When the Kennedys Took on Wallace Over Integration (Documentary)

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

THE first movie that Barack Obama should watch in the White House screening room is a 45-year-old television documentary about John F. Kennedy’s showdown with Gov. George C. Wallace over the court-ordered integration of the University of Alabama.

Called “Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment,” the hourlong film — shot over a two-day period in June 1963, broadcast on ABC four months later and now available on DVD — is worth the new president’s time not so much for its subject matter, which is well worn, but rather as a portrait of what shrewd executive power is all about.

It’s a fascinating piece for anyone interested in American politics. The film’s producer, Robert Drew, and his associates — including Richard Leacock and D. A. Pennebaker, who would soon emerge as major documentary filmmakers in their own right — were given an extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented degree of access to White House decision making.

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