Sunday, October 27, 2013

November 23, 1963 questions and hypocrisies


When the Dallas police entered The Texas Theater and arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, the film playing was War Is Hell starring Audie Murphy.  Then and over the next few days in Dallas, people could see Bob Hope and Doris Day in a number of films -- Hope (with Lucille Ball in the first two) Fancy Pants, Critic's Choice and Road To Hong Kong) and Day (Jumbo and The Thrill of It All).  In local theaters and at drive-ins, Dallas area residents could also go see Sandra Dee (in Gidget, Tammy Tell Me True,  or with Jimmy Stewart in Take Her, She's Mine), Jack Lemmon in Under The Yum Yum Tree, Jayne Mansfield in the "uncut, uncensored European version of" Promises, Promises (playing at the Lone Star with Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman . . . ),  Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor with Richard Burton in The VIPs, Paul Newman and Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth, Dean Martin and Geraldine Page in Toys In The Attic, Frank Sinatra in Come Blow Your Horn, Jimmy Srewart in The FBI Story, Elvis in It Happened At World's Fair and Love Me Tender, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in A New Kind of Love, Steve McQueen in Honeymoon Machine (at the Delman where children under twelve got in  "FREE With Parent"), Lana Turner in By Love Possessed, assorted horror films (Blood Of Dracula, The Undead, How To Make a Monster), westerns (Cattle King, Alan Ladd's One Foot In Hell, McLintock, etc.), war films (the aforementioned War Is Hell, Van Heflin and Rita Moreno in Cry of Battle, etc) and much more including Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.  and Fantasia.

In all, on Saturday and Sunday, there were over 65 different films playing. Those choosing to stay at home in those pre-home video days (and pre-cable) were out of luck as Dallas, like the rest of the nation, imposed an entertainment blackout.  The three network affiliates (there was only ABC, NBC and CBS then) were not featuring entertainment programs (or commercials) would carry news specials on JFK from the networks but should the networks not offer those  or, worse, go back to entertainment programming (they didn't), local news specials or "religious music" would go out over the TV airwaves.  Radio?  Only KNOK planned to offer music (KVIL planned to offer brefitting music  -- we have no idea either -- and KLIF planned to offer what they defined as "soft music").

What happened?  Apparently America decided they had to compete with the BBC which, as UPI noted, had stopped "regular broadcasting for several moments and played funeral music by Brahms" upon broadcasting the news of President John F. Kennedy's death.  We would argue it then became a competition to see who could outdo themselves.  National mourning?  That doesn't need to be imposed.  Fortunately, networks were losing millions in advertising so, after the Monday funeral, the airwave 'grieving' ended.

All of the movie, TV and radio programming noted above and more is featured in the November 23, 1963 issue of The Dallas Morning News.  Not only are they currently doing a JFK50 online series, they've also brought back the November 23, 1963 issue in full (you can purchase it here online).


Backstory, Ty is an Ebay junkie and noted all these copies of this issue of The Dallas Morning News on Ebay, with prices as high as $125.  What was going on?  The 50th anniversary was causing people to clean out their attics?  And, if so, why weren't they also selling that day's edition of The Dallas Times Herald?  That's when our own Dallas explained that people on E-bay were lying.  They were selling reprints. He bought one himself, a slice of pizza and a Coke at a 7-11 in Denton a few weeks ago.  The bill came to three bucks and change.  He asked, "Are you sure?"  The clerk was.  Dallas walked to the car with the dollar slice of pizza, the $1.69 Coke and the $3,95 paper (at the link we provided earlier, it's $4.95) and was still trying to figure it out.  Driving away, it hit him, the clerk charged him a nickle for the paper.  The paper's wrapped in plastic and, on the back, there's an insert noting the price is $3.95 but the front, where the clerk looked, has no insert and says "PRICE 5 CENTS" -- which is what Dallas got charged.

So, first off, readers beware of pricey Ebay items.

Second, those with questions about the assassination may find the edition of interest.  And, certainly, all the stories about Oswald in the edition are rather amazing.  Kent Biffle, for instance, knew just how and from where ("a dusty corner") JFK had been shot.  His article presents it as fact even though the claim had not been established in court and Kent Biffle is supposed to be reporting, not opining.  Oswald was arrested Friday afternoon but they had a wealth of stories when they went to print after midnight.  Section 1, page 5, for example, includes not just John Mashek (reporting from DC) offering "Oswald Asked Aid To Return to U.S." (about his Soviet Union exile period), but also Hugh Aynesworth's "Oswald Rented Room Under Alias," John Geddie's anonymous sourced "Oswald Said Opposed to Authority"  in which an unnamed police officer who allegedly attended 5th through 11th grades with Oswald in Fort Worth dishes.

Problem with that dish?  Oswald attended 7th grade in New York and eighth, ninth and tenth grade in New Orleans.

Page six has another Kent Biffle article, lengthy, and Biffle's just all over the place.  He even speaks with Mrs. Howard Green, married to a state legislator.  She, he explains, taught Oswald in fifth grade at Ridglea Elementary School.

Did she really say that?

If so, her memory was awful.  The school's name was Ridglea West Elementary School -- it was not the only Ridglea in Fort Worth (for example,  Ridglea Hills Elementary School was around back then and is still around today).

Was it her mistake or Biffle's?

Seems that's a pretty key detail.  And if she can remember, just as she hears the news that Oswald has been arrested, that he was in her fifth grade class -- in 1950, thirteen years prior -- and he was this "bookish" "loner" and more?

Well, she's just amazing.

But thing is, she didn't testify to the Warren Commission.  They have a host of people who gave them the background on Oswald's early life, but she's not one of them.

Yet the day Kennedy was assassinated, she was a little chatterbox to Kent Biffle.

Maybe what she said was true?

Maybe it was all a performance?

Acting runs in the family.  Ethan Hawke's her grandson.

He's written of his grandfather, Howard Green, but avoided the topic of his grandmother.

Strange, granddaddy was an insignificant state legislator in Texas -- who kept having problems in his own party -- but grandmommy taught Oswald.

Which is the more interesting grandparent?

Page six has more, including an Associated Press report about Oswald's mother "Suspect's Mother Says 'Backs Turned On Me'" about how the woman phoned The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, upon learning of her son's arrest, and asked that someone drive her to Dallas.  On the journey, she related her friends turned their backs on her when Oswald defected (or 'defected') to the Soviet Union and she was sure the same would happen now.  One of the two reporters taking her to Dallas?  Bob Scieffer who you know today from CBS' Face The Nation and who, on today's Face The Nation, spoke with Philip Shenon about Shenon's new book A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination.

Third, it's a moment in history.  The edition is filled with stories about reactions of various officials (including Winston Churchill), various recounting of the events, a two-page overview of JFK's presidency by the Associated Press, and more.

And there are other historical moments.  There's an AP report from Baghdad about new president Abdel Salam Aref claiming he wants "all-Arab unity" and close ties with Syria, India sent up a rocket and more.  In Dallas? Roger R. Clark was found innocent of a "smut charge" for selling Girls of Club Sappho at Newsland Bookstore while a hung jury deadlocked on hairdresser John William Baden who was accused of selling pot to police officer D.A. Green at a Lemmon Avenue beauty shop.  Baden was said to have taken the pot out of tin cans and put it in a fruit jar with the advisory to Green that he "throw the fruit jar out of my care if I saw any squad car trailing me."  The jury all felt Baden was guilty but "one juror insisted on a lower penalty than the others were willing to asses."  That penalty that the prosecution was seeking?  At least 25 years behind bars.

Some will take exception to our opening.

We don't believe in enforced 'grieving.'

We also don't like hypocrisy, in case you haven't noticed.

While The Dallas Morning News is treating the ban on commercials (on radio and TV) as something great, they've got ads on every page but the front page.  They've also got 13 pages of classifieds.  And they run the funnies.  Not just the ones on pages two and three of section four.  In the news section, page seven, you get a two-panel (bad) Dennis The Menace comic by Hank Ketcham where Dennis looks in a fish bowl in panel one and then, in panel two, says to his mother in the kitchen, "Boy! When you said we were having fish for dinner . . ."

So JFK's assassination required broadcast outlets to cease regular programming for days and to drop commericals (how they make money) but newspapers continued to run comics, classifieds, ads and 'reports' like Carol Channing causing waves by dropping out of a play to do a new musical (Hello Dolly), or about the chimpanzee appearing in Shirley MacLaine's What A Way To Go or about changes on the long running TV show Lassie or about Danny Thomas' announcement that he'll be making six color TV broadcasts in the near future?

Honestly, we enjoyed all those entertainment stories.  We're sure they provided relief and comfort to Dallas readers on November 23, 1963 as well.  But they should have been able to sample something similar on TV and radio.  People mourn in a variety of ways and, as Americans, no one even has to mourn at all if they don't want to (either because they don't care or they don't handle/cope with mourning).  9-11?  On September 12th, there was massive coverage of the 9-11 attacks.  There were also other choices. In prime time, the WB broadcast 7th Heaven and Gilmore Girls while UPN offered Star Trek: Voyager and Special Units.  By Saturday the 15th,  the big four networks had returned to offering entertainment during prime time.  ABC was airing Hope Floats, CBS went with two episodes of Touched by an Angel and one of The District, NBC offered Growing Up Brady (movie about the TV show The Brady Bunch) and Fox offered America's Most Wanted.

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