NEW YORK, September 30, 2013 – November 22, 2013 marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Smithsonian Channel pays tribute to that milestone with an immersive new two-hour documentary, THE DAY KENNEDY DIED, premiering on Sunday, November 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Narrated by Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, this stirring minute-by-minute story of the death of a President draws from rarely seen film, photographs and eyewitness accounts to relive the tragic events of that infamous day in Dallas.
The new documentary from acclaimed director Leslie Woodhead (9/11: DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN) plunges viewers into the day leading up to President Kennedy’s appearance in Dallas, the shocking moment itself, and the aftermath of the assassination. From the President and First Lady’s morning in Fort Worth to their afternoon arrival in Dallas on Air Force One, viewers will learn about the hostile environment the President was entering and the concerns expressed for his safety.
Lee Harvey Oswald’s neighbor and workmate at the Texas School Book Depository, Buell Frazier, recalls driving Oswald to work that morning and asking him about a mysterious wrapped package in the backseat, which Oswald claimed were curtain rods. As the timeline continues and the motorcade gets underway and nears Dealey Plaza, what happens next is still endlessly debated 50 years later. Thousands of books have explored those moments, official inquiries have dissected every detail, and conspiracy theories have flourished over the decades.
“The assassination of President Kennedy stunned the nation and continues to be a defining and highly scrutinized moment in American history,” said David Royle, Executive Vice President, Programming and Production, Smithsonian Channel. “In this new film, we allow the images, the witnesses and events of that agonizing day to speak for themselves. They remain as vivid as they were five decades ago.”
THE DAY KENNEDY DIED explores the moments through the eyes of people who were there. Among the participants, witnesses and bystanders who are offering their first-hand accounts are:
Jackie Kennedy’s Secret Service Agent, Clint Hill, relives the moment he knew something was wrong, his attempt to get to the car and shield the President and First Lady, and hearing Jackie’s bewildered words: “Oh Jack, Jack what have they done?”
THE DAY KENNEDY DIED captures the frantic rush to the local hospital, the public chaos that ensued, the quickly mobilized manhunt by law enforcement looking for a suspect after witnesses identified the source of the gunshots as the Texas Book Depository, and the clash and confusion of media and authorities as Oswald is brought in for interrogation. Viewers will hear from the police officers that questioned Oswald, the woman who learned about Oswald’s role when the police arrived to search her home, and Dallas Homicide Detective Jim Leavelle, who was shackled to the assassin when Oswald was killed two days later. THE DAY KENNEDY DIED also depicts the moments following the declaration that President Kennedy had died, the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson as President on Air Force One with Jackie Kennedy at his side, the trip from Dallas Love Field to Washington, DC, and the autopsy performed that evening.
THE DAY KENNEDY DIED is directed by Leslie Woodhead and executive produced by Sue Summers of FineStripe Productions for Smithsonian Channel and ITV. Executive producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle and Charles Poe.