WHV Press Release: John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums

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  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums

    Restored and Remastered Version of Renowned Documentary to be Released on DVD November 12


    BURBANK, Calif. – October 16, 2013 – John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums – the noted 1964 documentary narrated by Gregory Peck about the fallen president’s thousand days in office – has been meticulously restored and remastered and will get a special DVD release November 12 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE).


    The film will be available on its own ($11.97 SRP) and will be included in WBHE’s JFK 50 Year Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition, which will be released day-and-date for $59.99 SRP.


    George Stevens, Jr. produced and Bruce Herschensohn wrote, directed and scored John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums, originally made for Edward R. Murrow’s United States Information Agency (USIA). Stevens, then head of the USIA’s Motion Picture division, proposed the idea to Murrow on November 23, 1963. Camera crews started shooting that day in 14 countries to capture world reaction to the president’s death. The film evolved into a comprehensive look at the 35th U.S. president’s administration. It was USIA's first feature-length film.


    Caroline Kennedy has called it her favorite film about her father. It features vivid 35 mm color footage of Kennedy as president, the four days of national mourning, Kennedy family footage, and an examination of JFK’s thousand days in office, including the launching of the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress in Latin America, his pledge to send an American to the moon, the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and Kennedy's call for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


    John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums was ultimately shown to acclaim in 124 countries but not in the United States, because USIA films were prohibited from being shown domestically (to ensure that no administration would use USIA to influence opinion in the U.S.).


    The film was first shown in this country in November 1964 at the State Department theater in Washington before an audience of luminaries, including President Kennedy's relatives and colleagues from the New Frontier. The response was overwhelming. The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther wrote a passionate review that initiated a campaign to have the film seen in the U.S. In time, the United States Congress passed a Joint Resolution permitting showings; and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the national memorial to the President which was not yet completed, was designated the custodian of the film, authorized to arrange distribution and to receive the profits. Joseph E. Levine and Embassy Pictures distributed the film which opened in the U.S. on April 10, 1966. It was named one of the Ten Best Films of the Year by the National Board of Review.


    Stevens notes, “The rescue of this record of American history was made possible by a generous gift from HBO. Warner Bros., the John F. Kennedy Center, the National Archives and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have collaborated in saving this work that otherwise would have been lost forever.”


    Upon seeing the digital restoration, director Bruce Herschensohn described it as “a miracle.” He said, “The colors are restored. The scenes of 50 years ago are as good as new.”


    Stevens added, “I believe the vivid and dramatic 35mm color images of JFK will give this and future generations a new comprehension of Kennedy's personality. He comes to life in this film.”


    George Stevens, Jr., as a writer, director, producer and playwright, has earned many accolades, including seventeen Emmys®, two Peabody Awards, the Humanitas Prize and eight awards from the Writers Guild of America. In 2012, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to present Stevens with an Honorary Academy Award® for “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement.”


    Bruce Herschensohn directed documentary films for USIA during the Kennedy years and later became head of USIA's motion picture division. Today he is a professor of international affairs at Pepperdine University.


    Order Info:


    John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums

    Street Date: November 12, 2013

    Order Due Date: October 8, 2013

    Pricing: $11.97 SRP

    Run Time: 85 mins.

    Catalog / UPC #: 1000435145 / 883929371914



    Academy Awards® and Oscar® are both registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


    EMMY® is the registered trademark of the ATAS/NATAS.


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  2. LouA

    LouA Screenwriter

    May 29, 2012
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    Lou Antonicello
    This, along with "Thank You Mr. President " are my favortie JFK documentaries. I'm glad to see this one coming out , and I hope the other will eventually be released in expanded form.

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