I’ve never been one for JFK assassination conspiracy theories. But I do love studying what movies the presidents watched. So while compiling the list of films that President Kennedy viewed while in the White House I was surprised to stumble on what seems like fuel for a new conspiracy theory. How did President Kennedy watch a home movie of his son’s birthday a week after he was killed?
For the past few years I’ve been obsessed with compiling a list of every movie that the United States presidents have watched, from Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama. And so far I’ve compiled what I believe to be nearly comprehensive lists for President Jimmy Carter and President Bill Clinton, along with partial lists for everyone else. But while working on President Kennedy’s list this past weekend, with the help of my wife, we found something strange. It would appear that President Kennedy watched a home movie on November 29, 1963. Which is weird, because he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
I recently acquired copies of the log books for the former White House projectionist Paul Fischer from an anonymous source. Fischer recorded every single movie that he projected, from the Eisenhower administration to the middle of the Reagan administration. And the Kennedy log book is a fascinating artefact, giving insight into not only what movies the First Family watched, but who they had as guests and how many people were in attendance.
White House projectionist Paul Fischer’s log book for movies he projected (1963, anonymous source)
As you can see from the log book above, a film was screened at the White House on November 29, 1963 for twenty people. Fischer wrote it down as “Little John Birthday Party,” presumably referring to John F. Kennedy Jr., born on November 25, 1960.
But there are two weird aspects to this entry. The first is that the studio is listed as MGM, and I doubt that a major Hollywood studio produced Little John’s birthday film. The second, and obviously most important, is that both President Kennedy and the First Lady are listed as being in attendance. See those little X’s? Those are for JFK and Jackie O.
As I said, I’m not really a Kennedy assassination conspiracy buff. There are all kinds of theories about who “actually” killed Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? Was the CIA involved? Was Lyndon B. Johnson on the grassy knoll with a raygun? I have no idea. But I do know that this log book is strange.
Young children gather in the Family Theatre of the White House, during a joint birthday party for Caroline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, Jr. (November 27, 1962, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)
We might be able to chalk it up as Fischer being exhausted and confused or maybe it was written in advance—though that seems unlikely given the meticulous nature of his record keeping.
Maybe Lyndon B. Johnson, the president that would succeed Kennedy, attended the home movie screening, and Fischer ticked the box for him. I really don’t know, and unfortunately we can’t ask the projectionist. Fischer died in 2007, his wife died in 2013, and his son died in 2011. To my knowledge, his daughter is still living, but she hasn’t returned a letter to what I believe is her house.
If you have a theory, please let me know. Did JFK somehow survive and live out his life under an assumed name in Cuba? That seems unlikely, given the autopsy photos. But it probably wouldn’t be the weirdest conspiracy theory out there.
And don’t worry, more presidential movie lists are coming soon.