Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Oswald's Trigger Films

The idea that LHO was at least partly motivated to kill JFK by movies he saw prior to the assassination is not new and has been mentioned, albeit occasionally, in conspiracy literature. But three films in particular, We Were Strangers, The Manchurian Candidate and Suddenly, the latter two starring Frank Sinatra, may have provided a “psychological trigger” for his actions against both JFK and General Walker. Author John Loken, whose book Oswald’s Trigger Films explores this interesting possibility, discovered that The Manchurian Candidate was playing in Dallas in November and December, 1962 when LHO was living there and had access to the relevant theatres. Loken also points out that Time magazine published a favorable review of the film in its November 2, 1962 issue and that LHO subscribed to that publication (Loken, 6-17). Finally, Loken says that given LHO’s psychology, he would have been attracted to the film with its themes of politics, intrigue and violence (Loken, 5).

The evidence that LHO saw Suddenly comes solely from Marina’s reports to the Secret Service and the Warren Commission and later to her biographer Priscilla Johnson McMillan. Marina told the Secret Service that LHO saw an unnamed film that depicted an assassin’s attempt to kill the President from a house near a railroad station, which, as the Secret Service reported, sounds like the plot of Suddenly (CE 1790, 23 H 403). She also told the Warren Commission that LHO had seen both Suddenly and We Were Strangers although commission attorney Rankin had to remind her of the titles (1 H 71, WCT Marina Oswald). McMillan’s book, Marina and Lee, reports that LHO saw both Suddenly and We Were Strangers on television the same night, October 19 (McMillan, 380). The problem with this scenario is that the newspaper listings do not mention Suddenly on that day or anytime in late 1963 for that matter, although it is possible it could have been a last-minute replacement (Loken, 25).

The evidence is substantial that LHO saw We Were Strangers twice on the weekend of October 12-13, 1963. Loken studied newspaper listings and confirmed that the movie indeed played on Saturday and Sunday that weekend. Marina described the film to the Secret Service saying that LHO saw it twice which jibes nicely with Loken’s research. In summary, Loken is convinced that LHO saw We Were Strangers and probably saw The Manchurian Candidate, although the evidence is circumstantial for the latter. However, the case for Suddenly is less convincing per Loken. Whether the films did provide a psychological motivation is, of course, an open question.

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