Military Channel, Tues., Nov. 12, 10 p.m.
The Day Kennedy Died
Smithsonian Channel, Sun., Nov. 17, 9 p.m.
Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live
History, Fri., Nov. 22, 10 p.m.
Even though he got away from the Texas School Book Depository, Lee Harvey Oswald was in Dallas police custody only 88 minutes after shooting and killing President John F. Kennedy — and then fatally shooting a Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit.
And then, “within 48 hours it will all be undone, and the remarkable police work forgotten,” as the Military Channel documentary, Capturing Oswald, aptly notes.
Oswald died, we learn from History’s Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live, 48 hours and several minutes after Kennedy, in the same hospital.
Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner, sneaked into a crowded municipal basement where Oswald was being transferred and shot Oswald, on live TV.
These time rings help frame three engrossing cable documentaries, a structure into which many forgotten, stunning details emerge about the events surrounding the assassination that took place 50 years ago this month.
Smithsonian Channel’s offering, The Day Kennedy Died, sets itself apart by using film of Jack and Jackie’s appearance the morning of Nov. 22 at a chamber of commerce breakfast in Fort Worth, Texas. The president was on the dais first, and there was a delay before the first lady arrived and made her way to center stage. Kennedy begins his remarks by saying, as he did in Paris two years earlier, that once again he’s the man who accompanied the first lady, this time to Texas. Film of their arrival at Dallas’s Love Field later that morning is similarly stirring.
The History doc moves quickly to Oswald’s shooting of Tippit, who spotted Oswald walking (possibly suspiciously) along a residential street in the Oak Cliff neighborhood. Those moments are recreated compellingly, as are the hunt for Oswald, his capture in the Texas Theatre and later interrogations.
Subtle differences mark the retellings. Military’s Capturing Oswald has him nearly arrested in the School Book Depository — he was released when the manager identified Oswald as an employee there — and then taking a bus and a taxi to a location near his home, where he got the handgun he used later to shoot Tippit.
History’s doc does not include those details, but later extensively re-enacts Oswald’s estranged wife Marina’s visits to him in jail. On one visit, she put a photo of Oswald holding his rifle into her shoe, intending to discuss it with him.
Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live also persuasively shows that Ruby acted out of impulse and not as part of a conspiracy. Among other things, he left his beloved dog in his car on the street.
Eyewitness interviews, some shared, some exclusive to each documentary, round out the skillful storytelling of each of these features.