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Published:November 13th, 2013 08:30 EST
'JFK: The Final Hours' Will Project You Back in Time to Kennedy`s Texas Trip!

'JFK: The Final Hours' Will Project You Back in Time to Kennedy`s Texas Trip!

By John G. Kays

JFK: The Final Hours, produced for the National Geographic Channel, is the freshest, most original special I`ve seen so far for the 50th Anniversary of JFK`s Assassination in Dallas. That is, I`m learning new details about Kennedy`s visit to Texas which I wasn`t aware of before, even though I`ve traversed these grounds hundreds of times before (I`ve been a zealous researcher of the assassination since around 1975).  I wouldn`t say, however, I`ve had such a good grip on what Kennedy (and the First Lady) were doing in San Antonio, Houston, and Fort Worth on the 21st. Some catch-up is achieved by a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th viewing of The Final Hours.

Why watch it so many times? Well, one thing is, I had good enough sense to hit the red record button on my Time Warner remote; another observation is, the incredible technology at play, the restoration of photographs and film footage (most of which I`ve never seen before) of Jack and Jackie riding in a white limousine, or Jackie speaking in Spanish at a Houston dinner, or Jack delivering a speech in the front of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, promising a large role for Texans in his New Frontier Program (NASA and the exploration of outer space). Wow! How about that opening shot of The Hotel Texas today, which morphs into JFK and Jackie in front of the marquee!

The mood or ambience of the two hour piece is one of reverence and respect for the 35th President, as well as tremendous sentimentality or nostalgia, with so many ordinary citizens of Texas giving talking head interviews to the NGC. Well, they`ll show them talking about say, shaking JFK`s hand, then they`ll display a photo of them from that day, then haze the face a bit, so you can see who they are. As you might imagine, this must have been a labor-intensive endeavor, since NGC had to find the shot in the footage (or from a still), process it on the cutting table, then match it with the current footage (where once a 19-year-old is now a senior citizen).

A few of these people that stand out for me, although there are quite a few featured in The Final Hour, are Carolyn Frakes (an 18-year-old college student in 1963), who had on a leopard-skin coat on that day (morning of the 22nd in Fort Worth) and her friend, Linda Warriner (a 19-year-old college student), who was wearing what she calls a Jackie-Do, which was apparently popular at the time. I better not forget to mention the narrator, none other than Bill Paxton, who was 8 at the time and saw the President in front of The Texas Hotel (there`s a photo to prove it too). I ought to mention Gary Bakewell also, who was in the Texas Boys Choir and sang at the breakfast for the Presidential entourage.

Well, later Jackie had disclosed the fact that as the Motorcade proceeded through the streets of dallas, Jack had reaped a great deal of praise on the sterling performance of the Texas Boys Choir that morning. Thus, we`re granted some insight into some of the final thoughts going through his mind before he gets to the middle of Elm, directly across from The Grassy Knoll, and about 100 yards in front of the Triple Underpass, which will take them to the Stemmons Freeway, then on to Parkland Hospital (possibly, about 15 minutes after JFK praised TBC).

I guess I better not leave out Buell Wesley Frazier, who simulates his ride to the Texas School Book Depository (in the NGC special) taking Lee to work (with a bundle of curtain rods) on that fatal morning. I erred yesterday when I said this remarkable simulation was in Killing JFK: 50 Questions Answered; I was confusing that Reelz special with this superior one, JFK: The Final Hours (I`m watching so many of these, and I`m getting old, people!). Anyway, I`ve always paid a lot of attention to what Buell Frazier has testified through the years; he doesn`t believe Lee did it. He would know, so I believe whatever Frazier believes. This is rich stuff! Think I`ll rewind it again.