JFK (1991) Poster


Frequently Asked Questions

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  • JFK is a fictionalized account, told through the eyes of former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), of events leading up to and following the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (Steve Reed) on 22 November 1963 in Dallas, Texas. It focuses on Garrison's belief that a conspiracy was involved and that Kennedy's alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) did not act alone. The film is interspersed with actual footage of Kennedy's assassination, his funeral, and Oswald's subsequent assassination.

  • Two books, in fact: (1) On the Trail of the Assassins (1988) by Jim Garrison, and (2) Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy (1989) by former newspaper journalist Zachary Sklar and American "conspiracy" writer Jim Marrs. The books were adapted for the film by professor of journalism at the Columbia School of Journalism and American filmmaker Oliver Stone (who also directed the movie).

  • The film was based upon a real court case that took place in New Orleans in the late 1960s. Jim Garrison, a New Orleans District Attorney, charged Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones), a local businessman and civic leader, with conspiracy in the death of president John Kennedy. The jury acquitted Shaw almost immediately, and the case was actually seen as something of a shambles. Some of the characters in JFK are fictional, including Willie O'Keefe (Kevin Bacon). However, some of the characters Stone presents are indeed based upon real people, including David Ferrie (Joe Pesci), Guy Bannister (Edward Asner), and of course Shaw and Garrison. X (Donald Sutherland) is based on a man named Fletcher Prouty, whose interview can be seen in the DVD special features. Many scenes, including several flashbacks, were invented by Stone for creative reasons. Stone also invented or exaggerated many of the pieces of evidence shown in the film. The most famous of these is, perhaps, the gunfire from the grassy knoll. In one famous image, that is dubbed "badge man", a figure is purportedly visible behind the fence on the grassy knoll with a white blob near his one shoulder. Researchers have suggested that this blob is smoke from a gun being fired. Stone included this idea in the film. However, when the time came to film the scene, he was unable to find a period rifle that would produce visible smoke on camera and had to resort to having a crew member blow smoke from a bellows. Although there are differences between the books and the movie, the film presents the ideas laid forth in the books with a fair amount of accuracy.

  • The answer is both no and yes. In the sense that he agrees with the findings of Jim Garrison's investigation, No. Stone has said many times the film is a "myth" or "counter-myth" and has readily acknowledged the controversial nature of not only Garrison's findings but also his investigation methods. He has also stated that the reason he used Garrison as his main character was not for historical accuracy but because, in its broad strokes, Garrison's character and story were very much in line with traditional heroic archetypes. In addition, Stone devoted a great deal of his time to personally researching the case, and he has no doubt come across the same refutations of Garrison's investigation that many others have seen. However, if you are referring to the film in its broad artistic strokes, then the answer is undoubtedly Yes. The director has commented a great number of times about the effect Kennedy's assassination had on him personally, and how that event seemed to be either a turning point or catalyst for a great number of changes in the United States. Viewed through that lens, the film is not so much a standard potboiler or thrilling whodunit as it is a reflection of how the public's faith in their elected officials has been shattered.

  • Mr. X, as the character identifies himself, is loosely based on Col. Fletcher Prouty, who also served as advisor to the film. It was Prouty who claimed that NSAM 263 was proof that JFK was withdrawing from Vietnam. The claim that NSAM 273 signed by Lyndon Johnson did not include the 1,000-troop withdrawal (as included in NSAM 263) is false. Inspection of NSAM 273 dated 21 November 1963 reveals this: 2. The objectives of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement of October 2nd, 1963. Note that NSAM 273 is dated the day before Kennedy was assassinated, and "the President" here is JFK. So, NSAM 273 was issued UNDER the Kennedy Administration and signed by LBJ. Prouty himself died in June of 2001. Read more about him here.

  • When Jim Garrison meets Mr. X at the Lincoln Memorial, Mr. X claims that when he was chief of Special Operations (specifically "black ops") and that he was instructed by a certain "General Y" (his boss) to go to the South Pole as the military escort for a group of international VIPs. He goes on to say this was done because, if he was present in Washington, one of his routine duties would have been to arrange additional security in Texas, which would interfere with the "conspirators" plans to kill the President. Who is this General Y? In the movie—according to the screenplay: "The status of Y is only clear by the sign on the desk, the name blocked by a passing figure." The name is General Edward Lansdale. But by the start of November 1963, Lansdale had already retired, and could not have received such an order from him even if Mr. X was involved with Presidential Security (which he was not; as Mr. X is based largely on Fletcher Prouty, it is known that Prouty was not at any time required to provide Presidential Security or privy to Secret Service information). Mr. X's claim that the "112th Military Intelligence Group at Fort Sam Houston was ordered to stand down that day" is also unverified. In fact, the 112th did provide protection for the motorcade. Colonel Robert E. Jones (Operations Officer of the 112th Military Intelligence group from June 1963 to January 1965), when questioned by the HSC, said that people were provided for Security in San Antonio and Dallas. He never mentioned any instruction to "stand down" as Mr. X said.

  • Another composite character in the movie, and one of the real life characters on which he is based, happens to be Perry Raymond Russo. Russo claimed he attended a party at Dave Ferrie's New Orleans apartment where a Clay "Bertrand" and Oswald was present, and there they discussed the plot to kill JFK by "triangulation of crossfire".

  • David Ferrie came into the conspiracy as a result of Jack S. Martin (Jack Lemmon)'s accusation that Ferrie was seen with Lee Harvey Oswald. It is known that Martin held a grudge against Ferrie. In the movie, a claim is made that Ferrie's name keeps "popping up" among Oswald's associates, but not a single person claimed to have seen Oswald and Ferrie together that summer in New Orleans. Martin also claimed that Ferrie may have hypnotized Oswald into killing the president, among various other misleading and often spiteful information regarding Ferrie. Many years after the assassination, the PBS program Frontline found a photograph from 1955 depicting Lee Harvey Oswald and a man believed to be David Ferrie, as belonging to the same unit of the Civil Air Patrol.

  • At the end, the movie states, "Richard Helms, a director of covert operations in 1963, admitted under oath that CLAY SHAW had worked for the CIA". What Richard Helms really said was this: "one time, as a businessman, [Clay Shaw] was one of the part-time contacts of the Domestic Contact Division". Clay Shaw worked at Trade Mart, and Shaw—and many other people—were required to report to the CIA's Domestic Contact Service (DCS) in New Orleans. Shaw was one of literally thousands of US citizens debriefed each year about their travels and contacts abroad by the DCS. He was never a contract agent, and thus was never paid. All the information he gave to DCS can now be found at the National Archives.

  • Garrison couldn't get any other people other than Russo to identify Clay Shaw as Clay Bertrand and though Garrison scoured the area for potential witnesses he could find none (Jim Garrison's method was to make up a theory, then find people to back the theory). The name Bertrand was largely a figment of the lawyer Dean Andrews (John Candy)'s vivid imagination. In real life, during the time Andrews claimed he got the phone call from a "Bertrand" to represent Oswald, that he was down with pneumonia, in a state of delirium and heavily sedated in Hotel Dieu Hospital.

  • There is no conclusive evidence to prove this. In the movie, there is a scene where the officer booking Clay Shaw asks for aliases, and Clay Shaw replies, "Clay Bertrand". In reality, this never happened. Clay Shaw did not at any time admit using an alias. In a booking procedure such as this, a field arrest form would be supplied to the booking officer that would include any aliases used by the arrestee; which raises the questions: 1. Why would Officer Habighorst need to question the arrestee when all the information was supplied to him? 2. Why would an alleged covert CIA field agent divulge his secret identity without hesitation? Further evidence contrary to Officer Habighorst's claim comes from Sgt. Jonas Butzman who was assigned to guard Shaw during the booking who said that Habighorst did not question Shaw and that the name "Bertrand" was never spoken.

  • JFK shows National Security Action Memo 263 in which Kennedy had ordered 1,000 American troops and advisers to be withdrawn from Vietnam by late 1965. However, this does not show that Kennedy had resigned himself to a Communist victory in Vietnam. At the time of the assassination, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was cracking down on internal dissidents in his country. Diem's heavy handed tactics were throwing the country into chaos and providing potential propaganda fodder for the Communist North Vietnamese. In response to this, Kennedy conceived of bringing home 1,000 of the more then 15,000 American troops already in South Vietnam as a way to "express our displeasure" at Diem's actions and to create uncertainty in his mind as to American intentions. Kennedy hoped that this would prod Diem into acting more leniently. Diem was overthrown in a coupe by the South Vietnamese military on November 1st, 1963, and executed the next day, only three weeks before Kennedy was assassinated (on November 22nd) later that same month.

  • Yes, but the quote is misleadingly taken out of context to further the suggestion that Lyndon Johnson was a warmonger. Stone got this quote from Stanley Karnow's book (Vietnam: A History [1983]), and the author has suggested that the line was indeed said during a late-1963 White House reception to Joint Chiefs of Staff. But, the author claims that this was an example of LBJ giving different promises to different factions; LBJ was hoping to placate the brass so he could rally their conservative allies on Capitol Hill behind his liberal social agenda. At the same time, according to author Stanley Karnow, LBJ was also suggesting to members of Congress who were hesitant about Vietnam that he had no intention of getting immersed in that "damn piss-ant little country". Oliver Stone, in order to portray LBJ as a Southern-bred, drawling warmonger, lifted the quote out of context.

  • During the final court trail, Garrison says of a man who had a seizure in Dealey Plaza: "The epileptic later vanished, never checking into the hospital". Well, he did not exactly "vanish" as Stone says, but was located by the FBI on March 26th, 1964, where he identified himself as Jerry Belknap, an epileptic who had suffered seizures since childhood. He was actually taken to the Parkland Hospital after the seizure but left without registering because he felt better after being given a glass of water and an aspirin. Also, he realized his chances of seeing a doctor was slim after seeing the President's motorcade pull into the hospital.

  • In the movie, Garrison says the man pumping the umbrella during the motorcade is actually signaling the shooters to "keep shooting" ("He's not dead. Keep shooting.") — thus incriminating him in the "conspiracy" to kill the president. This so-called "umbrella man", as he is known among the conspiracy theorist community, was identified by the House Select Committee for assassinations in 1978 as Louie Steven Witt. When questioned by the committee as to why he had an umbrella with him, he said he bought it along to heckle the President's motorcade. Witt had heard that the umbrella was a "sore spot" with the Kennedy family and he used it as a right wing protest against what he perceived as Kennedy's "softness" on Communism. The symbolism came from UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler before World War II. At the time, cartoonists had often portrayed Britain being shielded by Chamberlain's trademark umbrella. Before World War II, Joseph Kennedy was Ambassador to England. He had encouraged Chamberlain's efforts, and was thus accused of being a Hitler appeaser; Lyndon Johnson once called Joe Kennedy "a Chamberlain umbrella man". So, it was not a sinister cue as portrayed in the film, but a political gesture intended to irk the President. None of this is revealed in the film. It also seems unlikely that a professional assassination team would use a man standing in plain view and doing something as odd as repeatedly opening and closing an umbrella on a sunny day as a secret signal. The assassin(s) would also have a much better vantage point with which to determine Kennedy's condition than someone standing along the parade route, and using the umbrella as a signal would require another member of the shooting team to watch Witt and wait for his signal.

  • As Vice President, Lyndon Baines Johnson ascended to the Presidency upon JFK's death. As such he was one of the people who benefited most directly from the shooting. Since most conspiracy theories involve some sort of government collusion in Kennedy's assassination, they require a high-placed government official to be behind them, and LBJ would fit the bill. Also, most conspiracy theories posit the desire of the "military industrial complex" to escalate the Vietnam War as being the motive behind the assassination. LBJ ended up radically escalating the US involvement in Vietnam into a full blown war. For members of the anti-war movement at the time, Johnson became something of a villain, as expressed in the chant "Hey Hey LBJ, how man kids did you kill today!"

    The public personae of JFK and LBJ also marked them as different men in the public imagination of the time. JFK was a young, handsome, and charming playboy. A political moderate, JFK flirted with issues like Civil Rights but took little radical action during his times. After his death a lot of people remembered his administration fondly and many people were able to attribute whatever ideas they wanted to JFK. For many people, including conspiracy theorists, this included the idea that JFK would have gotten us out of Vietnam. At the time of his death Vietnam was just one front in the US war against communism and not that important to the American public. A few years later, Vietnam had become the biggest foreign policy issue for the country and had provoked massive public protests. In this atmosphere, it was comforting for many to think that Kennedy, the martyred President, would have removed US forces. In contrast, LBJ was a much more prickly personality. He was famous in the Senate for browbeating people into submission. As an old school Southern politician, Johnson was often more comfortable with the nuts and bolts of politics than with the high flying symbolism of the Kennedy era. At the same time, Johnson had a much more radical agenda than Kennedy did. His Great Society and Civil Rights programs sought major changes in American society and provoked significant discord from those who disapproved of them. In addition, Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam, a decision which ultimately doomed his administration when the war became unpopular with the country at large.

  • Conspiracy theorists generally claim that some or all of the shots that hit JFK, particularly the fatal shot, came from the grassy knoll. This is seen in the courtroom scene where Garrison demonstrates JFK's head going "back and to the left". There is a photo, dubbed "Badge Man" which conspiracy theorists claim shows a faint image of a man behind the fence of the grassy knoll. The man appears to have a bright patch on his chest, like a badge (hence the name) and has a white blob obscuring part of his face. Conspiracy theorists claim that this image is of a man in some kind of law enforcement uniform shooting a gun at JFK and that the white blob is smoke from the gunshot. However, when Stone went to film the scene he was unable to find a gun from the time which would produce enough visible smoke to show up on camera. So he had a production staffer blow smoke from a bellows to simulate it.

  • The Warren Commission postulates that there were three shots fired at Kennedy that day. The first shot missed entirely (on the Zapruder, film you can see some people seem to react to something unseen at one point and some suggest that this is people reacting to the first gunshot). The third shot was a head shot which killed Kennedy. The Warren Commission claims that the second shot caused all the non fatal wounds on Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally. Conspiracy theorists, who generally believe that more than three shots were fired, derisively labeled the idea the "magic bullet theory" out of a belief that no one shot could have caused the multiple wounds to the two men. We see Garrison demonstrating the conspiracy theorist's claims in the courtroom scene. In this scene, Garrison describes a bullet which would have to zig-zag in seemingly impossible ways in order to create all the wounds. Conspiracy theorists claim that this unlikely trajectory proves that the wounds were created by more than one bullet and thus that there was more than one shooter.

    However, the conspiracy theorist's view of the "magic bullet" relies on improper positioning of the two men. The scene in the courtroom shows how conspiracy theorists generally align Kennedy and Connally in describing the bullet's trajectory. In that scene, the two men are both seated at the same level and are directly in front of each other and facing forward. However, this is not how the two men were sitting when they were shot. Connally was sitting in a jump seat in the limo. As such he was somewhat towards the interior of the car and significantly lower than Kennedy was. If you look at the Zapruder film you can see how low Connally is sitting as he appears shorter than Kennedy when in fact he was the taller man. In addition, Connally had begun to turn slightly by the time of the second shot, perhaps reacting to the sound of the first one. If you align the men properly then the wounds all could have been caused by one shot. In addition, when you put them in their proper position on the street and track the path of the second shot back towards its source you arrive at the corner of the Texas Schoolbook Depository where Oswald's sniper's nest was found.

  • X criticizes the Secret Service for what he characterizes as unusually lax security on Kennedy's motorcade route. He asserts that normal secret service policy was relaxed allowing the assassination to occur. In particular, he criticizes the people watching from windows and the lack of a "bubble top" on the Presidential limousine. While the Secret Service may have made some mistakes, the idea of airtight Presidential security which X puts forth, or of a nefarious conspiracy to leave Kennedy unguarded, is false. Aside from keeping the President imprisoned in the White House there can be no airtight Presidential security. Any time the President goes out in public he is potentially vulnerable. The Secret Service takes efforts to reduce his vulnerability but this is not perfect. Indeed, Kennedy himself commented presciently that there was very little the Secret Service could do to protect him from a determined assassin with a gun. The Secret Service simply cannot search every person at a public event. Indeed, even after the Kennedy assassination there were two cases where would be assassins were able to get close to Presidents and fire guns at them.

    With regards to X's specific accusations, the route was chosen by the White House, not by the Secret Service. Contrary to X's assertion, the large number of windows along the route was not viewed as a liability and was not the result of a conspiracy looking to provide vantage points for assassinations. Rather the White House viewed the large number of buildings with a view of the route as a benefit. These buildings allowed more people to be able to see the Presidential motorcade as it passed. The entire point of the motorcade was to cultivate goodwill by allowing people to see the President. X also criticizes the secret service for not using the "bubble top". This was a clear plastic roof that could be attached to the limousine when the normal roof was retracted. However, the bubble top was never meant to protect the President from gunfire. Instead it was meant to protect him from the weather, such as rain. Since it was a sunny day on November 22nd, there was no reason to use the bubble top, and since it was not designed to be bullet proof, there's no evidence that it would have protected Kennedy even if it had been used.

  • Stone created a Director's Cut in favor of a home-cinema version, which contained over 16 minutes of new footage adding up to the already over three-hour lasting movie of the theatrical screening. In America, only this new version is available on DVD and Blu-ray disc, while e.g. in Germany and the UK, the theatrical screening was released on DVD too. Like it is the case with the entire film, the new scenes are obviously full of dialogues. A few of the contacts of Lee Harvey Oswald's past are introduced more thoroughly in the Director's Cut which thus reasonably deepens the background information. This can also be said of the team of agent Jim Garrison, as here, among other things, the tensions between Bill and Lou along with the corruption of the former become a lot more intelligible. Moreover, Jim appears in the public for one time and extensive interrogations of witnesses can be seen. Eventually, the text box before the closing credits is worth mentioning: It points out the impact of the theatrical screening which logically was not possible to show within the cinema version itself. Alongside with these extensions, rather unobtrusive alternative footage has often been used at extended passages, such as varying takes which trigger new scenes in the first place. One scene has been shifted in a slightly changed form for about a few minutes. What could theoretically be regarded as editing, too, are the two witness interviews and one scene set in a telephone booth whereas the Director's Cut shows this scene explicitly, the theatrical screening contains it only at different passages in form of short establishing shots.

  • Oswald qualified as a sharpshooter in the US Marine Corps. "Sharpshooter", however, does not have the same connotation in the military world as it does in the civilian. "Sharpshooter" is the second level of proficiency attainable in marksman training. Oswald's wife Marina testified that prior to the assassination, she had found her husband practicing firing the rifle he used in the assassination on the porch of their house. Oswald was dry firing, i.e. working the bolt without actually shooting a round, the gun for many hours. She also believes that prior to the attempt on the life of General Walker, that Oswald had been practicing firing the rifle in the woods.

  • After the shooting a number of witnesses quickly identified the Texas School Book Depository as the source of the shots. Some employees who were watching the motorcade from the fifth floor actually heard the shots being fried from above them and one eyewitness saw the rifle being pulled back inside the window. Within a few minutes Oswald had exited the Depository and caught a bus. However, the bus became stuck in traffic so Oswald got off and hailed a cab. He had the cab drop him a few blocks from his rooming house. He walked to the house and got his revolver and a light colored jacket. He then left the rooming house and began walking. Shortly afterwards he had an encounter with Dallas Police Officer JD Tippet. Several eye witnesses saw Oswald walk over to Tippet's car and speak to him through the window for ten or twenty seconds. Tippet then got out of his car and began to cross around to where Oswald was. At this point, Oswald drew his revolver and shot Tippet. He then walked around the car so that he was standing over Tippet and shot him in the head. Afterwards Oswald left at what a witness described as a "slow run". The eyewitness with the clearest view of the encounter said that Oswald was "sort of smiling" after the shooting. Upon hearing of the shooting of one of their own, the Dallas PD began to flood the area, looking for the shooter. The clerk at the movie theater, hearing the sirens, ducked out of her booth to see what the commotion was. When she did so, Oswald slipped into the theater without paying. The police were alerted that someone had snuck into the theater and realized that this might be their suspect. When they began to search the theater, Oswald pulled his revolver and tried to shoot at them but was wrestled into submission. In the film, Stone omits the revolver and has Oswald merely attempt to punch the arresting officers. This is presumably to make Oswald, who Stone believes is a "patsy" look less guilty (while Oswald's pistol was later forensically proven to the be the gun that killed JD Tippet). When the officers arrested Oswald, they searched him and found ID in both his name and that of an "A. Hiddell". They connected him to the Kennedy assassination through the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Depository. The rifle had been ordered through the mail by an A. Hiddell, matching Oswald's ID. When questioned, Oswald denied being A. Hiddell or knowing anyone by that name but could provide no explanation for how an ID with his picture and the name "A. Hiddell" was on his person.

  • Some conspiracy theorists argue that if Oswald was really the shooter, he would have fired on Kennedy as the motorcade approached the Texas Schoolbook Depository along Houston Street. Oswald's alleged sniper's nest had views of both Houston and Elm Streets but the view along elm is partially obstructed by trees which conspiracy theorists argue makes it a poorer choice for a shooting. There's a number of reasons why Oswald might not have taken the shot on Houston street. Doing so would leave him more exposed to view of Secret Service and other law enforcement personnel in the motorcade as they would be looking directly at him. There's a psychological difficulty associated with shooting someone who is looking directly at you. In terms of shooting stance the shot up Houston is actually more difficult since it would require constant and awkward readjustment of the shooter's position. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, if Oswald had tried to shoot JFK on Houston Street then he would have had to fire through the car windshield and two rows of passengers in order to hit the President.

  • The film suggests that Jack Ruby assassinated Oswald in order to tie up loose ends of the conspiracy and silence their "patsy". The murder of Oswald on national TV, before he could stand trial, was seen by many at the time and since as being simply too "convenient" to be a coincidence. Many conspiracy theories ultimately rest on the unlikely coincidence that Oswald would be killed too. However, the evidence doesn't seem to suggest that Ruby was operating on anyone's behalf but his own. Ruby himself claimed to have killed Oswald out of revenge and to spare Jackie Kennedy from having to testify at a trial. Ruby's background and persona also make him an unlikely hit man. Conspiracy theorists like to portray Ruby as having "mob ties" but Ruby was not a mobster. Instead he owned a club which some local mobsters liked to frequent and flirted with the edges of the criminal world. Those who knew Ruby also testify that he would have made a poor choice to play a key role in a conspiracy. They all agree that Jack Ruby was a braggart who wanted people to think he was important. As one Ruby acquaintance said, "If he ever knew anything important he would have told everyone he knew in about five minutes."

    In addition, the circumstances of Ruby's murder of Oswald don't suggest extensive pre-planning. In fact, Ruby may have killed Oswald on impulse. Ruby murdered Oswald in the parking garage of the Dallas police department as Oswald was being transferred to a more secure facility. However, Ruby nearly missed his chance to kill Oswald. Before proceeding to the parking garage Ruby stopped at a nearby Western Union office to wire bail money to one of his strippers who had been arrested. Customers and employees at the office state that Ruby waited patiently in line and did not seem hurried or anxious. This seems inconsistent with a man who had been tasked by a major conspiracy with killing an important witness. Ruby also left his beloved dog sitting in his car. If he had known that he was going to kill Oswald and be arrested for it presumably he would have made arrangements for someone to care for his pet. An interesting fact is that Ruby would have missed his chance to kill Oswald if not for a coincidence. Oswald was already supposed to be in the police car and on his way by the time Ruby arrived in the parking garage. However, the transfer was delayed a few minutes. Rather than being delayed by conspirators trying to make sure their assassin was in place, the transfer was delayed by Oswald himself who asked to change clothes at the last minute. This change of clothes delayed them a crucial few minutes, allowing Ruby to get into position.

    Also, from a conspiratorial standpoint, assassinating Oswald doesn't make much sense. If Oswald really was a patsy then he wouldn't know anything incriminating. Killing him would just result in the arrest of Ruby who, if he was acting on behalf of a conspiracy, would know something. In addition, the murder of Oswald on live national TV was so bizarre that it made many people think that there must be a conspiracy.

  • The film has a scene showing a press briefing given by the Dallas police department after Oswald's arrest. Jack Ruby is in attendance there, and when the spokesman identifies Oswald as having been a member of the "Free Cuba Committee", Ruby corrects him by noting that it was actually the "Fair Play for Cuba" committee. The scene implies that Ruby was there as part of the conspiracy and that he had been given information about Oswald by his "handlers". This scene is based on a real occurrence. Ruby really did attend a press briefing held by the Dallas police. However, this fits with Ruby's personality and history. Ruby had been a police gadfly for years and was known by many police officers. His drive to be famous led him to attend the press briefing to try and be close to the biggest story in Dallas history. Perhaps more importantly the real scene refutes the idea that Ruby had special advanced knowledge about Oswald and his biography. When the spokesman talks about the "Free Cuba Committee", several voices—not just Ruby—correct him. At that point Oswald had been under arrest and his identity known for several hours. Reporters had already dug into and publicized his background. Ruby simply learned about it from the press, same as everyone else.

  • In 1959, Shortly after being discharged from the Marines, Oswald defected to the Soviet Union. Three years later, he returned to the US. Some people find it odd that Oswald was able to defect to the Soviet Union and simply return to the US a few years later at the height of the Cold War. They believe that Oswald may have had contacts with either Soviet or American intelligence. The evidence does not seem to bear this out. Oswald was not simply allowed into either the Soviet Union or the US. He was scrutinized by intelligence agencies from both countries. When Oswald first arrived in Russia, he did so on a tourist visa. Even in the 1960s, numerous people traveled between the Soviet Union and the US for work, education, and tourism. Oswald spent a couple days seeing the sights before indicating to his Russian guide that he wanted to defect. Oswald was interviewed by the KGB, and offered to give them information on American radar operations. But the KGB quickly determined that the only intelligence he could offer them was limited and out of date. They originally declined to allow him to defect. However, a despondent Oswlad attempted suicide. This apparently attracted the attention and sympathy of a high-level Soviet official who ordered the KGB to allow Oswald into the country. They put Oswald up in an apartment in Minsk and gave him a menial job in a factory. However, the KGB simply did not trust Oswald, so they kept tabs on him during his stay in the Soviet Union. The KGB had bugged Oswald's apartment and recruited some of his contacts to make periodic reports on him. Eventually the KGB concluded that Oswald was not acting on behalf of American intelligence.

    Oswald's return to the US has struck some as suspicious and they posit that his return may have been eased by connections to the American intelligence industry. But Oswald's return wasn't actually easy. He quickly became disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union and at least by the beginning of 1961 he had decided to try and return to the US. It took more than a year of waiting for Oswald to get permission to return to the US with his wife and daughter. Oswald and his family returned to the US in June of 1962. He was interviewed several times by the FBI and CIA. He was also under surveillance when he went to Mexico City in 1963 and tried to get permission to travel to Cuba. Far from being easily able to travel between the two countries, Oswald was given scrutiny by both American and Soviet intelligence services. However, both the KGB and the American agencies determined that Oswald was not working with their counterparts and posed little threat. The attention that the CIA and KGB payed to Oswald was not out of line with what they gave other potential threats at the time. The Soviets ultimately determined that Oswald was not working with the Americans and so pursued no action. The CIA was unable to discover Oswald doing anything illegal (or associating with an enemy of the United States), and so they never did more than keep tabs on him.

  • The movie depicts members of the conspiracy placing a "pristine" bullet in Parkland hospital for people to find. This is the so called "magic bullet" which the Warren Commission claims created all the non fatal wounds on Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally. While in relatively good shape, the bullet was not "pristine." When looked at end-on it was significantly "mashed" or deformed from its original round shape. This is in keeping with the ballistic evidence which shows that the second shot entered Connally's body on its side. This caused the bullet to deform slightly. It is also missing some metal from the soft interior core of the bullet. This metal was sheared off as the bullet passed through Connally. Doctors found small traces of it in the Governor's body.

  • Stone presents a portrait of the trial which shows the jury essentially believing in Shaw's guilt but acquitting him on a technicality. In real life, the jury acquitted Shaw almost immediately as they found Garrison's case unbelievable. Garrison presented a theory where right wing activists, led by a "Clay Bertrand" had conspired to kill Kennedy. His main witness was Louisiana insurance salesman Perry Russo (played by Kevin Bacon in the film). Russo claimed that he had been present when "Clay Bertrand" and others had discussed the conspiracy. Russo identified "Clay Bertrand" as an alias used by Clay Shaw. However, Shaw's defense team was able to destroy Russo's credibility on cross examination. It soon became clear at the trial that Russo had offered multiple conflicting accounts of the involvement of "Clay Bertrand" in the assassination. Russo claimed that he had met Lee Harvey Oswald, who he called "Leon Oswald" but described the man as dressing in an unkempt "beatnik" fashion which was inconsistent with Oswald's clean cut personal appearance. Russo also admitted that he had only remembered the involvement of "Clay Bertrand" in the assassination after being hypnotized. Cross examination also revealed that Russo possessed many bizarre and paranoid beliefs. For example, Russo believed that he had been hypnotized by the police as part of a systematic campaign of harassment. He also claimed to regularly fingerprint his children in order to prevent them from being replaced by government created duplicates.

    Russo's credibility as a witness was shot and since he was the only witness who linked Clay Shaw to "Clay Berttrand", or who established that these conspiratorial planning sessions took place, the jury acquitted. Far from being acquitted on a technicality, Shaw was acquitted because Garrison lacked any evidence linking him to the crime. Stone also portrays the jury as being convinced of a conspiracy, but the foreman of the jury actually said afterwards that the trial had made him more receptive to the Warren Commissions' theory that Oswald had acted alone. After the trial, Russo recanted his testimony, saying that Clay Shaw had no connection to the assassination. He claimed that he had heard David Ferry make threats towards the President prior to the assassination but now believed them to be mere idle boasting and not part of a conspiracy.

  • In the film, Garrison and his team expressed skepticism that Oswald, if he had been planning to assassinate Kennedy, would have purchased the murder weapon through the mail, an easily traceable source, rather than buying a virtually untraceable weapon over the counter. They also question why he would have chosen the Manlicher-Carcano, which they deemed an inferior weapon. However, at the time Oswald bought the infamous Manlicher-Carcano rifle, he was not planning to assassinate the president. Oswald already owned the rifle when he learned of Kennedy's visit to Dallas and that the motorcade would pass by his place of business. He had chosen the Carcano rifle because it was relatively cheap and because he did not have a lot of money to spend on a gun.

  • Contrary to the movie, which shows a team of photo editors pasting Oswald's head onto someone else's body, the photo is a genuine one of Oswald. His wife, Marina, testified that he had had her take the photo of him sometime in late March of 1963 (she believes it was about two weeks before the attempted assassination of General Edwin Walker, which occurred on April 10th of that year). Photo examiners affiliated with a number of different organizations have examined the photos and determined that they show no evidence of doctoring. Examiners have also inspected the negatives of the photos, which show no sign of being tampered with. Furthermore, prior to the assassination attempt, Oswald had presented a copy of the photo to a friend of his. On the back, someone had written in Russian "Killer of fascists, ha ha ha" and signed it with Oswald's name. Forensic handwriting examiners have inspected the signature and determined that it is genuine. Some people may have concluded that the photo was doctored because one of the commonly published versions of it has in fact been altered, although not by conspirators. The photograph was first published in Life magazine in 1964. The art department at Life routinely edited photos in order to enhance clarity and draw attention to certain details. That is what happened here. As for why Oswald would allow himself to be photographed in a way that links him to two murder weapons, the answer is simple: when Oswald had the picture taken he did not yet know that Kennedy was coming to Dallas and was not planning to assassinate him.

  • In the film, Garrison asserts that Oswald's Russian was so good that when he first met his future wife Marina she thought he was a native speaker. The implication seems to be that Oswald received advanced linguistic training, possibly as part of CIA training. In reality, Oswald was self-taught in Russian. He spoke it well enough to function in Soviet society, but he was never mistaken for a native speaker. Marina recognized him as a foreigner. In fact, this is part of what attracted her to him since she believed that a foreign man would treat her better than a Russian one.

  • Shortly after Kennedy was shot, Oswald was seen in a break room by a fellow employee and a police officer. Conspiracy theorists, including Stone, present this as evidence that Oswald could not have been on the sixth floor, where the shots were fired from, at the time of the shooting. They argue that it is impossible for someone to get from the sixth floor to the break room on a lower floor in the short time available without being out of breath, which Oswald reportedly was not. However, like many conspiracy theory claims, this one does not stand up to scrutiny. Decades later, the path Oswald would have taken from the sixth floor to the break room was reconstructed and it was found that someone could easily make the journey in the time available without becoming out of breath or visibly flushed.


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