November 22, 1963: Hollywood Remembers

On November 22, 1963, the unthinkable happened. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Millions mourned the death of the charismatic leader, and to this day, those Americans can vividly remember the moment when they found out about the horrific news.

Hollywood felt the weight of the tragedy too, and on the sets of Robin and the 7 Hoods, My Fair Lady, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the cast and crew gathered to grieve and remember.

On the Unsinkable set, Debbie Reynolds remembered, “We stopped everything and listened to the radio to find out that the worst had happened.”

Audrey Hepburn had just completed her rendition of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” for My Fair Lady when she heard the news from Director George Cukor.

As her director struggled to remain composed, Hepburn announced the tragedy to her cast mates and crew and called them to a moment of prayer. Despite the studio’s insistence that they continue shooting, the cast took couldn’t finish the day’s work.

Frank Sinatra was the first to learn about Kennedy’s death while Robin was filming, and he immediately interrupted the courtroom scene. Sinatra had been an influential voice for Kennedy, helping secure donors and even lending his voice for the campaign version of his hit “High Hopes”.

Sinatra was especially in shock as days earlier, when shooting at a cemetery, he had coincidently leaned against a tombstone belonging to another "John Kennedy". Production shut down for three days, and afterwards, despite being surrounded by his Rat Pack family, the enthusiasm for the picture was never the same.

“Everyone was devastated. It didn’t seem real,” Debbie Reynolds said. “I was fortunate to have met John F. Kennedy. He was very supportive of my Hollywood museum project. His death was a great loss to the country.”