Primary (1960) Poster


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A whole other world
rufasff19 July 2003
I would jump at the chance to see this one of kind look at American

Politics at the crossroads. Before the media age had turned political

campaigns into impersonal commercials, even the stars (in this case,

Kennedy and Humphrey) had to go out and press the flesh, hard.

While Kennedy is slicker and seems to have the more organized

machine behind him, he is still a saint of apprachability compared to

today's most folksie candidate. That's just how it was done before T.V.

had compleatly eaten us alive.

Some of the stuff with the affable, tireless Humphrey is

particuairly memorable. Speaking to a bunch of stone faced Wisconson

Farmers, his giddy style takes on a real comic poniency, he's like a

comic trying to loosen up Ed Gein.

Yet, you get from both candidates, yes, corny as it may sound,

they actually give a curse about the people they are talking to. If you

think that has all but vanished, as I do, you may find this film as

striking as I do. Some of the camera crew went on to "Don't Look Back"

and "Gimmie Shelter". 8 out of 10.
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We've got high hopes
JohnSeal30 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Poor Hubert Humphrey. First he lost to John F. Kennedy. Then he lost to Richard Nixon. And finally, Jimmy Carter called him "Hubert Horatio Hornblower" at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. And that was AFTER he was dead — surely the final indignity. This film examines Humphrey's first presidential run, focusing specifically on the April 1960 Democratic primary in Wisconsin, which threatened to derail JFK's candidacy on the familiar shoals of inexperience, religious prejudice, and lack of interest in agricultural issues. The 1960 campaign marked the birth of the modern era of politics as mass media personality cult, and unfortunately for Humphrey, he couldn't hold a candle to the youthful, handsome, and wealthy Jack Kennedy. As a film, Primary looks ugly and amateurish-but as a document of how the modern political campaign evolved, it's absolutely priceless. Anyone remotely interested in American politics needs to see this film.
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Historically Important and Entertaining
Michael_Elliott21 November 2013
Primary (1960)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Historically important documentary covers the 1960 Wisconsin primary featuring Hubert Humphrey going up against John F. Kennedy. Considering what would happen over the next three years, watching this film today is pretty remarkable because you can easily see why Kennedy would eventually become president. Just watching the two candidates work just shows an old school and new school and it's not hard to see why Kennedy would eventually get in the office. It's pretty interesting watching this today because of the fact that Kennedy would be assassinated three years after all of this was shot. It's hard not to see Kennedy and that smile of his and not feel sad because no one could have known what was to follow. Director Robert Drew does a very good job at really being fair to both men as I think the documentary shows both of them in a very good and positive light. I really liked the way the film was shot as the camera is more often than not right up on the men, the people meeting them and this look really makes you feel as if you're right there by these people. There's no question that the visual style of this film would have a major impact on future films including Bob Dylan's DON'T LOOK BACK. Running just under a hour, the film manages to be highly entertaining from start to finish but even more so because we know what the final result was.
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Living history
bkoganbing18 July 2018
Looking back over 50 years the brief and tragic presidency of John F. Kennedy it has an air of inevitability about it. But in my 13 year at the time there was nothing inevitable about it. The great Kennedy machine as it came to be known flexed its muscles first in the Wisconsin primary in 1960.

The traditional first primary of New Hampshire was disregarded that year as it was conceded to New Englander John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Wisconsin which had the oldest of primaries with a mixed population, but next door to JFK's challenger Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota was the real test.

Could a Catholic be elected President? That was the issue, the only one nominated by a major party Alfred E. Smith took a shellacking in 1928. However there were lots of differences between Al Smith and Jack Kennedy too numerous to mention.

From 1956 to 1960 the wealthy Kennedy family organized a 50 state machine second to none. Poor Humphrey never had a chance.

The film without a word of commentary shows the glamorous Kennedys and the excitement around them and Humphrey talking to small knots of people trying to retail votes. When JFK passes his first real test before the voters it's pretty obvious why.

Primary is a real must for any student of the period.
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Just A Little Chunk Of History
redryan6417 July 2018
IN FILMING THE behind the scenes of the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary, the production team found what was probably a natural. While primary time lacks the punch and long-lasting effects on we, the electorate, it is nonetheless an unavoidable step in the process .

SHADOWING TWO ASPIRING candidates, the film tells the story of how differently the two candidates' campaigns sized up the run for the State delegation's voting at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in July of 1960. The differences that are dramatized are much more those of tactics and logistics; as neither man is shown saying much (if anything at all) about his Primary opponent. Both men seem to have concentrated in criticizing in the broadest terms the course that the nation was headed under the previous 8 years of G.O.P. policies of the Administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

THE CAMPAIGN OF Senator Hubert H. Humphrey consisted of short jumps between stops at many a rural farming community. The Humphrey campaign reasoned that his strength would be in the country folk, of whom Hubert was also born and bred; his father being a small town pharmacist.

CONTRASTING SHARPLY FROM that was the Kennedy central tenet that the heavily populated Big City districts would render a far greater return on his investment of time. Greater crowds could be reached and there would be a greater identifying by the urban gentry with JFK; although this is one of varying shades; for how well could a blue collar worker in Kenosha accept a Harvard educated, Bostonian Millionaire as one of his own ?

BUT THERE WAS yet another, perhaps unspoken reason to exploit the minor contrast that would be present. That would be Mr. Kennedy's having been born and raised a Catholic. That was a big deal in 1960, especially following in the wake of 1928's Presidential election where Democrat Al Smith, a Catholic, lost big time to Herbert Hoover.

KENNEDY'S CAMPAIGN REASONED that they could turn his religion into a plus factor by concentrating on the more urban districts with heavy Polish populations; with the Poles, of course, being very predominantly Catholic.
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cinema verite documentary
SnoopyStyle9 November 2016
Filmmaker Robert Drew follows Senators Hubert H. Humphrey and John F. Kennedy as they campaign for the Wisconsin Democratic primary in the wintry start of 1960. There is limited narration. It is a cinema verite documentary. It's a lot of glad handing and chicken dinner speeches. It's the grinding daily political theater. As archival footage, this is fascinating for politics history junkies. The sound can vary in quality. There are glimpses of Jacqueline Kennedy and the rest of the Kennedy clan. There is definitely a difference in the two campaigns. While Humphrey talks to reserved farmers, Kennedy is fighting through throngs of excited people. In the end, JFK comes out ahead 2 to 1 on primary night. The last image is a straggling dusty old car with a Humphrey sticker rolling down the road.
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Assembly Edit from 1960
teddyryan24 May 2014
I wasn't a huge fan of PRIMARY. Being a JFK and 1960s political buff, I highly anticipated the behind the scenes campaign film. Due to my lack of interest in Hubert Humphrey, unfortunately, I spent most of the viewing time hitting the fast forward button to the Kennedy segments.

Regardless, this film does show the overwhelming and taxing manner of campaigning and how it takes a person that does not appear to be mortal to carry out such a function.

The camera gets intimately close to JFK when he enters rally halls. There's a few shots that are groundbreaking in this sequence. It almost appears that the cameraman glued his lens to the back of Kennedy's collar. It creates an eye opening feeling of proximity.

Therefore, I guess if you eliminated Humphrey from the film or showcased the Presidential Election itself, you'd have a much more interesting piece of work.

Ted Ryan
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The Day JFK went over the "Hump"
kapelusznik1810 November 2016
The film "Primary" documents the do or die 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary between the up and coming New England "Golden Boy" of the US senate John F. Kennedy against champion of the working man & woman upper mid-west plow boy & pharmacist Hubert Horatio "The Hump" Humphrey in their attempt to be the next president of the USA. The Wisconsin primary being more or less on "The Hump's" home turf in him being from nearby Minnesota it at first look like an uphill climb for the young 42 year old whipper snapper John F. Kennedy but with youth, and most of the ladies in the state, on his side he in the end had no trouble overcoming Humphrey's early lead. That's when the big town & city voters that were mostly populated by the female sex, who outvoted the men by as much as 2 to 1,started to come in Kennedy quickly took the lead and never looked back.

As for Humphrey all his efforts to convince the local population that he was, being a former farm boy,the man for them fizzled away as the vote tally started to come in late in the evening. Kennedy also has in his corner his beautiful and classy wife Jakie or Jacqueine compered to Humphrey's plain Jane looking old lady Muriel that cut into his vote of the male population of the state, who were just crazy about Jackie, that in the end did him in and stopped him cold.

In the end in a race that was supposed to be neck and neck between Kennedy & Humphrey it soon turned out to by a route for Kennedy in him winning 56% of the vote and leaving Humphrey far behind and crying in his beer. This all but set up Kennedy for his next and most important primary victory in West Virginia where his catholic faith was to be a fatal hindrance to him in the almost 100% Protestant state. But with Kennedy's good looks and the beautiful Jackie by his side as well as his dad's-Popa Joe-money, that he used to pay off the local mine workers to vote for John, it had JFK there like in Wisconsin easily be able to get over the "Hump" and win without as much as breaking a sweat.
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