December 6, 1963 cover of LIFE magazine.
Dec. 6, 1963 cover of LIFE magazine.LIFE Magazine
December 6, 1963 cover of LIFE magazine.
From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine.
From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine.
From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine.
From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine.
From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine.
From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine.
Dec. 6, 1963 cover of LIFE magazine.
LIFE Magazine
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This Is the Real Jackie Interview With LIFE Magazine

Dec 02, 2016

In the dark and dramatic days following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his widow had much to do—but she also took the time to speak to Pulitzer-winning journalist Theodore H. White, of LIFE Magazine, in Hyannis Port.

Their conversation, which is prominently featured in the new movie Jackie, out Friday, was extensive—but the essay White produced for the Dec. 6, 1963, issue of LIFE Magazine was a short one. Billed as an "epilogue" for President Kennedy, White (played by Billy Crudup in the film) described in two short pages what Jackie Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) had told him about that day in Dallas, and what came after. She told him of the heat, the crowds, how much she'd wished she could wear sunglasses—and how, when everything was over, she kept thinking of a line from a song that the President had loved, from the musical Camelot, about the "one brief shining moment" that had been lost. That association between the Kennedy era and the idea of Camelot would endure throughout the decades to come.

From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine.From the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine. ( [object Object] ) LIFE Magazine 

"All through that night they tried to separate him from her, to sedate her, and take care of her—and she would not let them," White wrote. "She wanted to be with him. She remembered that Jack had said of his father, when his father suffered the stroke, that he could not live like that. Don't let that happen to me, he had said, when I have to go."

JFK's Funeral: Photos From a Day of Shock and Grief

John F. Kennedy's flag-draped casket lies in state in Washington, D.C., November 1963
Not published in LIFE. John F. Kennedy's flag-draped casket lies in state in Washington, D.C., November 1963Stan Wayman—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
John F. Kennedy's flag-draped casket lies in state in Washington, D.C., November 1963
John F. Kennedy's flag-draped casket lies in state in Washington, D.C., November 1963
John F. Kennedy's flag-draped casket, Washington, D.C., November 1963
Wife. Mother. Niece. Three generations wait outside St. Matthew's for procession to cemetery. Behind Mrs. Kennedy stands the President's mother. Sydney Lawford, daughter of Kennedy's sister Pat, is at rear.
John F. Kennedy's cortege leaves the White House, November 1963.
Young Kennedys prepare to leave the White House for John F. Kennedy's funeral, November 25, 1963.
1138644.jpg
JFK's funeral, 1963
John F. Kennedy's funeral, Arlington Cemetery, November 25, 1963.
Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and Edward Kennedy at John F. Kennedy's funeral, Arlington Cemetery, November 25, 1963.
Jackie Kennedy at JFK's funeral, November 1963
As taps sounded, [French] President de Gaulle and [Ethiopian] Emperor Haile Selassie saluted the grave
Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy at John F. Kennedy's funeral, Arlington Cemetery, November 25, 1963.
John F. Kennedy's funeral, Arlington Cemetery, November 25, 1963.
Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy at John F. Kennedy's funeral, Arlington Cemetery, November 25, 1963.
Not published in LIFE. John F. Kennedy's flag-draped casket lies in state in Washington, D.C., November 1963
Stan Wayman—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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White would later donate his relevant papers to the Kennedy Library, including his handwritten notes on the conversation, which were made public a year after the former First Lady's death.

The papers are a vivid document of White's working process, exposing the questions he wanted to ask, the extent to which she participated in crafting the "Camelot" image that would stick with the family for decades to come—and the one matter he kept coming back to: "When did farewell really come?"

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