Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment is a 1963 documentary by Robert Drew.
It is a record of the June 1963 "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door", regarding the judicially-mandated racial integration of the University of Alabama, the opposition to the same from Governor George Wallace, and the subsequent intervention by President John F. Kennedy.
The first two black students at the university, Vivian Malone and James Hood, were arriving in June 1963. A similar moment when James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962 had led to a white racist riot which ended in two deaths and much destruction of property. President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, seek to find a way to get Malone and Hood enrolled in accordance with the judge's order, while allowing Wallace to save face and avoiding violence.
Drew's cameras were granted unlimited access to the Kennedy brothers, as well as George Wallace, as events unfolded. Crisis was first shown on ABC television in October 1963, four months after it was filmed and only a month before John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 2011.
Compare Primary, a Drew documentary about the 1960 Wisconsin primary in which Drew had similar fly-on-the-wall access to Kennedy as well as Kennedy's opponent Hubert Humphrey.
Tropes used in this film:
- Extremely Short Timespan: The opening narration says events take place over only 30 hours.
- Heat Wave: Nicholas Kaltenbach tells Robert Kennedy's little daughter that it's 98 degrees in Alabama and "we're all gonna get hardship pay."
- Hitler Cam: Used for some early shots of Wallace, and appropriate as he is the villain of the piece.
- Narrator: James Lipscomb, who was a cinematographer on the project, also provides narration.
- Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with RFK placing a triumphal good night phone call to his brother, then striding away from the camera, taking off his tie as he goes.
- Pet the Dog: Wallace is shown being affectionate to his toddler grandchild.
- Villain Opening Scene: The first shots are of George Wallace at the Alabama state capitol.