Hearing Jackie (and Where To See Her Smoking)

After being dumped by the History Channel and scorned by other skittish networks, The Kennedys miniseries has found a home after all, on the little-known ReelzChannel. The WaPo's Lisa de Moraes has an amusing report.

Buried in The Hollywood Reporter's original article on History's decision to scuttle the show was the news that, in exchange for its discretion, one of the network's parent companies might get access to rare recordings of Jackie Kennedy's voice.

Caroline Kennedy has a book deal with Disney's Hyperion publishing division, which announced in April 2010 that it will publish a collection of previously unreleased interviews with the late Jackie Kennedy timed to the 50th anniversary of the first year of JFK's presidency this fall.

Caroline has agreed to edit the untitled book, write an introduction and to help promote it, including making an appearance on Disney/ABC's Good Morning America, among other outlets. As part of the promotion for the book, Caroline is expected to reveal some of the 6.5 hours of previously unheard audiotapes of the former First Lady that form the basis of the book.

MSNBC's snarkier BLTWY fills in some background:

Had the History Channel not bowed to her influence, their mother company would have likely lost out on an another Kennedy venture; a volume containing six and a half hours of hitherto-secret interviews that her mother, Jacqueline, did with worshipful historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in 1964. The audio book, due out in September, will let you hear Jackie speak in her breathy, Vassar voice about her husband's early campaigns, the Cuban Missile Crisis and “married life in the White House,” according to Hyperion Books.

Considering that Jackie once forbade hagiographer William Manchester from even revealing that she smoked, you have to wonder how much she'll spill. “I seriously doubt that she would open her heart,” says Kennedy biographer Edward Klein. “And, if there's anything remotely embarrassing, I think Caroline would expunge it.”

The Kennedys' glamour is an important income-generating asset, so I, too, doubt we'll be hearing anything revealing. But we will hear something, which in itself is unusual.

One of the world's most photographed women, Jackie mostly let her carefully crafted image speak for her. (Here's a rare photo of Jackie smoking.) Only a few public traces of her voice remain, most of them from the 1960 campaign or White House years. And unlike the graceful photos, they seem dated, calculated, and a little strange.

The most famous, featured at the top of this post, is her White House tour, broadcast on CBS. There she speaks in ingratiatingly tones, masking the fact that she's didactically instructing both her interviewer and the general public, who don't share her high-end taste or her knowledge of decorative arts. By contrast, when interrogating Dr. Benjamin Spock in a 1960 campaign ad, she plays a subtly flirtatious, slightly dim student. In another campaign video, introduced by Myrna Loy, she acts the normal American wife and mother, just like the women watching. "Now I think politics is one of the most rewarding lives a woman can have--to be married to a politician," she affirms.

New recorded interviews promise to undercut Jackie's mystery. Because the recordings date from 1964, when she was still playing the perfect husband's perfect widow, they also threaten the new post-feminist image crafted for her in the recent booksfocusing on her publishing career.