'Oswald's Ghost' Looks at JFK Assassination's Lasting Grip

11/20/2007 12am CST
The Dallas Morning News
‘Oswald’s Ghost’ looks at JFK assassination’s lasting grip
by Michael Granberry

The newly renovated Texas Theatre was home Monday night to a gripping new movie, by a director named Stone, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

But not that Stone. The writer-producer-director in this case is Robert Stone, whose terrific documentary Oswald’s Ghost was shown to an admiring audience in a setting that was both breathtaking and slightly bizarre.
It marked the Southwest premiere of Mr. Stone’s film, which will be shown Jan. 14 on PBS. It’s in the midst of a limited theatrical release, with openings scheduled for Nov. 30 in New York and Dec. 7 in Los Angeles. But no future dates have been set for Dallas.

That’s a shame. It may well be one of the best movies ever offered about the assassination, and it took on an eerie power being shown in a handsomely renovated theater that will forever be central to the darkest moment in Dallas history.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested Nov. 22, 1963, in the Texas Theatre, on Jefferson Street in Oak Cliff, moments after investigators say he gunned down Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit and about an hour after he killed Mr. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza.

By the end of his movie, Mr. Stone comes to his own dramatic conclusion about who killed the president. But it’s the getting there that’s remarkable.

In an interview before the screening, he said the trigger for him was seeing that other Stone’s movie in 1992 and watching the firestorm it created.

“This in itself is an interesting story” is how he characterized his reaction to Oliver Stone’s JFK. “Why, after all these years, are we still fighting over this? What is it about the story that keeps us so passionate, so engaged?”
What he didn’t want to make was a movie putting forth yet another conspiracy theory or a debunking of all previous conspiracy theories. Rather, he longed to examine something deeper and far more psychological about the American character.

“Nobody had stepped back and told the story of the debate itself,” he says. “How did these ideas come about? Who propagated them and why were they so widely believed? And what had they done to this country? Seventy percent of Americans still believe the government was involved in the Kennedy assassination or has worked to cover it up. And that’s had a huge impact.”

In the end, a seemingly disparate chorus of voices – including the late Norman Mailer – accomplish the filmmaker’s objective.

As he says, Oswald’s Ghost is “a way of explaining the ’60s. We’re not arguing anymore about what happened in Dealey Plaza. It’s an argument about explaining what came after … and how did everything go so wrong.”

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Grand Re-Opening Set for Texas Theatre

Grand re-opening set for Texas Theatre
By Dan Ronan
DALLAS — The historic Texas Theatre has a brand-new look.

The movie house will forever be remembered as the place where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured, 90 minutes after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Oswald also shot and killed Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit before seeking refuge in the darkened auditorium.

For years, the icon on Jefferson Boulevard in the heart of Oak Cliff has been in a state of disrepair—but no longer. The Texas Theatre reopens Nov. 19 with a screening of the PBS movie Oswald’s Ghost.

Standing just a few feet from the seat where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured, Oak Cliff Foundation Chairman Monte Anderson said the nine-year, $3.5 million renovation is nearly complete. “This blighted theater what it was, back in action, is very important for the culture of this neighborhood and the restoration of this neighborhood,” Anderson said.

The Oak Cliff Foundation says a professional management company hopes to book the Texas Theatre 200 dates a year, with concerts, movies and other events—even Broadway showson tour. “When you come to a theater, you’re coming there for fun and excitement, enthusiasm, and Jefferson Boulevard needs that,” Anderson said. “It’s already on its way up.”

The Texas Theatre was built by Howard Hughes during the depths of the Depression. It was the first air conditioned theater in Dallas, and one of the biggest. Now its 665 seats have been restored; the cushions will be installed in a few days. New carpeting is also on the way.

Restoring the balcony and adding those 400 seats is the next big project. The movie theater with a rich legacy is getting another chance to entertain a new generation. “It can’t ever be torn down, so we’ve saved it from that,” Anderson said. “It kind of gives me goose bumps to think about it a little bit.”

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Texas Theatre Air Conditioning Units Airlifted by Helicopter

Oak Cliff Tribune
Texas Theatre Air Conditioning units Airlifted by Helicopter
By Jo Ann Holt, Columnist

Oak Cliff residents and early morning commuters were treated to an air show last Tuesday Oct. 23, when a helicopter airlifted a 60 ton AC unit and two 20 ton AC units to the Texas Theatre between 7:30-8:30 a.m. The AC units were too heavy to be delivered via flatbed, so the alternative is to airlift them directly to the Texas Theatre, 231 West Jefferson Boulevard, which has been undergoing an extensive renovation and restoration process since 2002.When the Texas Theatre was built in 1931, its systems were state of the art. The cooling and ventilation system, which blew 200,000 cubic feet of air per minute through a water-cooled system pumped from a 4,000-gallon tank, made “The Texas” the first theater in Dallas with air conditioning.

Since that time, the theater has had many owners and somehow escaped the wrecking ball after falling into disrepair in the late 1990’s.

In the latter part of 2000, Dallas Summer Musicals Management Group, a division of Dallas Summer Musicals, made a proposal to the City of Dallas to develop the theater into a critically needed community performing arts center. Preferring to stay in the theater management business as opposed to theater ownership, Dallas Summer Musicals Management Group, along with the City of Dallas approached the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and its philanthropic arm, the Oak Cliff Foundation, with a plan to manage the theater if the foundation would purchase it.

In 2001, the Oak Cliff Foundation was awarded $1.6 million from the City of Dallas Neighborhood Renaissance Partnership Program to purchase and renovate the theater. The foundation agreed to raise additional funds to complete the renovation and contract Dallas Summer Musicals Management Group to manage the performing arts center.

An extensive renovation and restoration project began in 2002 and continues today.

On November 22, 1963 at approximately 1:45 p.m., nearly 15 Dallas police officers converged on the Texas Theatre in search of a man who had entered without paying. That man was Lee Harvey Oswald—President John F. Kennedy’s accused lone assassin.

Commemorating the 44th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza has joined WGBH Educational Foundation, Oak Cliff Foundation, and Dallas Summer Musicals to stage a free public screening of Oswald’s Ghost Monday, at 7 p.m. November 19 at the Texas Theatre.

Produced by acclaimed director Robert Stone (Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, Radio Bikini) for American Experience in association with the BBC, the documentary film blends historical footage and contemporary interviews to create a thorough account of the Kennedy assassination and aftermath, while examining why this event continues to haunt the nation. After the screening, the Museum’s curator, Gary Mack, moderates a question-and-answer session with Stone, American Experience executive producer Mark Samels, author Josiah Thompson, and journalist Hugh Aynesworth.For more information about the free public screening of Oswald’s Ghost, visit www.jfk.org or call the Museum at 214-747-6660.

For more information about American Experience, visit www.pbs.org/americanexperience.

Texas Theatre Set To Reopen

October 12, 2007
Oak Cliff People
Texas Theatre Set To Reopen
by Chuck Cox
Staff WriterOne of the most famous landmarks in Dallas is about to be open for business for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Final preparations are being made for the Texas Theatre to be ready to open Nov. 18 for a screening of the Public Broadcasting Service’s documentary Oswald’s Ghost.

Staff photo: Allison SlomowitzThe renovated Texas Theatre is set to open Nov. 18. The film will be presented by the Sixth Floor Museum as part of this year’s 44th anniversary remembrance of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested at the theater Nov. 22, 1963, and charged with the assassination.
The theater’s reopening comes after six years of efforts by the Oak Cliff Foundation, which is taking out a $600,000 loan to have the building ready to go next month.

Hosting the movie helped the foundation decide to take out the loan.

“We’ve been working toward that slowly for about six months,” said Oak Cliff Foundation board member Ninette McDonald. “This just escalated things and boosted us into getting the job done.

“The situation with our foundation is that every board member is also an employed person in a fairly highly-placed position, so they only have a certain amount of time to add to this theater,” she said.

“The fact that funding has also been very slow — there are so many needy causes out there that it’s difficult to get the finish-out work — that’s why we opted to do the loan.”

Once the theater opens, McDonald expects funding to pick up steam quickly.

The foundation has spent $1.6 million in federal grant money to restore the theater but still needed between $400,000 and $500,000 to complete phase one of the project.

After Oswald’s Ghost is shown, the Texas Theatre, which opened in 1931, will host live performances run by Dallas Summer Musicals Management, which will also handle the day-to-day operations.

“We’re hoping to generate interest and generate donations that will hopefully retire that loan sooner than we planned, as well as operating capital to do the performances and the further enhancements that will be necessary to get this into a full-blown live performance theater,” McDonald said.

“Right now, it will be a rented sound system and lighting, which is coming over by way of DSM Management. We will also need to purchase a curtain.”

Once the theater is open again, it will also be available for weddings and other special events within the community.

McDonald also hopes to have tours available, especially around the anniversary date of the assassination.
“It’s our mandate to not only do the live performances … but we’re also obligated through our loan from the federal government to open the theater to non-profit organizations, local entities, special events, and that sort of thing — full usage,” McDonald said.

“It’s exciting as well as kind of a relief. The burden will shift more toward Dallas Summer Musicals, which will leave us to do what we need to do and put a face out there and raising money.”

Several Oak Cliff residents are thrilled by the reopening. Alice Reece, for example, grew up in Oak Cliff and was a regular at Saturday matinees. “It was an all-day mix of cowboy movies, serials, cartoons, and on-stage events,” Reece said. “It looked like snow with balcony dwellers tossing popcorn over the balcony edge.

“On the Texas stage were yo-yo contests sponsored by the Cheerio or Duncan Yo-Yo companies. The most memorable were the personal appearances of cowboy movie stars including Alan ‘Rocky’ Lane [who scared everyone by firing his six-shooter], Sunset Carson, and even ‘Hopalong’ Cassidy. Lash Larue gave a demonstration with his whip …

“I’m very pleased that the theater is re-opening, and I plan to check out the renovated Oak Cliff landmark,” she said.

E-mail chuck.cox@peoplenewspapers.com

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