In Brief: No incident in American history has been analyzed more than the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Everyone has a theory. This documentary analyzes the U.S. government’s official word on the assassination. It is a fascinating look at what the Warren Commission’s findings.
Click here to see an interview with Judge Burt Griffin who was a counsel on the commission and who agrees with the Warren Commission’s conclusions. Whether you are a conspiracy theorist and think Oswald didn’t act alone, or if you buy the Warren Commission’s conclusions, this is a fascinating half-an-hour that is well-worth the time.
Truth is the Only Client: The Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. I was 14 and living in Kennewick, Washington. It was a Friday. At 11 a.m. I headed into study hall. The TV was never on but that morning it was and the early reports were that Kennedy had been shot and was seriously wounded.
Our initial concern quickly turned into a stark, very different and a very disturbing reality. I watched as Walter Cronkite put on his glasses made the announcement of the president’s death, took them off again, looked at the clock and shed a tear.
Cronkite told us a beloved young president whose leadership and vision brought such hope and promise was dead from an assassin’s bullets. The news was devastating. Camelot — as we called it — died that day. It radically changed my life, the lives of a huge number of baby boomers and — in a way — set this nation on much different, and much darker course than the one pursued by Kennedy.
A shocked nation demanded to know what happened. Very quickly a suspect was apprehended. Lee Harvey Oswald was his name. In 1959 Oswald defected and moved to the Soviet Union. For younger, non-history students, the Soviet Union was our nemesis. It contained all of what we now know as Russia and then some.
After returning to the U.S. in 1961, Oswald actively supported the communist takeover of Cuba. He was seen on the streets of New Orleans praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and passing out pro-Castro literature. Oswald had also gone to Mexico and the Cuban embassy.
He wanted to move to Cuba and support the communist revolution.
A few hours after the assassination Oswald got arrested for shooting and killing a Dallas police officer. On the day before the nation buried Kennedy, Oswald — who vehemently denied killing the president — died from an assassin’s bullet. Jack Ruby, a Dallas night and strip club owner, shot him to death as he was being transferred to a more secure jail.
The accused assassin’s death left a lot of unanswered questions so two investigations were launched. The most famous is the Warren Commission. The other — and lesser known — is the House Committee on Assassinations.
The Warren Commission was led by then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren. Several well-known politicians — former U.S. President Gerald Ford among them — were appointed to lead the quest. In turn they appointed counsels and co-counsels to conduct the actual investigation.
On September 24, 1964 the commission turned an 888-page report over to President Lyndon Johnson. It concluded there was no conspiracy and Oswald acted alone.
The House committee took a bit longer to finish its investigation. It finally got something published in 1979. The conclusion? There was likely a conspiracy.
Polls done on the subject over the years have concluded that most Americans also believe there was one. Dozens of books have been written about said the conspiracy. Who did it stretches from the Soviet Union to Cuba to the Mafia. Some even think it was the CIA or the FBI or a combination of both.
Hollywood also helped spread the blame. In 1991 Oliver Stone’s movie JFK accused everybody but my grandmother for conspiring to kill Kennedy.
In 1986 — 23-years after the assassination — the BBC filmed and broadcast a mock trial that aired in Great Britain and in the U.S. Then very popular and well-known defense attorney, Jerry Spence defended Oswald against legendary Manson family prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. A jury of Texans from Dallas deliberated for eight hours and found Oswald guilty.
Did that stem the conspiracy tide? No. Not even close. In fact, there are so many of them splashing about the country and the world that what really happened on that day is totally muddied.
A lot of us aren’t sure exactly what happened. We could find those books and read them. The Warren Commission report can be found at libraries or purchased. However, it’s pretty dull reading.
Or we could just continue to wonder.
If you’re tired of wondering, or if you’re one of the confused who isn’t sure, or if you’re the person who believes the Warren Commission, or even if you buy one the various conspiracies, Truth is the Only Client: The Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy is an excellent analysis of the assassination.
It is a long film and sheds light in different directions. The movie takes a hard look at the investigation and why the commission came to its conclusions.
What makes this new exploration of the subject interesting is the cast of players assembled to dissect the evidence against Oswald. Among them are Howard Willens, Warren Commission Counsel, commission staff liaison Judge Burt Griffin and commission counsel W. David Slawson.
A surprising interviewee who was involved with those investigating Kennedy’s killing is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. He was one of the commission’s fact checkers.
Others heard from are G. Robert Blakey who was the chief counsel for the House committee, Patricia McMillan who wrote a book on Oswald and his wife Marina and Ruth Paine who housed Marina when she was estranged from Oswald in the days before the assassination.
Lastly, Bugliosi is seen in interviews about the case from before his death in 2015.
Truth is the Only Client takes archive footage and interviews from 1963 and mingles it with comments from those who did the actual investigating. The narrative of directors Todd Kwait and Rob Stegman (Tom Rush: No Regrets) takes a deep look at Oswald and his movements and his struggles before the assassination. Potential conspirators are examined and rejected. Ruby and his motivations are put under a microscope.
The movie also attacks the conspiracy theories. Bugliosi does the best job of pooh-poohing them.
Truth is the Only Client: The Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy fearlessly defends a document that so many have criticized for so long. Like a lot of you, and until I was in my mid-40s, I was inclined to believe the conspiracy theorists. Questions about the legendary grassy knoll bothered me as did a bunch of others.
I devoted two evenings of my life in 1986 to watch the two-part BBC trial.
While Bugliosi’s prosecution logic was convincing, it didn’t quite get me to his conclusion that Oswald acted alone.
Here’s what bothered me most and what led me to eventually conclude that the Warren Commission did get it right. Bobby Kennedy. The president’s brother was the attorney general of the United States at the time of the assassination. Kennedy was a fearless warrior when it came to what was good and true and just.
His taking on of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters and willingness to go after Mafia mobsters told me that the commission got most of it right. Kennedy would not have stopped turning over rocks had a conspiracy really existed. Yet, he remained silent.
Silence speaks volumes.
As we rapidly approach the 57th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy, this movie also speaks volumes. It can be found on a number of streaming sources. I highly recommend the movie if you’re a conspiracy theorist. An equal recommendation goes to Warren Commission believers.
Directors: Todd Kwait, Rob Stegman
Not rated but probably PG-13 for mature themes and some violent scenes. The John Kennedy assassination is a fascinating subject from any point of view. This one just happens to be the official investigation’s. The movie is a little bit long. Probably out of necessity. Give it a 4 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
You can watch Truth is the Only Client: The Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy on several streaming sources. Click here for more information as to where.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.