Jackie Kennedy’s Real White House Tour Is the Perfect Jackie Companion

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The plot of Pablo Larraín’s Jackie is anchored by the First Lady’s life in the days immediately following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but interspersed between scenes of her frantic legacy-building is a recreation of Jacqueline Kennedy’s real-life White House tour. The hour-long walk through of the house’s recent restoration aired on Valentine’s Day 1962, and was marked by the First Lady’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of every heirloom. Eighty million people watched the tour, according to CBS, and it was later rebroadcast and syndicated worldwide. Kennedy won an honorary Emmy for the tour, while Franklin Schaffner — who later directed Patton and Planet of the Apes — was also honored by the Directors Guild of America for directing the special. The footage is now online, and it makes a fitting — if slightly uncomfortable — post-Jackie viewing.

It’s eerie in retrospect watching Jackie stride through the Lincoln bedroom, explaining Mary Todd Lincoln’s life after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. “Not many people know that Mrs. Lincoln sold a lot of furniture after her husband’s death because she was destitute, a lot that she’d bought and a lot of earlier furniture,” she explains. “One of the ways we get most of our furniture back is from people who got things from that sale.”

One of the movie’s flourishes comes at the real tour’s 39 minute mark: CBS’s cameras zoom in on an 1861 portrait of Abraham Lincoln, with Jackie calling him “the strong man with the arched eyebrow.” The frame shifts to a softer brow and more relaxed face, and the camera zooms out on an 1865 photograph of Lincoln, which Kennedy says was taken a week before he was killed. Jackie director Pablo Larraín wasn’t embellishing: That bit of filmmaking comes straight from the 1962 tour.

Scenes from the broadcast show up a few times in the movie, contrasted against the way Jackie’s life toppled when she had to move out of the home she’d spent a year restoring. These segments were meticulously recreated for Jackie: Madeline Fontaine, the movie’s costume designer, told the New York Times the production created two versions of Jackie’s suit — one in dark red and one in pink — so the wool would look identically gray in black and white. Much of Jackie closely mirrors archival footage and photographs, but the White House tour scenes have a special spark: They show the First Lady at the moment when she wasn’t writing the Camelot myth, but living it.

Watch Jackie Kennedy’s Real White House Tour