Sen. John F. Kennedy makes his way through a crowd of supporters and journalists as he arrives in Los Angeles, July 9, 1960 for the Democratic National Convention. (File photo by the Associated Press)
Sen. John F. Kennedy debates Vice President Richard Nixon on live TV during the 1960 presidential campaign. (File photo by the Associated Press)
President John F. Kennedy sits at his desk in the White House, January 18, 1962. (File photo by the Associated Press)
Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) is shown with wife, Jacqueline, who reads to their daughter Caroline, at Hyannis Port, Mass., July 25, 1960. (File photo by the Associated Press)
Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) the Senator from Massachusetts, in his Washington, D.C. office, February 27, 1959. (File photo by the Associated Press)
This Memorial Day will be special to Army veteran Robert Kline for two reasons: it marks the federal holiday that honors those who served in the armed forces and it will celebrate the 100th birthday of the late President John F. Kennedy.
In 1960, Kennedy was the first president Kline ever voted for and he said he was instantly mesmerized by the war veteran’s accomplishments as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, his elegant speechmaking and his sense of humor. In the summer of 1962, Kline had the opportunity to meet Kennedy face-to-face at Hyannis Port, Mass., and received a special gift that he has carried in his pocket ever since:
“He gave me a picture of himself on a golf cart with Caroline and John John and some of his nephews. I’ve carried that everywhere in my life, everywhere I’ve gone. From California to Vietnam to Africa,” said Kline.
The San Juan Capistrano resident has a résumé that expands in many directions, including being a former 20th Century Fox executive, founder of the West Coast Film Festival, co-founder of the Lifetime Network and a professor at USC for 30 years and counting. Kline is also an avid filmmaker, co-producing and directing “Heaven & Earth” with Oliver Stone, and directing and producing documentaries about American history, including presidents and their families.
One of the documentaries, his 2013 “JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later,” will be screened at the Regency Theatre in San Juan Capistrano on Thursday, May 25, which revisits the 1,000-day Kennedy presidency with his inaugural speech, commentary on the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile crisis, and rare footage from the JFK Presidential library.
Hosted by Kline, the screening will feature a raffle with prizes from Warner Bros. Studios. Kline and his wife, producer and filmmaker Stephanie Heredia, created the 90-minute documentary with what Kline described as “pure passion and dedication to a president we both admire.”
To this day, Kline grieves over the day that Kennedy was assassinated and remembers his feelings like it was yesterday:
“The day he died in Dallas was and remains one of the saddest moments in my life. He had an impact then and he continues to now.”
To create the documentary, the couple spent hundreds of hours gathering archival film and video at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. The film also features an interview with President Ronald Reagan that was obtained from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
Kline’s dedication to the Kennedy family has included working media for Robert Kennedy when he ran for president. Kline said he left California on a red eye to Washington D.C. on June 5, 1968 in hopes of working for the candidate, if not as a press secretary, then as a director of media.
When he arrived in D.C., he said he got off the airplane and saw newspapers on the seats with the headline “RFK Slain.”
“I went from the airport to the Plaza Hotel and told Darryl F. Zanuck, my boss, the chairman of Fox, that I would become executive vice president and head of production,” said Kline, “I wanted to get as far away from the pain of politics, because I lost too many Kennedys.”
In 2008, Kline and Heredia also produced the Warner Bros. documentary “The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings,” based on a best-selling book by Thomas Maier. The film focuses on five generations of the family, including Kennedy and the life and careers of his brothers, Robert and Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy.
Kline’s mission goes beyond research and honoring Kennedy. He said that he hopes that his documentaries will inspire future generations to learn more about the late president.
“He was young, he was intelligent, and when he made a mistake, like the Bay of Pigs, one of the biggest disasters in history, he took blame and said he will do better next time,” said Kline, “He defined my generation and I hope he will continue to influence others with these morals.”
‘JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later’
Where: Regency Theatres, 26762 Verdugo Street, San Juan Capistrano
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 25
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