Harry Benson by Way of Ethel Kennedy

Ethel Kennedy

Seen the miniseries “The Kennedys”? Patience isn’t necessarily a virtue of mine, so I waited until all eight hours had been recorded on the DVR and finally got around to watching it, start to finish, this weekend. It’s understandable how every intricate detail is impossible to weave into any kind of film, and certainly those details that define the name “Kennedy” There were a few places where I was first in awe, and second, amazed that I didn’t already know these things. I mean, really, I know all of Charlie Sheen’s “winning” catchphrases…”duh”…who doesn’t right?

I think I was more interested in Ethel Kennedy than any of the other lives that played out in the work. And while I think Tom Cruise is an idiot, Katie Holmes was just incredible – she eptiomized the first lady (and honestly, I was glad not to see the high-heel wearing and make-up adorned 3 year old Suri in the film). But back to Ethel. How amazing was she? I’m convinced now this woman was the true backbone of that family. Her ability to maintain perspective, if the depictions are true in the film, is remarkable considering both the historical time and the family she was a part of. A class act by all accounts.  Kristin Booth did  a superb job playing Bobby Kennedy’s wife.

Naturally, the first thing I did after the riveting end to The Kennedys was seek out photos of her. I’m always interested in how close the actors and actresses play these real life people. What I found were many breathtaking photos taken by Harry Benson, the award winning photojournalist. I’m not going to even attempt to put any of his photos here; it’s illegal and besides, it’d be disrespectful.

Kristin Booth as Ethel Kennedy

Before long, I found myself immersed in black and white photos taken during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including one that was taken as President Nixon announced his resignation. In the background stands his wife, Pat, with tears in her eyes. That was the first time I’d ever seen that image. It’s little wonder Benson is so highly regarded. Here’s the image of the Nixons and here is the haunting image of Ethel Kennedy, taken moments after her husband was shot in 1968 (this is also the setting for the end of the miniseries).

Suddenly, Charlie Sheen is nothing but one more ungrateful American who has no concept of what this nation is built on. The Benson photos are magic like that: they remind us of the fibers of our nation and provides an opportunity to take a step back and re-shift priorities. Regardless of your political leanings, these photos are a great reminder that we’re all on this ride called “life” together.


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