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Primary
Primary
Actors: Robert Drew, Hubert H. Humphrey, Jacqueline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy
Director: Robert Drew
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 0min

A new kind of reporting, a new form of history, Robert Drew promised John F. Kennedy. He was proposing that a revolutionary, small camera operated by cameraman Ricky Leacock and sync sound recorder operated by himself, liv...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Robert Drew, Hubert H. Humphrey, Jacqueline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy
Director: Robert Drew
Creators: Robert Drew, Albert Maysles, Richard Leacock
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Biography, History, Politics, Politics
Studio: NEW VIDEO GROUP
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 11/11/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/1960
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1960
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Vividly Re-Captures A Long-Ago Era; Outstanding Film!
David Von Pein | Mooresville, Indiana; USA | 12/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Robert Drew's "Primary" (1960) is a fascinating "You Are There" film, as we follow "Campaign '60" Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey all across the state of Wisconsin as the two White House hopefuls wield their all-too-apparent campaign skills during a series of wet and gloomy days just prior to the Wisconsin Presidential Primary.Drew's camera is very often literally right smack in the face of the candidates as they chat with ordinary folk on the small-town streets, while shaking too many hands to count, trying to woo voters.The "sync sound" camera utilized by Mr. Drew (and crew) was innovative for its time, giving the viewer the ability to hear, as well as see, the candidates up close and personal. Although, it appears the limited success of this "new-fangled" sync-sound technology is evident throughout this 53-minute black-and-white "Cinema Verite" production, with several portions of the film's "Live sound" not exactly meshing perfectly with the lips we see moving on screen. Occasionally, the sound is a few beats behind the video being shot. But, considering the newness of this type of "Live" filming of subjects, I'd say it was an excellent job done by the Robert Drew team of filmmakers.Off-screen narration is kept to a minimum during the film, with the emphasis obviously being on letting the camera run and letting whatever happens...happen. There's even a "scene" in the film where JFK's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, shows up "on the stump", helping out with his brother's efforts in this very important Primary. We're also treated to a very funny moment as RFK is being introduced to the waiting crowd of Kennedy supporters, when the person responsible for Bobby's intro announces him as "John Kennedy's son"! This gaffe elicited a nice roar of laughter from the crowd, plus (due to Mr. Drew's ever-present live microphone being focused on Jack Kennedy throughout the shoot), we hear JFK's spontaneously-funny response. "Son???", utters JFK, seemingly taken aback (but in his usual charming and witty way) by the announcer's honest error.Video quality here is not exactly perfect. Grain and "noise" are present throughout, but it's certainly not terrible-looking either. Keeping in mind the decades-old age of this film, I'd say this is a very nice DVD representation of the original material (probably pretty close to what it looked like in its original state in 1960).This DVD (part of "The Robert Drew Collection" of programs on Digital Disc) contains some nice bonus features, in addition to the excellent nearly hour-long main program. "Primary Originators" was taped in (mostly) 2000 and features members of Drew's "team" discussing and commenting on "Primary" and various other filmmaking subjects. The beginning of this feature also shows some clips of Robert Drew, circa 1962. The running time for this bonus is 27 minutes. And then there's "30/15" (meaning: "30 Years In 15 Minutes"), a 1993-produced fifteen-minute short film, which features highlights of various Robert Drew films.There's also a commentary track with Mr. Drew and one of his photographers, Richard Leacock.Some informative text screens are included on the DVD as well, giving us some background info on Robert Drew.This DVD's Menus are easily navigated and very simple in nature, without musical or animated transitions. Nice menu structure, IMO.If you ever feel like stepping into a time machine marked "early 1960", then save yourself the expense of building one and just pop in this program. It will immediately transport any viewer back to the "Good Ol' Days" of nineteen hundred & sixty, when a yet-to-turn-43-year-old Senator from Massachusetts named Jack Kennedy was near the beginning of his arduous and hard-fought struggle for the Presidency. A struggle which would (seven months after this film was produced) prove to be a successful one for JFK, landing him in the White House as the 35th President of the United States."Primary" is a trip down memory lane well worth taking."
Interesting historical document
Nichomachus | 07/15/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This is an interesting Robert Drew documentary of the final days of the 1960 Democratic primary in Wisconsin, between Minn. Senator Hubert Humphrey and Sen. Kennedy. The packaging and most commentary focuses on JFK, but actually there is fairly equal coverage of both campaigns, and I think it's a disservice to Humphrey to ignore that.It was, of course, a very interesting election year, with Kennedy's eventual razor-thin victory over Nixon in the general campaign. New campaign techniques, especially the mass appeal of television, were evolving along with the tried and true machine politics and stumping. You see quite a bit of that here in PRIMARY.This Wisconsin primary was very much a toss-up at the time, as well as strategically important for the nomination, so you see the candidates working quite hard to get out and connect with voters. Kennedy fans will love to see JFK working the crowds (one shot has five or six young women literally sprinting down a sidewalk to him) as well as election night with his wife and staff waiting for the results to come in. Jackie Kennedy also figures prominently. At one stump stop before a Polish crowd, right before election night, there is some great editing of Jackie's brief remarks to the crowd, with shots of her hands nervously playing behind her back. They did something similar with Kennedy as well. Kennedy's Catholicism was still a big issue, yet to be neutralized, which many will find interesting.However, I think the portions devoted to Humphrey, the "orator of the dawn," are equally interesting. Lyndon Johnson once said that Humphrey prepared for a major address "by taking a deep breath." Probably the best segment of the entire documentary is Humphrey talking to a group of less than thirty farmers; he had an extraordinary ability to connect concrete, national political issues to the interests of the voter. While not too familiar with this primary fight beyond this documentary, I got the sense that Humphrey was making a strategic mistake by spending so much time with rural voters in the final week, which he should already have solidified, instead of reaching out to urban constituencies and cutting into Kennedy's appeal there. Wisconsin was basically his back yard, and he shouldn't have lost that state.One of the more interesting sequences is on voting day, where Drew takes us through quick snatches of Wisconsinites opinions of the candidates over quick shots of the legs and shoes of voters in the booth. You get the sense of a wide variety of people participating from the different styles and evident economic standing and the accompanying anonymity, which is a subtle commentary on democracy.The approach of this documentary was technically and structurally revolutionary at the time. That also means that it's often confusing and difficult to watch. Virtually no narration accompanies it, no music apart from the crowds singing the awful campaign songs, and the editing focuses strictly on the two candidates interacting with voters. Thus, little historical context is provided for those wanting it, and there is virtually no insight into the internal operation of the campaign. The sound editing is often jumbled, so by no means expect to make out everything people are saying, but the camera work is probably better than ought to be expected.Thus, PRIMARY is more a historical document of a particular and interesting political moment. It doesn't function to illuminate and explain an era for you. Little the candidates do or say are individually important, but it gives you the flavor of the politics of the time.I saw the VHS version of this, which didn't have any extras. If the DVD has an English subtitle track, that would be useful to watch it with."
See where JFK's "Camelot" Began...
Commander Adama | USA | 11/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Robert Drew's "Primary" is a classic "you-are-there" documentary about the hard-fought 1960 Democratic presidential primary in Wisconsin. The primary featured two attractive liberal Senators - the wealthy, charismatic John F. Kennedy of Massachussetts, and the folksy, down-home Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. Both candidates gave Drew and his film crew unprecendented access to the inner workings of their campaigns. Filmed entirely in black-and-white, the video has little narration - instead you spend roughly fifty minutes following each candidate as he campaigns around the state, and then watching each candidate as they listen to the voting results on election night. I had seen many clips from this video in other documentaries on JFK's life and career, so it was nice to finally see the entire video. Humphrey is seen campaigning to farmers and country folk in western Wisconsin - his main base of support. Riding in a bus with an "Over the Hump with Humphrey" sign plastered on the front, he jokes with farmers, appears on a TV "question-and-answer" show, and talks with his bus driver while his campaign manager snoozes in the back. Kennedy is seen wooing voters in Milwaukee and other cities in eastern Wisconsin, where Polish voters sing (horribly off-key) JFK's campaign song "High Hopes". He and his wife Jackie then shake the hands of each voter there, and you can clearly see the hold that JFK had on female voters, as most of those shaking hands are younger women who cast an adoring look on Kennedy as he smiles and asks for their support. From the beginning of this video you can tell that Kennedy is going to win the Wisconsin primary (JFK beat Humphrey 56-44%, thus beginning his string of election victories that would run through the general election in November 1960, where he defeated Vice-President Nixon). JFK's campaign was much better-financed, better-organized, and more professional than Humphrey's, and Kennedy had workers helping him in every precinct in Wisconsin. Humphrey's campaign, on the other hand, comes across in this video as a jolly, endearing but also bumbling operation - Humphrey often shows up to greet just two or three voters in a town, while Kennedy is seen shaking hands with hundreds of people at a time. To be sure, this video will ONLY be of interest to people who are interested in politics, the Kennedys, or Humphrey. Anyone else will probably fall asleep watching it. However, for a political "junkie" this video will be a delight - and it will also provide a nostalgic "snapshot" of the beginnings of the Kennedy "mystique" and "camelot". Recommended!"
A Robert Drew classic!
Vince Palamara | South Park/Bethel Park, PA | 12/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a classic from the famed Robert Drew and shows JFK and Hubert Humphrey, 'unplugged'. I very much like the behind-the-scenes footage and off-the-cuff remarks. Well done.
Vince Palamara-JFK/ Secret Service expert (History Channel, author of two books, in over 30 other author's books, etc.)
Pittsburgh, PA

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