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Ethel (2012)

A documentary on Ethel Kennedy that provides an insider's view of a political dynasty, including her life with Robert F. Kennedy and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own.


Rory Kennedy


Mark Bailey
Nominated for 5 Primetime Emmys. Another 6 wins. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Ethel Kennedy ... Self
Rory Kennedy ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ralph Bunche Ralph Bunche ... Self (archive footage)
Fidel Castro ... Self (archive footage)
Cesar Chavez ... Self (archive footage)
Walter Cronkite ... Self (archive footage)
Jimmy Hoffa ... Self (archive footage)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver ... Self (archive footage)
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend ... Self
Courtney Kennedy Courtney Kennedy ... Self
Jacqueline Kennedy ... Self (archive footage) (as Jaqueline Kennedy)
John F. Kennedy ... Self (archive footage)
Joseph Kennedy ... Self
Joseph P. Kennedy ... Self (archive footage)
Robert F. Kennedy ... Self (archive footage)


ETHEL is a 95 minute feature-length documentary about the life of Ethel Kennedy. Scheduled for broadcast on HBO in 2012, the film was produced and directed by Mrs. Kennedy's Emmy Award-winning daughter, Rory Kennedy. An intimate family portrait, ETHEL includes a lengthy interview with Mrs. Kennedy, as well as interviews with seven of her children, providing unique insight into her family's story, her life with Robert F. Kennedy, and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own. The film is an insider's view of a political dynasty, a personal story interwoven with some of the most important moments of the 20th century. The film also features a rich treasure trove of never-before-seen footage from the Kennedy family's private collection. Written by Anonymous

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Bobby's Girl
16 February 2017 | by LejinkSee all my reviews

I'm not sure that Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel really deserves the biographical treatment she gets here which might explain why the director and principal interviewer here is her own daughter Rory. The film focuses almost entirely on her relationship with her assassinated husband, giving just a few scant minutes to her life after his death in 1968. There's no question about her depth of feeling for him, after all they had eleven children together and all the surviving children (sadly, two of them have pre-deceased her at young ages) chime in with their memories of their parents.

Containing rare footage of their family at play as well as clips of Robert and Ethel's side-by-side career in public life, the film employed a traditional back-to-front approach to tell its story in order. With Ethel cast as the little woman behind her man, her task it appears was to run their household, bring up their children and support her man on his various campaign trails.

As you might imagine from the home-made aspect of the film, there's not a lot of criticism or investigative questioning of the lives and careers of the Kennedys senior. Admittedly it was impossible to ignore Robert's early support for Joseph McCarthy's Communist witch-hunt as well as his admitting to initially supporting the war in Vietnam, but RFK always seemed big enough to admit his mistakes and more than most politicians, play his audiences straight. Maybe that's why it's sometimes said his death affected subsequent American history even more than his brother's. The film is similarly adulatory about his big brother Jack, but again there's no mention of JFK's philandering, or the Bay of Pigs fiasco to name but two and wasn't Bobby rumoured to be a lover of Marilyn Monroe too?

The malign influence of J Edgar Hoover barely gets mentioned and likewise other important figures of the time like LBJ, Martin Luther King and Jackie Kennedy are only fleetingly mentioned. I must admit too I cringed at all and sundry referring to their parents as "Mummy" and "Daddy" throughout.

Still alive as I write, the lady is wearing well and it's noticeable she never remarried, unlike Jackie. Overall, she appears to have been a good wife and mother, although other than her relationship to her sadly gone-too-soon husband, I think it's pushing it a little to justify a 90 minute tribute like this in her honour.

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Release Date:

12 April 2013 (Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Ethel See more »

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