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HBO’s Ted Kennedy Doc

Emk The moment that stood out for me in HBO’s “Teddy: In His Own Words,” a high-caliber biography of Edward M. Kennedy, was a clip of a 1970 interview he gave with Barbara Walters.

It is almost a year after Chappaquiddick, and following the assassination of his two brothers, she asks him whether the price of public life is “worth the pain”?

He dodges the question a bit, telling how he advises his children to pursue public service.

Then she presses him again. “So it is worth it then?”

Almost reluctantly, Kennedy tells her, “Well, I suppose it is.”

This type of footage is what ultimately makes this documentary stand out from so many others done on the Kennedy family. It’s by no means anything other than affectionate, but it is rather frank in presenting the blemishes, scandal and setbacks of Kennedy’s career, and of course the tragedies.

The filmmakers cull some of the Nixon tapes to find the president scheming to embarrass Kennedy in 1972, plotting in any way possible to discredit him over the fear that he would enter the race. (Nixon is destined to make cameo appearances in many, many biographies to come). It’s this environment of paranoia that ultimately led to Watergate, and most prescient and amusing is a clip of Kennedy guesting on Dick Cavett’s show just a couple of days after the break in.

The finish of “Teddy: In His Own Words” is of Kennedy championing the campaign of Barack Obama, as the liberal lion, participating in a yacting race even as he faces treatments for brain cancer. It is a redemption in a way, but also a reminder that well after he was a source of tabloid headlines and polarizing opinions, and of his unrealized presidential ambitions, you are left with little doubt that he still thinks it was worth it.

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