Sunday, October 5, 2008

J.F.K.: Reckless Youth (1993)

A good film, with Dempsey as a believable young JFK

The now complete miniseries originally aired on ABC the week leading up to Thanksgiving 1993. It does the Hamilton book almost perfect justice.

A freewheeling, intellectually engaged and winning young Jack Kennedy is pushed by an ambitious father and ignored by a remote mother despite precarious health because "Kennedys!" The film covers many milestones in the future president's life: his near expulsion from the Choate School; his withdrawal from Princeton in the wake of what was assumed to be Leukemia; his studies (and skirt chasing) at Harvard, culminating in the thesis which became "Why England Slept;" his Navy career and fling with Inga Arvad, the Dane suspected by the FBI to be a Nazi spy (she probably wasn't); and his election to Congress in 1946.

Though the film is candid about JFK's family, health and active social life, I have a few quibbles. It says his first book "hung the old man out to dry," attacking his father's policies of appeasement. Yet its publishing and even some passages of the final work were written by his father and Arthur Krock (though JFK wrote most of the volume). It portrays JFK as a starry eyed idealist in '46, hurt that his grandpa can't campaign for him, unwilling to mention his dead brother for votes or to work with anybody but his "junior brains trust" of Ivy League and Navy pals. None of this is true. I prefer the book's amusing opening to the 1946 race...Kennedy impregnating a secretary. JFK understood his abilities and his obligations to his family, and went "flat out, all out" to win the first race in 1946. If it meant looking the other way while his father strong-armed opponents out of the race, so be it. For this, the volume itself is the best resource...that or Kennedy vs. Nixon.

At any rate, this is a great dramatization of Jack Kennedy's early life, lots of fun to watch, and I'm no Grey's fan, but I always told people about this movie and how sensational Dempsey was in it. No better person existed for the role then, and doesn't now. By Lit Chick


  1. Thank you again for a nice presentation. I did not even know that this film existed before I came over the DVD by accident and instantly ordered it and uploaded it. I have seen almost all available films about JFK, and also all with Patrick Dempsey since his debut in 1986, so this was indeed an exciting combination.

  2. How come you're so interested in JFK, there are over 60 JFK movies and you see them all?

    And for that matter, I did not even know that Patrick Dempsey existed before "Grey's Anatomy" aired. :D


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