John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums (1965)

John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums (1965)
1h 25min | Documentary | July 1966 (UK)

John F. Kennedy’s years as president.
John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums is a ninety-minute filmed memorial tribute to President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated on November 22, 1963. It was completed in 1964, and released to theatres by Embassy Pictures in 1966. The film, containing both color and black-and-white footage, is narrated by Gregory Peck, and features extensive excerpts from President Kennedy’s speeches, including color footage of his swearing in and inaugural address. It was written and directed by Bruce Herschensohn, who also composed the music – long before he was recognized as a noted conservative. Maximilian Schell narrated the German version.

Because Years of Lightning… was produced by the United States Information Agency, it was originally prohibited by law from being screened in the United States. However, the quality of the film was considered so outstanding that a special act of Congress allowed it to be shown in regular motion picture theatres, a rare honor for USIA films. Two years after the film’s actual completion, it made its debut in regular movie houses. A soundtrack album from the film, featuring both music and narration was also issued, but it is unavailable on CD.

The film concentrates on his public achievements in office, among them the launching of the Peace Corps, the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the successful attempt to put American astronauts into outer space, the beginning of the Alliance for Progress, the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and Kennedy’s original drafting of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alternating coverage of these achievements with somber footage of the funeral procession carrying Kennedy’s casket.

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