Saturday, January 21, 2012

A new documentary about Ethel Kennedy

This must be the year for the Kennedy women to shine. I’m all for it.

With the release earlier this fall of Jacqueline Kennedy’s taped oral history completed shortly after the assassination of her husband, and her daughter, Caroline, publishing the book to accompany those tapes, we now have “Ethel,” the documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week, with Taylor Swift as lead groupie. (As JFK said in his inaugural address, "Let the word go forth...that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.") Ethel Kennedy’s daughter Rory created the film as a “love letter” to her 83-year-old mother, whose last interview, according to Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr, was 30 years ago.

(Rory and Ethel Kennedy with Taylor Swift at the Sundance premier of "Ethel." Above, Ethel is seated at the back of the porch.)

I met Ethel once, in her home in Hyannis Port, at a clam bake on the famous compound lawn hosted by her son, then-US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, whose 31-year-old son, Joe III, appears to be running for Congress. I was covering politics at the time. Before I left the annual event, I needed to use the loo. Which meant going into Ethel’s house, where she was milling around the kitchen. I was struck by how preppy the space was decorated, all Kelly green upholstery and white piping. It was chipper, the way she presented herself to the world, which always struck me as amazing given the tragedies she had gone through. She graciously directed me through the house.

It’s not clear when the film will debut on HBO this year. But I won’t miss it.

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