‘Dude Where’s My Car?’ Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick to Get Hollywood Spin

This July 19, 1969 file photo shows the wreckage of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy's car after being pulled from the water next to the Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard. A new feature film is in the works about the tragedy on the small Massachusetts …
AP Photo

If Hollywood is finally going to make a movie about Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick disaster, the filmmakers are going to need an appropriate title.

Unfortunately, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” is already taken. So are “Car Wash” and “Waterworld.” Ditto, perhaps the most apt title, given the senior senator’s sobriety at the time of the fatal 1969 crash, “Dude Where’s My Car?”

Another title that’s already been used is “Something About Mary,” although perhaps the moguls could rework it as “Something About Mary Jo,” the first name of the Kennedy-family retainer Mary Jo Kopechne who drowned in Rose Kennedy’s 1967 Oldsmobile.

At the time, Teddy had been driving unlicensed for six months – he was lucky not to be charged with impersonating an illegal alien. Another interesting fact about Chappaquiddick: when Kennedy filled out the initial police report, he left a blank space for Mary Jo’s last name. After all, she’d only been working for Kennedys or their procurers (Sen. George Smathers) or living in the houses of other admitted family pimps (LBJ fixer Bobby Baker) for six years.

So why would he know Mary Jo’s last name?

It’s obvious that the Kennedys don’t want to a film made about Chappaquiddick under any circumstances. But do they still have the clout in Hollywood to stop one?

They’ve been able to quash less-than-worshipful movies and documentaries in the past – in 1985 it was an ABC News documentary about film goddess Marilyn Monroe’s affairs with President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy in the months before her mysterious death in August 1962.

You could ask Geraldo Rivera about that one – a Kennedy cousin later told him he was forced out of ABC News because of his role as a reporter in that special.

The Kennedys have had less success stopping publication of unfavorable books about Teddy, the runt of the litter. First was the definitive work about Chappaquiddick, Senatorial Privilege, by Leo Damore, who later committed suicide, and “The Senator,” by longtime Kennedy aide Richard Burke. Both suffered delays, but were eventually published – and sold well.

The Kennedys have always wielded more power in Hollywood. In 1992 a project tentatively titled “Death at Chappaquiddick” was announced. Production never began. In 2011, the History Channel briefly considered a mini-series starring Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear.

Of course the Kennedys hate the thought of a movie about one of the clan’s darkest hours, even among their many dark, scandal-filled hours. For almost a half-century now, the family has been haunted by the unfortunate death of a woman whose body was rushed off the island before an autopsy could be performed.

When the Ted Kennedy “institute” opened in Boston last year, eyebrows were raised by the fact that it featured a “Senate Immersion Chamber” – an unfortunate choice of words. Others griped that the ill-conceived shrine on Columbia Point in Dorchester should have included a glass-bottomed boat, which would have enabled tourists to take a Boston Harbor cruise where they could have waved at some of Teddy’s girlfriends.

Now it’s the turn of Apex Productions to attempt to turn the Kennedys’ Chappaquiddick follies into a screen gem. It’s been announced that Jason Clarke, late of the Showtime series “Brotherhood,” has been cast as Teddy Kennedy.

The producer, Mark Ciardi, is obviously trying to get on the good side of the notoriously thin-skinned family, saying that he wants to stress the horror that was visited upon, not the actual victim who suffocated in the back seat, perhaps needlessly, but on the drunken senator who swam to safety and then neglected to call authorities for 11 hours.

“You’ll see,” Ciardi told the Hollywood Reporter, “what he had to go through.”

So now they need a title. The recent Benghazi movie was called “13 Hours.” Maybe this one should be named “11 Hours.” In the early 1960s, a movie was made about JFK’s sunken boat in World War II – “PT 109.” Maybe the Chappaquiddick story could be called “PT 9-1-1.”

JFK famously said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But not all Oldsmobiles. From Profiles in Courage to Profiles in Cognac.

It was a Delmont that Teddy was driving that liquid evening. Many have forgotten that model – it was to Oldsmobile what the Biscayne was to Chevrolet, the no-frills line. Rose Kennedy was always very tight with a buck, just like her youngest son was always tight… period.

Remember “The Full Monty? How about “The Full Delmonty?” The Brits made a great WW2 naval movie, “Sink the Bismarck.” Perhaps the Chappaquiddick film could become “Sink the Delmont.”

Here are some other potential titles for the Chappaquiddick film:

“Drowning Miss Kopechne.”

“A Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”

“The Man from C.H.I.V.A.S.”

“A Bridge Too Far,” to be followed by a sequel about a later Ted Kennedy scandal, “A Bridge Au Bar.”

“Ice Cube Station Zebra.”

“The Drowning Fool.”

“In Golden Pond.” (Alternates: “On Golden Blonde” and “In Poucha Pond.”)

“The Bridges of Dukes County.” (That’s where Martha’s Vineyard is located.)

“Sponge Ted No Pants.”

“20,000 Beers Under the Sea.”

“A River Runs Through It.” (Or at least, the Gulf Stream.)

“Scotch ‘n’ Water” or “Scotch ‘n’ a Splash.”

“Silence of the Gams.”

Howie Carr is a syndicated talk radio host and best-selling author. His latest book, Killers, is a crime thriller set in the Boston underworld. 


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