Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1981)
Rod Taylor plays "Black Jack" Bouvier, the father of the famous
first lady in what ABC billed as an "affectionate portrait of Jackie
and Jack Kennedy."
The story begins when Jackie was 5 years old and ends following President
Kennedy's assassination. Jaclyn Smith earned a Golden Globe nomination for
her portrayal of Jackie, but Rod steals the show from the very first scene.
The New York Times agreed in an Oct. 14, 1981: "Bouvier, played with rough but affecting compassion by Rod Taylor, is the only
character who brings a dash of life to the film's bland proceedings."
The Times writer, John J. O'Connor, further described Rod's Jack
Bouvier: "He is the determined charmer, telling his young daughter,
'We live in a special world -- it's a little bumpy but we always get
up again.' Years later, he assures her, 'You were destined for
greatness, my darling.'"
The show opens with "Black Jack" motoring along in a bright
red roadster, on top of the world. As the story progresses, Black Jack's
fortunes diminish, but he retains his charm and is adored by Jackie despite his
flaws. His final scene with his daughter should mark the end of the movie, as he
bestows wisdom upon her that would serve her well: "Create an aura, maintain a
little mystery, and above all, never let them know what you are thinking."
The movie dies along with Black Jack, as the show stumbles along through
the Kennedy administration, assassination, and wraps up with some corny "Camelot"
Tom Shales, the usually grumpy TV critic of the Washington Post, heaped
praise upon Rod in an otherwise unfavorable review from Oct. 14, 1981 (the
date the show first aired):
There is, upon this film's frothy field of taffeta, one
genuine and dimensional performance -- Rod Taylor as Jackie's ne'er-do-well
but adored father, "Black Jack" Bouvier. Now that Taylor is too
old for the macho muscleboy parts, his face has suddenly become interesting
and full of character. And with a little Gablesque pencil mustache, he
makes a touchingly downtrodden old sport, grandly keeping up appearances
and telling his daughter to get up and walk after she falls off a horse.
One begins to long for Taylor's reappearances since he
is about the only excuse for a human being in the picture. He pops back
into the story when the Bouvier-Kennedy engagement is announced, trying
to bum a cutaway coat off a clothier so he can pridefully give the bride
away. But while the wedding ceremony is taking place, the camera searches
him out in his hotel, where he has fallen asleep drunk.
An Oct. 13, 1981, review in the Chicago Tribune noted:
Rod Taylor is wonderful as Black Jack Bouvier, Jackie's father... Black
Jack was ... "the most important relationship in her life," [said
Steven Gethers, the director and writer of the TV movie]. It is certainly the
most important relationship in the movie. Jackie's father was apparently
something of a gadabout, a drinker, a carouser. He loved all the finer things
in life, and considered his rebellious, independent-minded daughter one of the
In another interview, Gethers said, "Rod Taylor had a chance to play a kind
of character he'd never done before and gave one of the best performances of his
A 1986 review in the Queensland Sunday Mail also noted Rod's performance:
[Jackie's] hard-drinking, womanising, gambling father,
Black Jack Bouvier, is given a gutsy representation by Rod Taylor who,
it is said, drew on his own hard-drinking and womanising experiences for
He is now a changed man. During the filming of this flick,
Taylor said: "Considering my past, I've finally been given a role
I truly deserve. It's natural casting."
A reviewer in the Detroit Free Press (Mike
Duffy, Oct. 14, 1981) thought the scenes between James Franciscus
and Jaclyn Smith were bland.
"Not so, however, with the scenes during the movie's first hour
involving Jacqueline and her father Jack Bouvier, played with
devilish, poignant flair by Rod Taylor. Bouvier, known as Black
Jack, was a flamboyant rascal who wore flashy clothes and drove
flashy cars. His apparent mission in life was to carouse. He drank
too much by far.
"There is a genuine father-daughter tension and love in the scenes
between Smith and Taylor. In those few moments, [the show] slips out of its
During one of her regular Q&A sessions on Twitter, Jaclyn Smith
answered our question, "What was it like to act with Rod Taylor?"
Here was her reply:
"He was a excellent actor, but he was such a wildcard. I never knew
what he would surprise me with. He was actually a lot like
[Jackie's] father. I loved working with him because it challenged me
to step up my game so I was performing at his level. It's really
what every actor wants." (Sept. 5, 2018)