50 Years Later, 'JFK, Inc.' Still a Thriving Industry

PHOTO: Rob Lowe as President John F. Kennedy on the set of National Geographic Channels "Killing Kennedy."

Ask someone who was alive on Nov. 22, 1963, and they can probably tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

It was the gun shot heard around the world -- the bullet ricocheting straight into Americans' hearts, ending Camelot and, many believed, taking the country's idealism along with it.

Fast forward 50 years and both the myth and obsession surrounding Kennedy and his death seems as vibrant as ever. That moment in Dallas -- the shock, the heartbreak and the conspiracy theories -- continue to reverberate in books, films, television and even music.

It's all part of the industry that has taken shape around the life and death of the 35th president of the United States. The anniversary of his assassination has brought a new wave of products:

Conspiracy Takes Center Stage

"A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination," a new book by former New York Times reporter Phil Shenon, attempts not to answer the big questions surrounding JFK's death (Was he killed by a single gunman? Was Lee Harvey Oswald a mere pawn in a grander conspiracy?), but rather, as he said in a recent interview with CBS News, how so much of the investigation into his death was compromised.

Autopsy reports were thrown in fires, letters were flushed down toilets.

"It is just a big theme of my book is how much vital evidence disappears about the assassination and about Lee Harvey Oswald," Shenon said on "Face the Nation," adding that "both the FBI and CIA were very aware of the threat" Oswald posed and that "the assassination was preventable, perhaps, easily preventable."

Larry Sabato's "The Kennedy Half Century" also digs deep into the mystery surrounding the president's death.

Sabato attempts to build a case against the 1979 House Select Committee's conclusion that JFK died of an unspecified conspiracy, discounting sounds the Committee believed to be a second gunman as mere mechanical sounds from a motorcycle policeman.

The book also digs deeper into the finding of a survey by Peter Hart and Geoff Garin that JFK is the most esteemed president since 1953, detailing a unique appeal that withstands the boundary of ideology and influenced every leader that came after him.

JFK On The Big Screen

The president's boyish charm and Boston accent has been recreated for the screen so many times that there is an entire Wikipedia page just devoted to "Movies about the JFK assassination."

Two new additions to add to the genre, which already includes such films as Oliver Stone's Academy Award winning "JFK," are "Parkland" and "Killing Kennedy."

"Parkland" brings the background characters to the big screen, focusing not so much on Kennedy as on the ordinary people who were forced into extraordinary circumstances by his death, whether they be the doctors who operated on him at Parkland Hospital, the Dallas chief of the Secret Service, or the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Director Peter Landesman told the Los Angeles Times that he believes this shift in focus, choosing humanization over conspiracy theories, is why the film, which stars Billy Bob Thorton, Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden, has fared better across the pond.

"European fascination with JFK is as big but different," he said. "Americans remain distractingly obsessed with seeing him through the prism of murder-mystery conspiracy theories. Europeans see him as a celebrity -- a fallen idol."

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