Thursday, November 21, 2013

JFK - 50th Anniversary - The Weekend at the Movies

Today we draw our attention to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but in terms of what our world was like with a view towards the movies that were playing in theaters at that time.
Most people who remember that awful four-day event of shock and mourning from Friday to Monday remember where they were and what they were doing, almost in detail.  Most, I suspect, were not at the movies.  Most were either at communal mourning services or firmly planted in front of their television sets watching a new era of chaos born from the weird and terrible string of events that occurred that weekend.  Television and radio took the lead and were the real chroniclers of our experience that weekend, not the movies, and perhaps the movies never would be again the forefront record of our popular history.  Radio and TV cancelled all regular programs and devoted the entire weekend to the national emergency and the protocol, newly learned for all of us, of national mourning.
We can see in these movie ads a lot of fluff, a lot of eager, daring attempts at sexual situations--which may seem somewhat sophomoric now, certainly more innocent than what was to come later. 
We look like a country that didn't take much seriously.
It was a world still of grand downtown movie palaces, such as the Loew's Poli in Springfield, Massachusetts.  It was a world where we still had plenty of drive-ins, though most would close in the northern parts of the country for the winter--and eventually for good.
This drive-in below even advertises electric heaters, which is a plus in November in New England, though exactly how that worked, I'm not sure.  I'd love to know.
There was still a Cinerama theater in Hartford, Connecticut at this time, a movie process and selling gimmick we should probably tackle someday.  As far as I know, there were only three Cinerama theaters in New England: including one in Boston, the other in Providence, Rhode Island.  If any reader can correct me or fill me in on more, please do.
For the most part, we see in these ads a lighthearted and superficial world that surely could not really have been. Perhaps we were blind to social strains and movements, a tense undercurrent that was there all along, unknown to us until we were forced to see.
If you remember what you were doing and who you were at that time, that weekend, I'd love to hear from you. 
The JFK anniversary is also discussed on my New England Travels blog this week.


John/24Frames said...

I was in a High School music class at the time I first heard. It's one of those moments you never forget. I talk more about this as a lead in to my article on conspiracy films over at Twenty Four Frames.

VP81955 said...

Here's some information on the history of the Dallas theater peripherally involved in the JFK assassination:

DorianTB said...

Jacqueline, I was only 3 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Being a toddler, I didn't quite understand why everyone was so sad. Thinking about it in hindsight, it also makes me think about the tragedy of 9/11. What a difference between the fluffy movie ads vs. the tragedy of JFK's aweful death.

Yvette said...

I love this specialized point of view post on the anniversary, Jacqueline. I'm posting something tomorrow myself.

I'm of an age that I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I was working at Decca Records on Park Avenue and sometime during midday, the news flashed over a portable radio I suppose, I don't know who initially spread the news.

One of the managers had a small television in his office and I remember running into his office to see what was happening. Actually we ran back and forth meeting each other in the hallways 'did you hear? did you hear?' that sort of thing.

Tears began as soon as we realized it wasn't just the wounding of a President, it was the killing of a President. Something so totally unexpected and unknown in our lifetime that if Martians had landed on the front lawn of the White House I think our reactions would have been similar.

When Walter Cronkite announced, with tears running down his face, that the President was, indeed, dead my knees gave out and luckily there was a chair near by to catch me.

We were all dismissed and sent home.

The subway ride was one of the most silent I'd ever taken in my life.

The next few days were spent weeping and watching the funeral on television. Not to mention, out of the blue, watching the murder of the assassin.

It was a very scary time.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of that tragedy. Great detail, Yvette. My siblings were all older, in various grades of school, and the oldest was already out of school and working. Their different perspectives at different ages and what they were able to understand, what they were exposed to, fascinates me.

My parents, of course, remember vividly. My mother was one of those who was ironing while watching that soap opera that was interrupted by Walter Cronkite. She was floored. Like you, Dorian, I was a toddler at the time. My twin brother and I were down for a nap, and--we were named for President and Mrs. Kennedy--my mother, with that mother logic that is not logical ran to check on her John and Jacqueline sleeping, needing to see that we were safe.

On Sunday, with the family in the kitchen sitting down to Sunday dinner, my mother kept running back and forth into the living room where the TV was constantly on that weekend--and she saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot. She yelled, "Oh, my God! They shot him!" And the kitchen table cleared as everybody bolted for the TV. Except John and I, trapped in our highchairs, undoubtedly bewildered.

The Lady Eve said...

You wear the name well, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Lady Eve, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you.

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