“They shot his head off! I love you Jack!”
Those were Jacqueline Kennedy’s words to her Secret Service protector Clint Hill as President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot 60 years ago in his Lincoln convertible on Nov. 22, 1963, and Hill scrambled onto the rear of the car to reach Mrs. Kennedy.
It’s one of many revelations from the last survivors who were there that fateful day in Dallas and make National Geographic’s three-part retelling in real time in Sunday’s “JFK: One Day in America” so special.
For anyone who might want to better understand what happened, “JFK: One Day” vividly recreates the events leading up to and the days after.
“It was such a pivotal moment in American history, but also a global event as well,” said producer Charlotte Rodrigues on Zoom from her London office. “We wanted to do something slightly different from previous documentaries in that we wanted to capture the emotion of those key witnesses. These ordinary people caught up in this tragedy.
“We didn’t want to have a narrator,” she added. “We wanted it to feel quite pure, just first-person testimony alongside the archive of that day.
“So you’re living it moment by moment through the eyes of these incredible interviews being given.”
They include Hill, who’s still guilt ridden he could not save the president, and another of Jackie Kennedy’s Secret Service protectors Paul Landis, who has never before been interviewed. There are reporters from DC and Dallas — and even the man who drove Lee Harvey Oswald to work (Oswald didn’t have a car) and was arrested, his life changed forever.
“We really wanted to transport the viewer back to that ‘60s America and see what JFK was like as president.”
What’s vividly clear is what command JFK and Jackie had as magnets for massive, adoring crowds, as if they were the most glamorous movie stars on Earth.
“I hadn’t quite appreciated how captivating they were as a couple. I didn’t actually realize how much Jackie was so important to his popularity,” Rodrigues, 43, said.
“I also didn’t realize how much had actually gone down within those three days. It wasn’t just the assassination of the president — it was a murder of a policeman, then the capture of the assassin. All that drama unfolds in quick succession. Then, obviously, the assassination of Oswald the assassin — live on television! I just thought, ‘Wow! you just can’t make that up.’
“There’s so much drama unfolding, one after the next after the next. It sounds awful to say but it makes for quite rich material. At some point you feel like it’s a thriller.”
“JFK: One Day in America” streams all three parts on NatGeo on Sunday on Hulu & Disney+ on Monday
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