Looking back with the 20/20 vision of an Oxford historian, it’s pretty clear July 1969 was a firecracker month in American antiquity on at least a number of counts.
On July 8th the very first troop withdrawals were made from Vietnam. 13 days later Neil Armstrong took mankind’s first steps on the moon. And the Manson murders, the crime that many attribute to killing off forever the carefree flower-power era of the 1960’s, were only a few weeks away. Somewhere wedged amongst all that upheaval and horizon-transforming change was the incident at Chappaquiddick.
This post is mostly intended as a film review of the movie CHAPPAQUIDDICK which has just been released in cinemas here in Brisbane this week. To pull that off effectively however, a brief history lesson, like it or not, must accompany the price of admission.
The events which occurred on Friday night July 18, 1969, and became known as the Chappaquiddick Incident, involved a single-vehicle car accident that occurred on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts.
A little after midnight on this date, a car driven by 37-year-old Senator Ted Kennedy (youngest brother of John F. Kennedy – the 35th President of the United States – and Senator Robert F. Kennedy) plunged off a narrow, single-lane wooden crossing known as Dyke Bridge into tide-swept Poucha Pond. The car sunk to the bottom of the water channel with the occupants still inside. Ted Kennedy, who was married at the time to his 1st wife Joan, was able to swim free but his 28-year-old passenger Mary Jo Kopechne was trapped in the submerged vehicle and drowned.
Deepening the tragedy and scandal of the incident was the fact that Kennedy did not report the accident to police until ten hours after it occurred and the prevailing view at the time was he could have done more to try to rescue the life of his passenger. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury, and later received a two-month suspended jail sentence.
The Chappaquiddick Incident became a nationally known controversy, and likely influenced Kennedy’s decision not to campaign for President in 1972 and 1976. Ted Kennedy went on to have a long and successful career in politics, serving in the United States Senate for over forty years until his death from brain cancer in 2009. His memoir True Compass was published three weeks after his death.
I saw the movie CHAPPAQUIDDICK at Indooroopilly cinema last Saturday afternoon with around 16 other people in the theatre. ‘Engrossing‘ is one superlative that comes to mind when I search for how to recount the experience of this film. ‘Masterfully authentic’ and ‘sublimely nuanced’ are two others.
Australian actor Jason Clarke (DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, TERMINATOR GENISES, EVEREST) who cut his acting chops on HOME AND AWAY back in the early 2000’s, perfectly portrays the detached, born-to-privelage senator Ted Kennedy in a hairs-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck-it’s-so-real Oscar-worthy performance.
Ps. Wanna travel back in a time machine?
Then CLICK HERE or HERE or if you’re a conspiracy theorist HERE
Pss. A selection of the many, many books written on the subject over the years..
Psss. This week’s bonus read is an article written under the headline
Kennedy Clan Tries to Sink Chappaquiddick Film
detailing how pressure was placed on the producers of the movie from very powerful people not to release the film.