When I first stepped foot onto Dealey Plaza in Dallas years ago, I had an instant feeling of deja vu, similar to what most of us feel when we visit a place in person that we've previously seen only in photographs, on film or on television. It was a beautiful, sunny day; I walked around the plaza for a long, long time, picturing in my mind the motorcade that carried President John F. Kennedy on his fateful trip, checking out all the angles, tromping around the grassy knoll, staring up at the former Texas School Book Depository. That building has been converted into The Sixth Floor Museum, where you can gaze down through the window where Lee Harvey Oswald reportedly fired his assassin's rifle at 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963.
The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald escaped from the building, rode a city bus for two blocks, traveled several miles by taxi, stopped by the rooming house where he was staying, and then shot and killed a police officer about half a mile away. He slipped into the nearby Texas Theatre without paying, and briefly watched War is Hell (second billed to Van Heflin in Cry of Battle). He was apprehended by a flock of police officers at approximately 1:45 p.m.
I'd never thought of the Texas Theatre except as an anonymous footnote to a tragedy. I ended up attending the re-opening of the building last week as a result of my assignment to review Robert Stone's documentary Oswald's Ghost, which opens in New York on Friday, November 30, and discovered quite accidentally that the Texas Theatre has a fascinating history of its own.