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J.F.K.: A One-Man Show (1984)

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... John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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20 June 1984 (USA)  »

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Remarkable Performance by Farrell in One-Man Show...

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, perhaps the most charismatic President of the 20th Century, was a man of so many contradictions that his life is a 'natural' for Hollywood. A wild, reckless youth who fraternized with movie starlets and Nazi agents, yet would become a legitimate war hero; successor, upon his older brother's death, to his corrupt, driven father's single-minded desire to put a Kennedy in the White House; sexually amoral, yet staunchly devoted to his wife and children; an idealist who could quote Proust and Robert Frost, yet was gullible enough to be talked into approving the Bay of Pigs; a pacifist who preferred blockading Cuba rather than taking more direct military options against Russia, yet would order the first major buildup of American military forces in Vietnam. Whether his assassination at 46 was the work of a 'lone gunman' or a coldly calculated conspiracy, it would forever etch the image of the dynamic, vigorous leader onto our nation's psyche, and the revelations subsequent years have disclosed have only served to increase our fascination of him.

Hollywood's attempts to 'capture' the elusive Kennedy mystique have been a mixed bag; William Devane, in "The Missiles of October" offered much of JFK's charm and power, but lacked depth; Martin Sheen, as "Kennedy", channeled his introspective qualities, but lacked his physical vitality and 'presence'; Bruce Greenwood, in THIRTEEN DAYS, barely 'captured' JFK at all, despite appearing in the most accurate version of the Cuban missile crisis. The closest an actor has come to 'looking' like Kennedy has been Art Hindle, in the TV-movie, "J. Edgar Hoover", but the role was little more than a cameo. None of the many other actors who have portrayed JFK, including Cliff Robertson, James Franciscus, Stephen Collins, and William L. Petersen, have come close to capturing the fallen President's undeniable magnetism.

All of which makes Mike Farrell's tour-de-force portrayal in "J.F.K.: A One-Man Show", more remarkable. The actor, best-known as 'B.J. Hunnicutt' in TV's "M*A*S*H", would seem a most unlikely prospect as Kennedy, but with a convincing wig, a Boston brogue, and a dynamic, yet introspective approach to the role, he captures the JFK persona far more effectively than any other actor, thus far. In the production's single set, a sort of cross between a study and the Oval Office, Farrell as Kennedy reminisces about his life, from his boyhood difficulties in winning his father's favor in the midst of the large Kennedy family ("My brother, Joe, did everything better"), to his joy at courting and marrying Jacqueline Bouvier, to entering politics, and facing both physical and political crises. While the Kennedy humor is frequently evident, the sorrow at his mistakes is equally genuine, and as Farrell sits, pondering how he will be remembered, in the famous Kennedy rocking chair, it is not hard to envision JFK himself, asking our generation the same question.

Why this remarkable portrayal is seldom aired is a mystery...I doubt if audiences will ever see a better-crafted interpretation of our most enigmatic President than Mike Farrell gives, in what I believe is the finest performance of his career.

If the opportunity arises to catch "J.F.K.: A One-Man Show", don't miss it!


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