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Captains and the Kings (1976)
The Price of Fortune and Power
The comparison of the fictional Armaughs to the Kennedy clan can't be escaped. Still, this is a magnificent entertainment piece about an Irish immigrant who claws to the top of power and money (remindful of Joe Kennedy Sr.?)with the crown jewel being son Rory's bid to become the nation's first Irish Catholic president. "Captains and the Kings" is riveting from its beginning when a young Joseph Armaugh is left by his mother's death to care for two younger siblings and through the end where the elderly Joseph is left alone questioning the cost of his power and wealth. The late Richard Jordan is brilliant in presenting his Joseph as the scrapping improverished immigrant turned industrialist power broker but who, in the end, pays a horrible price. The mini-series also introduced us to Blair Brown as the daughter of Joseph's role model, and she manages to grab our empathy despite her being a mistress in Joseph's extra-marital pilferings. But, in a role that landed her a second Emmy, Patty Duke (Astin)is devastating as Joseph's wife in an arranged marriage who gradually is pushed by the price of power (and alcoholism) to insanity. There is a lesson in "Captains and the Kings," especially to those who hunger for more. As with all things, costs come, and the question is at what cost do we feed our hunger and our willingness to pay it.
The Kennedy Administration: Warts and All
This may well be the definitive "Kennedy" film in terms of historical accuracy and honesty, positing forth the best and less-than-best of this so-called Camelot administration. Martin Sheen is, as usual, outstanding in the title role, and his Kennedy not only bares his fallacies but impresses an honest sense of public service. As the former first lady, Blair Brown is nothing less than superb, and her Jacqueline Kennedy is eerily touching, especially with her voiced-over prophecy of her "appointment with death." Together, Sheen and Blair actually generate the sense of youth and glamour that distinquished the real administration. They are more than aptly backed up by a stellar supporting cast headed by John Shea (RKF), E.G. Marshall (Joe Sr.) and the late Vincent Gardenia (as a sinister, throughly unlikeable J. Edgar Hoover). There are apparently two versions on the market: the edited and the unedited. Go for the latter; the former is so badly chopped up that the historical value is lost. My only question: where the heck can I get the original five-hour cassette (and I've looked!)? My other one's worn out! From the scholarship standpoint, this film is an important historical resource.