left it for another day….

      I’ll watch that video now..

  • I was once fascinated by the Kennedy assassination conspiracy, as well. I had two shelves of assassination books that went to Goodwill when I sold the house. My favorite, not surprisingly, was that Fidel had done it in reprisal for the attempts on his life — apparently, that was also Lyndon Johnson’s private view. But, like you, I found most of the conspiracies merely empty vessels filled by each author’s personal demons. Gerald Posner finally convinced me that the Warren Commission got it just about right.

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