‘Chappaquiddick’ shines light on Ted Kennedy’s darkest moment
Boy, are the Kennedys going to hate this new movie about Teddy.
The title of the movie: “Chappaquiddick.” What more does America’s First Family need to know before they start booing and hissing?
The movie debuts April 6, and after viewing it Monday night, I can tell you it’s a great film. Here are a few of the more memorable scenes:
As the Oldsmobile sinks in the tidal pond and the water rises around Mary Jo Kophechne, with her final panicked breaths she is reciting the Act of Contrition.
As Ted tells his crippled, dying father Joe what has happened, the old man croaks out, “Alibi!”
In the car with Joan on the way to Mary Jo’s funeral, Teddy tells his fuming wife: “Thanks for doing this, Joanie.” To which Joan replies, “Go (bleep) yourself, Teddy!”
Even though his advisers warn him not to wear a fake neck brace to Mary Jo’s funeral, he does so anyway. When the newspapers rip him to shreds for his cynical ploy, Teddy admits to his posse: “The neck brace was a mistake, I see that now.”
At the compound in Hyannis Port, Teddy tells his advisers that he’ll handle the scandal control “since it’s my political future at stake.” And Robert McNamara, the former defense secretary, interrupts him to say, “You won’t have a political future if you’re in jail, Ted.”
When Ted mentions to his two pals that he plans to say Mary Jo was driving the death car, US attorney Paul Markham informs him, “Attorney-client privilege doesn’t extend to aiding and abetting.”
Even a few years ago, “Chappaquiddick” could have never, ever been made in Hollywood. A few producers tried, and they never worked in this town again.
Ask Geraldo Rivera sometime what happened when ABC News tried to do a documentary on the strange death of Marilyn Monroe. Teddy tried to shut down this newspaper and the New York Post after I started calling him Fat Boy when his weight ballooned above 300 pounds in the late 1980s.
The Kennedys likewise almost prevented the publication of two unflattering tell-all books about Fat Boy – The Senator and Senatorial Privilege. The author of the later, Leo Damore, ended up committing suicide after he was blackballed in the publishing industry.
But that was then, and this is now, and the Kennedys have become a national laughingstock. Not only is this new movie coming out, but Damore’s book is being reissued next month, under the title “Chappaquiddick.” (I wrote the foreword for the new edition.)
Of course, the movie takes a few liberties with the facts – it’s Hollywood. After his stroke, for instance, Joe Kennedy could only speak one word, and it wasn’t “Alibi!” It was “Nooooooo!”
But mostly the movie hews to the facts. They even have Markham and his cousin, Joe Gargan, driving in the little Dodge Valiant, which figured in one of Teddy’s later perjured statements. (He said he knew the time of the accident from looking at the clock in the Valiant; that make didn’t have a dashboard clock.)
The actor who plays Teddy, Jason Clarke, is amazing. He even sorta looks like Fat Boy, pre-fat. He’s Australian, just like the guy who played crooked FBI agent Zip Connolly in the movie Black Mass. What is it about these Aussies that they can do such a bang-up job playing bent Boston Irish criminals?
Even after he dodged a manslaughter rap and a trip to prison, Teddy remained the same despicable cad he’d always been. In August 1972, Henry Kissinger was in the Oval Office with President Richard Nixon, telling him about an heiress named Cristina Ford who said Teddy had stalked her at the Carlyle Hotel in New York.
Kissinger: “Walked up the stairs, practically beat her door down. And she said she’s been pursued by many men in her life but Teddy, just, is impossible! She finally told him, ‘What if the newspapers get this? ‘ He said, ‘No newspapers are going to print anything about this. I’ve got that covered?’”
“Jesus Christ!” said Nixon in amazement. “That’s pretty arrogant.”
No, that’s pretty Teddy.
A couple of more great moments in Chappaquiddick:
Teddy is ordering one of his minions to hustle Mary Jo’s corpse off the island, and the hack says okay “but there may be a delay if they want to perform an autopsy.” And Teddy starts yelling, “Why do you think I want it out of here!?!”
Right before his speech to the nation, Teddy tells his cousin, Joe Gargan, that all men are flawed – “Moses had a temper, Peter betrayed Jesus, I have Chappaquiddick.” To which Cousin Joe replies, “Yeah, Moses had a temper but he never left a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea.”
Do you think they’ll screen this movie at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate. I know the perfect place for it – the Senate Immersion Module. Just say a good Act of Contrition before the opening credits.