Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House Hardcover – 1 Nov 2010
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About the Author
Richard Reeves is a presidential historian and author of bestselling books on many of the presidents, including Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Kennedy. His President Kennedy: Profile of Power is now considered the authoritative work on the 35th president, has won several national awards and was named the Best Non-Fiction Book of 1993 by Time and Book of the Year by Washington Monthly. In 1998, he won the Carey McWilliams Award of the American Political Science Association for distinguished contributions to the understanding of American politics. He is a syndicated columnist whose column has appeared in more than 100 newspapers since 1979. Cecil Stoughton studied with Alfred Eisenstadt and Margaret Bourke-White in the U.S. Army photographer-training program and then joined the Army's Public Information Office. Harvey Sawler is a Canadian author who interviewed Cecil Stoughton extensively before his death.
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This book has considerable heft but the overall size isn't impractical like so many 'coffee-table books'. As a photographer, I could have spent hours studying the photographs- many formal or set up but maybe even more candid. Some may find the candid shots the most telling, the most moving. Somehow, though, for me- the mix of staged photos was particularly poignant. I suppose that is because between the two, one gets a sense of the enormous burden of hope and expectation Kennedy shouldered upon stepping up to lead the nation. From family photos documenting days spent at Hyannis Port to press photos as Kennedy signed legislation in the Oval Office, this books provides a multifaceted look at JFK's presidency.
Ever the enticing enigma, Jackie, like a living Mona Lisa, smiles up from the pages as she cares for her children, the dutiful young wife and mother at her husband's side. Some of the stories and candid pictures reveal a glimpse of the woman beneath the careful and classy exterior. Even in her most casual moments, she seems swathed in glamor- she certainly was a lady above all else. Loved the anecdote about her address at the Orange Bowl- said to have been delivered perfectly in Spanish.
Really a wonderful collection. I'm not big on coffee table books- especially considering I don't have a coffee table but this is a book that someone might pour over for a good hour or two. I certainly couldn't pass up the opportunity to browse through it before sending it off- and once I started, I was sucked in. I think this would make a lovely gift for a Kennedy-phile (I'm not and I really enjoyed it) and certainly would be an interesting conversation starter as a 'coffee table book'.
A DVD of family movies is included. As an Equestrienne, I loved the footage of Jackie jumping her horses and leading her kids around on horseback. There are some very sweet moments captured- nice to glimpse into a First Family that truly was first a family. There were definitely good times and not just for show. Cecil Stoughton and Richard Reeves give us a lovely commemoration of the Kennedy Whitehouse, even if thoroughly steeped in the rosy glow of nostalgia.
You have of course the pictures in the White House, many of which have never been seen before. There's one of John -John alone in the Rose Garden which is quite unique. There are also pictures in Hyannis Port with the family relaxing. It's literally all here and it's magical.
Prominent historian Richard Reeves has written the narrative to this book. In addition to JFK, he has written acclaimed biographies of Presidents Reagan, and Nixon. It is very fitting and appropriate that Stoughton's work is being strengthened by Reeves's written contributions.
There are a few things you need to know before you order the book:
1) All the pictures were done using 1960's chemical based photography, or another words pre-digital, but they are still spectacular.
2) Keep in mind that John Kennedy's father, Joseph Kennedy at one time owned the RKO Motion Picture Studios. This means the father always had access to the finest cameras, photographers, and techniques available. Joe Kennedy was always thinking ahead, and historian Richard Reeves has made the point that the father knew exactly what he was doing when he had the home movies made in terms of their political implications decades later.
3) There are many pictures in the book that Jackie would have never allowed due to privacy. The President on the other hand knew the political value of having fabulous pictures of the children for the voting public to view. Whenever Jackie was gone for a day or longer, or even an afternoon, the President would call Cecil Stoughton and have him come in and take some pictures of the children. The President was always ahead of the game.
If you are interested in this period in our nation's history or you are a Kennedy fan, you will want to add this photographic history to your collection. Regardless of your politics, everyone that lived through this period has been affected for the rest of our lives by the 1960's. As a memory of a spectacular life lived, or the last photographs of his death, this is probably the finest picture history of Camelot that we are going to see for a long time. Thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck
For those who are Kennedy admirers or those interested in his Presidency, this book is highly recommended.