By his own admission, Matt Novak is “obsessed with cataloging and watching all the movies that every U.S. president has screened while in office.” That obsession extends, evidently, to their wives as well. Using the diary of a deceased White House projectionist, a document given to him by an unnamed source, Novak has compiled a list of all the films Jackie Kennedy screened during her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from 1961 to 1963. In a piece for Gizmodo, he explores what these films reveal about the former first lady and the era in which she lived. The Kennedys screened home movies on numerous occasions, but they also viewed numerous feature films in their private theater. These range from James Bond flicks and cartoons like Gay Purr-ee to foreign-made art films like La Dolce Vita and Last Year At Marienbad. JFK was not too thrilled with that last one, allegedly walking out at the 20-minute mark. But his wife was enthralled with the stylized French film, even requesting a tailor-made dress based on one if its costumes.
Novak has scoured through the records looking for anomalies and oddities. He finds one on February 18, 1961:
Somewhat awkwardly, Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy watched the 1961 film The Misfits together—a movie starring Marilyn Monroe, an actress with whom John would have a longstanding affair.
This, in turn, brings up the thorny subject of Peter Lawford, an English-born actor who was the president’s brother-in-law. Novak writes that Lawford “essentially acted as JFK’s pimp and connection to Hollywood starlets” and “reportedly introduced John to Marilyn.” It may be noteworthy that the carousing actor was no longer on the White House guest list by the next year.
In all, this list offers some titillating insight into the Camelot era. Novak writes that the last movie the Kennedys watched at the White House was 55 Days At Peking. But it’s even more interesting to learn that the movie they watched before that was called Johnny Cool.
[Note: Gizmodo, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]