Mary Jo Kopechne's Family: She Was No 'Wide-Eyed Idealist'

Film 'Chappaquiddick' revisits her 1969 death in Ted Kennedy's car
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2018 2:48 PM CDT

(Newser) – Chappaquiddick is back in the headlines again, thanks to the release on Friday of a movie based on the infamous 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne. The 28-year-old died after she left a party on Chappaquiddick Island with Ted Kennedy, whose Oldsmobile went off an island bridge and plunged into a tidal pond. Kennedy escaped the car, later saying he dove repeatedly in an unsuccessful attempt to save Kopechne, who never made it out. Kennedy then waited 10 hours to report the incident, and his car wasn't pulled out of the water until the next morning. The movie explores these events, making some leaps of its own about Kennedy's behavior. Details:

  • The basics: USA Today has a primer on the incident, the movie (starring Jason Clarke as Kennedy and Kate Mara as Kopechne), and context about the era and the Kennedy clan. (RFK had been killed about a year earlier.) Producers Taylor Allen, 34, and Andrew Logan, 35, say the film (which alleges a cover-up orchestrated by patriarch Joe Kennedy) is neither pro- nor anti-Kennedy.
  • About Kopechne: She worked on Robert Kennedy's campaign and in the civil rights movement, and her family is pleased her fuller story is being told. "She was not a wide-eyed Capitol Hill staffer," write her aunt and cousin in USA Today. "She was a 28-year-old seasoned idealist in a time when everything seemed possible." They see all this as "the classic American tragedy."

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