Friday, April 27, 2012


And so on to my third and favourite Hot Docs film of the day - EthelThe film is a wonderful tribute to an exceptional woman, Ethel Kennedy, wife of Robert Kennedy.  It was made by her 11th child Rory Kennedy, who was born after her father's death.

Ethel Kennedy emerges as a vibrant, athletic, and fun-loving woman.  She fell in love at first sight on a two-family ski trip to Mont Tremblant, but had to wait for two years while Bobby dated her sister.  Pictures of her in her youth show a fresh-faced, outdoorsy woman, brimming with vitality.  She came from a wealthy and - shudder - Republican family, but soon swallowed any reservations to become an energetic campaigner in Jack Kennedy's campaigns, along with the other Kennedy women.

She could be irreverant, like the time she took the children to observe the shooting gallery in the basement of the FBI building and spied a suggestion box.  J. Edgar Hoover was a thorn in the side of the Kennedys, and she submitted a suggestion, in her trademark red ink, to 'get a new director'.  Another time, she 'rescued' an abused horse from a neighbour and was charged with being a horse thief, a hanging offence in Maryland.  And of course, her flamboyant driving earned her a few speeding tickets. 

Ethel was an unflagging supporter in Bobby's political campaigns; indeed, she was far fonder of campaigning than he was.  The picture on the movie cover showing Ethel standing just behind Bobby was symbolic of their marriage.  The children accompanied them on many campaign trips and other trips representing the US abroad.  How she found time to do all this when she was chronically pregnant is beyond me!  Of course, the ordinary tasks of life were taken care of by the servants, leaving her lots of time to ski, sail, play touch football, and enjoy the multitudinous children and pets on their vast properties.   

Ethel went on to support and fight for the social justice causes Bobby had espoused, and, of course, to bring up those eleven children.

Interviews with the droll Ethel herself and many of the children are commingled with a rich trove of family videos and photos.  The film also treated the remarkable historical events of this era, which touched Robert Kennedy's life - the Viet Nam war, the Civil rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis, the assassinations of Jack Kennedy, Martin Luther King and of course Robert Kennedy himself. 

This was a truly enjoyable portrait of an interesting woman living through interesting times.  See it if you can.

No comments: