Find out who's who in The Kennedys:
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (JFK) (Greg Kinnear)
Harvard graduate John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination on November 22, 1963. Kennedy was a Harvard graduate and a war hero. After his military service during World War II as torpedo boat commander in the South Pacific, his aspirations turned to politics.
Before politics, John had wanted a career as a writer. He had dabbled in journalism and had turned his college political science thesis into a widely read book called "Why England Slept." While recovering from spine surgery, he fused his literary and political aspirations and produced a book about political courage in America. "Profiles in Courage", which won a Pulitzer Prize in biography in 1957.
Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy (Barry Pepper)
Robert Francis Kennedy was the seventh of the Kennedy family’s nine children and eight years younger than his brother, John F. Kennedy. Bobby had a brief but extraordinary political career.
While still at Harvard, he joined the United States Navy during World War II. After receiving his law degree he worked for the criminal division of the Department of Justice but also helped run John’s campaign for the Senate. In 1960 he was campaign manager for John’s race for the Presidency. Appointed Attorney General in his brother's administration, Robert was also the president’s closest confidant. He was assassinated in June 5, 1968 in a Los Angeles hotel while campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. His wife Ethel was pregnant with their eleventh child when he died. In 1969, Palestinian assassin Sirhan Sirhan, was convicted for Robert’s murder.
Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy (Katie Holmes)
An international object of fascination and one of the world's most famous women, Jacqueline Kennedy was raised in the wealthy Bouvier and Auchincloss families. She was only 23 when she met John. Their marriage in 1953 created a union of powerful and wealthy Roman Catholic families.
After John’s assassination in 1963, Jackie moved to New York and five years later married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. After his death in 1975, she worked as a book editor at Doubleday publishing in New York, a job she adored because of the contact it gave her with some of America’s best writers. She stayed fit by jogging in Central Park. She died of cancer at her apartment at the age of 64.
Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Sr. (Tom Wilkinson)
Joe Sr. turned to a career in finance, and quickly made a large fortune in the stock and commodity markets, real estate and in a wide range of industries. During World War I, he was an assistant general-manager of Bethlehem Steel and developed a friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then assistant secretary of the Navy. In another career move, Joe Sr. moved to Hollywood and made huge profits from reorganizing and refinancing several Hollywood studios and also was a film producer.
But he continued to build the financial and political fortunes of the Kennedy family. Joe Sr. strategically constructed his family's image towards the public. Joe Sr.’s connections and influence were turned directly into political capital for the senatorial and presidential campaigns of John, Robert and later Edward (Ted). After a disabling stroke in 1961 at the age of 73, Joe Sr. lost all power of speech and started using a wheelchair but remained mentally intact. He died in 1969 at the age of 81.
Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy (Diana Hardcastle)
The eldest child of a congressman, Rose was educated in a convent school, and the religious training she received became the foundation for her life. She married Joseph P. Kennedy in 1914 and settled in Brookline, a Boston suburb. Ten years later, her husband was a multimillionaire.
Family, religion and politics were the foundations of her life. She loved politics and she used the skills she had learned from her father in her sons’ political campaigns. She gave carefully prepared speeches and addressed voters on intimate terms. She hosted many "Kennedy teas" sponsored by the Democratic Party. In her later years she devoted herself to fundraising and public education about the mentally handicapped, donating millions of dollars through her husband’s foundation to institutions throughout the U.S. She died in her Hyannis Port home in 1995 at the age of 104.
Ethel Kennedy played by (Kristin Booth)
Chicago-born Ethel Skakel attended Catholic convent school where she became friends and roommates with Jean Kennedy, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy’s sister. Ethel helped Robert with his brother, John F. Kennedy's, congressional campaign in 1946 and she also based her college thesis on John's college-thesis-turned-book, "Why England Slept".
Robert and Ethel married in 1950 and soon settled in Washington D.C., where Robert began work for the Department of Justice. They soon had one child and ten more followed. Ethel was pregnant with her 11th child when Robert was assassinated. She was by his side when he was shot in a Los Angeles hotel. Today, Ethel is the matriarch of the Kennedy family and is a grandmother to 23 children. She still lives in the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. She holds fundraisers for Democratic politicians and publicly endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
Sam Giancana (Serge Houde)
Born in Chicago, Gilormo “Sam” Giancana started in crime as a teenager and led a street gang called the “The 42s”. The gang carried out low-level tasks in the 1920s for members of the powerful Chicago Mafia, led by the notorious gangster Al Capone. He rose steadily in the ranks of the mob even while serving prison time. In the mid-1950s, Giancana became the top Mafioso in Chicago and controlled gambling, prostitution, narcotics trafficking, and other illegal industries in his hometown. Under his leadership, the Chicago Mafia grew from a small-scale racket to a full-fledged criminal organization.
When Robert Kennedy became U.S. Attorney General he tackled organized crime and one of his prime targets was to get Giancana arrested. When President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, rumors circulated that Giancana and other gang bosses were involved in the crime. In 1975 Giancana was murdered in his home just before he was to appear at a special government hearing.
J. Edgar Hoover (Enrico Colantoni)
John Edgar Hoover was the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). He began working in U.S. government service in 1913, first at the Library of Congress, then at the Justice Department. During World War I, Hoover worked for the Bureau of Investigation, keeping statistical records of immigrants for the Alien Enemy Bureau. A vigorous anti-communist, Hoover quickly moved up the ranks and in 1924 was appointed Director of the Bureau of Investigation (later called the Federal Bureau of Investigation).
Marilyn Monroe (Charlotte Sullivan)
Considered the most celebrated of all actresses, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson in 1926 in Los Angeles and died in 1962 at the age of 36 from an overdose of sleeping pills. She made 30 films in her lifetime, and her status and allure remain legendary.
Abandoned by her father, she grew up in poverty with her mentally-ill mother who was committed to a mental institution. During her mother's illnesses, she was sent to live with 12 different sets of foster parents.
Marilyn’s romantic life was always the subject of speculation. She was rumoured to be romantically involved with President Kennedy.
Lyndon Baines Johnson (Don Allison)
Lyndon Johnson was John F. Kennedy’s running mate in 1960 and was elected Vice President. He became the 36th President of the United States after Kennedy’s assassination and was re elected President in 1964. Although he is chiefly remembered for expanding U.S. involvement in the Vietman War, Johnson was also responsible for a number of social reform projects in education, civil rights and voting rights. He also instituted health care initiatives such as Medicare and Medicaid during his presidency.
Frank Sinatra (Chris Diamantopoulos)
Singer/Actor Frank Sinatra was nicknamed “the Voice”. When his career took a downward spin in the late 1940’s, Sinatra made a stunning career comeback in 1953 and re-emerged as a coarser, jazzier version of himself.
Sinatra was known for using his influence to support political candidates including JFK. Though he oversaw Kennedy’s inaugural gala in Washington in 1961, Sinatra eventually changed his tune by the 1970’s when he became a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon and later, Ronald Reagan. His shift in loyalty away from Kennedy happened when Kennedy cancelled a weekend trip to Sinatra’s house after learning the entertainer played host to Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana and his associates.
Sinatra gave his last concert on Feb. 25, 1995 and died in 1998 at the age of 82 survived by his fourth wife Barbara Marx and three children.
The Kennedys: A Culture Show Special
In the 50th anniversary year of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as President of the United State, Jonathan Freedland chairs a Culture Show discussion on our enduring fascination with the man, his short-lived administration and the extraordinary political family from which he came.Visit the Programme Page