TLC has released a trailer for the upcoming documentary “Letters to Jackie” which will air on November 17, 2013. The documentary features the voices of Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams and Channing Tatum.
The documentary which will be shown ahead of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy offers a glimpse into the 800,000 condolence letters sent to First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Many Americans did not wait for official confirmation of his death before writing their letter to Jackie and three days after his death Jackie had already received 45,000 letters.
The letters have a way of drawing in the reader. Academy Award winning filmmaker Bill Couturie said about them, “As soon as I read them, I knew I had to make a movie about them, and the time they so eloquently evoke.”
His documentary is based on the book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation” by Ellen Fitzpatrick who came across the letters while doing research for another book. The University of New Hampshire professor told the Daily Mail about the collection, “I have been teaching American history for 30 years, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a collection as powerful and that represented so many ordinary people speaking from the heart about their views about American society, and politics, and the president.”
Hathaway reads a letter by Janice Crabtree from Dallas, Texas, who had watched Kennedy go by earlier, which relates her father’s fear that he would be assassinated. “I remember [my father’s] astounding statement at the time of the 1960 Democratic Convention. When Johnson accepted the vice presidency and so many of Johnson’s fans were sick, Daddy said: ‘Kennedy will be elected, then assassinated, and Johnson will be President after all.”
Those who supported Kennedy’s efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act sent Jackie letters. Ethel C. Williams from Detroit wrote, “Mrs. Kennedy, I am a colored woman. Your husband made me proud of being colored by the love and interest he took in my people. I wish I had the words and the knowledge of how to put them down on this piece of paper to tell you what I really feel.”
White House secretaries struggled to respond to the vast number of letters and most of them did receive a thank you note. Most of the letters were destroyed, but 200,000 pages were sent to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston where they were forgotten for years.
Jackie summed up the spirit of the letters on her own in her televised message of thanks 50 days after Kennedy's death, “Each and every message is to be treasured, so that future generations will know how much our country and people in every nation thought of him, and I thank you again on behalf my children, and of the President’s family, for the comfort your letters have brought to us all.”
Watch the trailer here: