JFK: The Lost Inaugural Gala

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. 
If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” 

-- John F. Kennedy

Ask any American to name the President and First Lady most associated with the arts and the answer will be John F. Kennedy and his elegant wife, Jacqueline Bouvier.  Their youth, vitality and exquisite style inspired an unprecedented outpouring of appreciation for the arts which still shapes our society fifty years later.

Newspapers of the early 1960s proclaimed America’s great "cultural explosion," and the Kennedys’ special interest in the arts was immediately apparent. More than 150 artists, writers and scholars, among them John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Harry Belafonte, Diana Vreeland, Mark Rothko, Ella Fitzgerald and Bette Davis, were invited to attend the Inauguration, and the esteemed poet Robert Frost recited a newly written verse just for the occasion.

A fierce snowstorm the day before turned the Inaugural Gala Concert into a wildly impromptu affair. But with typical Kennedy flair, the Gala became a presidential bash – a glamorous, star-studded, historically unparalleled party, hosted by Frank Sinatra with a cavalcade of Broadway and Hollywood stars of the era, and an epic story yet to be told on television. 

The long-lost 1961 Pre-inaugural Gala concert, performed on the evening before JFK's swearing-in, serves as the framing device to illuminate how John and Jacqueline Kennedy helped usher in a new era of hopefulness, civic pride and artistic expression. Seen for the first time ever exclusively on PBS, the program features an all-star cast: Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman, Nat King Cole,Gene Kelly, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Durante, and Harry Belafonte.

The program airs in June 2017 to commemorate the centennial of the birth of John F. Kennedy. 

Produced by Paulson Productions and Creative Retrospectives.  

View JFK Gala sample:

JFK: The Lost Inaugural Gala demo