Fifty years after the Kennedy presidency, the family who had it all is still making headlines. Sharon Krum reports on the efforts to ban a new Kennedy TV mini-series that has been branded "sex-soaked bunkum".
The news footage is 50 years old, but it still has the power to move us. Those grainy images of US President John F. Kennedy and his glamorous wife, Jackie, on inauguration day, both so young and full of hope - or Jackie, moments away from heartbreak, in her pink suit and pillbox hat in Dallas, in 1963 - are mesmerising even for those not born in that magical time dubbed Camelot.
One person who was watching the old newsreels most keenly last year was Katie Holmes, who had just been cast as iconic First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the $30 million, eight-part TV mini-series,The Kennedys. Katie, 32, played the news footage over and over to prepare for the role, even making it a family affair. Husband Tom Cruise "watched everything with me, he found it fascinating", she later toldEllemagazine. At night, she confided, she would practise Jackie's famously feathery voice on him.
Of all the possible actresses, the formerDawson's CreekandBatmanstar was a smart choice to play Jackie. It's not just that she and Jackie share a resemblance in their lithe bodies and intense beauty, but an elusiveness as well. You can look at photographs of Jackie 50 years ago and Katie today, and sense they're both knowingly hiding something of themselves.
"I worked as hard as I could because I loved her. On set, there was this feeling that we had to create something very special because these people were very special. The Kennedys were like movie stars," Katie said, summing up the thousand-day JFK presidency perfectly.
When the mini-series was announced it caused excitement and criticism. "Malicious", cried one historian who read an early script. Others branded it a "travesty", "soap opera", a political hit job and sex-soaked bunkum.
Then, suddenly, in January,The Kennedyswas dropped from the US History Channel, who claimed it was "not a fit for the History brand". Hollywood was stunned, and the Kennedy family was reportedly to blame.
Has the historic family overreacted, though?The Hollywood Reporter'sMatthew Belloni watched the finished first episode and claims what he saw appeared toned down from earlier scripts, as the director and producers promised. "I think people will really like it," he said. "It's definitely melodramatic in parts, but the acting is very good. Katie Holmes is uncanny as Jackie."
The Kennedy family still hasn't spoken publicly about the series, which is set to air in 30 countries, including Australia. It has recently been taken up by US cable channel, ReelzChannel, according toThe Hollywood Reporter. Yet the Kennedy family must realise that this fuss is only going to make people more curious to see it.
Still, many agree that their fight is understandable. "If people watch the series," says Robert Greenwald, "please read a good history book on Kennedy as well."
Read more of this story in the March issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.