Academy Award winner Errol Morris is working on a documentary about the assassination. He did not respond to an interview request.
One film, critics say, has done more than anything to shape the public’s perception of the assassination: That’s Oliver Stone’s 1991 drama, ‘‘JFK.’’
‘‘He made this kind of paranoid conspiracy theory respectable,’’ says New York writer Arthur Goldwag, author of ‘‘Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies.’’
The movie tells the story of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, played by Kevin Costner. Garrison remains the only prosecutor to bring someone to trial for an alleged conspiracy to kill Kennedy.
The film is ‘‘a remarkable litany of falsehoods and misrepresentations and exaggerations and omissions,’’ Posner says. ‘‘The reason that I'm so hard on Stone is because he’s such a good filmmaker. If he was a schlocky filmmaker, it wouldn’t matter.’’
Shermer, of the Skeptics Society, agrees that Stone’s role in stirring the conspiracy pot is ‘‘huge.’’
‘‘You tell somebody a good story, that’s more powerful than tons of data, charts and graphs and statistics,’’ he says. ‘‘And Oliver Stone’s a good storyteller. He’s biased and he’s very deceptive, and I don’t trust him at all. But the movie’s great.’’
Stone’s publicist said the director had ‘‘chosen to pass on this opportunity’’ to comment.
‘‘JFK’’ took in more than $205 million at the box office, nearly two-thirds of that overseas, and has since raked in untold millions more in television royalties, pay-per-view, and videocassette and DVD rentals.
In the recent AP-GfK poll, respondents were asked how much of what they knew about the JFK case came from various sources. Only 9 percent cited movies or fictional TV shows, while the greatest portion, 37 percent, said history texts and nonfiction books.
About two dozen JFK-related titles are due on bookstore shelves in coming months, says Patricia Bostelman, vice president of marketing for Barnes & Noble booksellers. Among them is ‘‘They Killed Our President: The Conspiracy to Kill JFK and the Cover-Up That Followed,’’ by former pro wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Other authors are taking advantage of the anniversary to reissue or expand on previous works.
Waldron is working on a book focusing on mob figures who confessed to being part of a conspiracy to kill the president. Summers is publishing a sequel to ‘‘Conspiracy,’’ incorporating material released since 1980, while Bugliosi has a ‘‘Parkland’’ paperback to accompany the movie release.
And ‘‘Case Closed’’ will soon appear for the first time as an e-book. Despite the mountains of documents released since its publication, and a mountain of criticism of his conclusions, Posner says there is no plan to update it, other than perhaps including a new foreword.
‘‘I moved on to other subjects,’’ he says.
On Nov. 22, 1963, John Kelin was a 7-year-old second-grader in Peoria, Ill. He says the Kennedy assassination is ‘‘my earliest clear memory in life.’’
But he didn’t really give the case much thought until 13 years later, when as a sophomore at Eastern Michigan University he attended a lecture by Mark Lane. It was the first time he saw the Abraham Zapruder film that captured the moment when Kennedy was fatally wounded.
‘‘Using slow motion and freeze frame, Lane made sure that all of us sitting in that hot, poorly ventilated auditorium understood that Kennedy’s head and shoulders were slammed backward and to the left, and that Lee Harvey Oswald’s alleged shooting position was behind the presidential limousine,’’ Kelin wrote in a book, ‘‘Praise from a Future Generation,’’ about early critics of the Warren Report. ‘‘In a way, that lecture was the genesis of this book.’’
Kelin bristles at references to a conspiracy theory ‘‘industry,’’ preferring to think of himself as part of a grass roots response to the government’s ‘‘severely flawed, unsatisfactory explanations for what really happened in 1963.’’
His publisher, Wings Press, has ‘‘made intimations’’ about releasing a digital edition of ‘‘Praise’’ for the 50th anniversary. Meanwhile, Kelin has written another JFK book — a fictional account of how he came to write the first one.
‘‘It’s kind of a satire of the present-day research community,’’ he says, ‘‘with a love story thrown in to try to broaden the interest level.’’
The title: ‘‘Conspiracy Nut.’’
AP writer David Porter in Newark, N.J., also contributed to this report.
Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features(at)ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/(hash)!/AllenGBreedContinued...