In honor of Friday’s 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, let’s revisit a landmark in the life of the First Lady — Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis) — who hosted a TV tour of the White House in 1962.
With the support of her husband, Mrs. Kennedy had worked diligently throughout 1961, their first year in the Executive Mansion, to restore many of the state and private rooms with period pieces rather than reproductions. And she spearheaded the formation of the White House Historical Assn., which raised funds for the ambitious project.
To showcase the results, Mrs. Kennedy gave CBS newsman Charles Collingwood a tour of these rooms, many of which remain this way today. Both the Tiffany net and NBC aired this hour-long program on Valentine’s Day, with ABC rebroadcasting it four days later. (Watch the entire program, including a charming appearance by the President, below.)
The ratings were staggering and the reviews rapturous. Not surprisingly, the TV academy feted both the program and Mrs. Kennedy with honorary awards at their kudofest that spring. Back then, the Emmys were held in both Hollywood and Gotham and that year, as in 1959, the capital also played host. Lady Bird Johnson, wife of then Vice President Lyndon Johnson, accepted the award on Mrs. Kennedy’s behalf. The statuette is on display at the JFK presidential library in Boston.
The director of the special, Franklin Schaffner, picked up the helming award that night for his work on the “The Defenders,” which also won Drama Program of the Year. He went on to win an Oscar eight years later for helming Best Picture winner “Patton.”
Other notable winners in 1962 included Shirley Booth who became the second performer, after Helen Hayes, to complete the triple crown of acting awards. Booth did it by picking up an Emmy as Best Actress in a Series for “Hazel” to go alongside her three Tony Awards and one Academy Award (for “Come Back, Little Sheba”). Eventual five-time Tony champ Julie Harris won her second Emmy for starring in the Program of the Year “Victoria Regina.” And Bob Newhart‘s short-lived show won Humor Program of the Year, though the comedy legend had to wait till this year to take home an Emmy himself for his guest appearance on the laffer “The Big Bang Theory.”
And by winning an Emmy for the music he composed for the documentary series “Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years,” Richard Rodgers became the first person to run the grand slam of showbiz awards. He already had an Oscar for the song “It Might as Well be Spring” from 1945’s “State Fair,” five Tony Awards for his work on Best Musicals “South Pacific” (1950), “The King and I” (1952), and “The Sound of Music” (1960) as well as a 1960 Grammy for the original cast album of the latter. Bracketing his Emmy victory that spring by just two weeks on either side was another Tony for composing “No Strings” and another Grammy for that show’s cast album.
To read more about the long-lasting effects of Mrs. Kennedy’s efforts, visit the WHHA website here.