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Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Drew, Hubert H. Humphrey, Joseph Julian, Jacqueline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy
  • Directors: Robert Drew
  • Writers: Robert Drew
  • Producers: Robert Drew
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: November 11, 2003
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000C5RQA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,194 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Primary" on IMDb

Special Features

  • "The Originators": Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker, and Albert Maysles recall their Primary breakthrough
  • "30/15": 30 years of Robert Drew filmmaking
  • Filmmaker statement
  • Filmmaker biography

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A new kind of reporting, a new form of history, Robert Drew promised John F. Kennedy. He was proposing that a revolutionary, small camera operated by cameraman Ricky Leacock and sync sound recorder operated by himself, live with Kennedy day and night for


A bygone era of political campaigning is the subject of Primary, a fascinating cinema verité portrait of a crucial step on John F. Kennedy's path to the White House. Using the most portable sound and film equipment available in 1960, pioneering documentarian Robert Drew and a crew of innovative, important filmmakers in their own right (including verité legends D.A. Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, and Albert Maysles) were given a week of round-the-clock access to Kennedy as he toured the cities and towns of Wisconsin, campaigning against rival front-runner Hubert Humphrey in the state's pivotal primary election. With minimal narration and ground-breaking, no-frills technique heretofore unseen in TV news reporting (this film originally aired as an ABC news special), Drew gives equal time to Humphrey, but it's obvious that JFK's charisma, and the quiet campaign-trail grace of his wife Jacqueline, would carry them to eventual victory. The intimacy of these images is astonishing, captured just before television would come to dominate the political process. With a "cliffhanger" ending, Primary was inducted into the Library of Congress' prestigious National Film Registry in 1990, and it's an essential companion to Drew's 1963 film Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

The beginning of this feature also shows some clips of Robert Drew, circa 1962.
David Von Pein
Drew's film simultaneously acts as perhaps the most compelling example of cinema- verity and a riveting magic carpet to few days in the fall of 1960-fabulous !
Fred burns
Thus, little historical context is provided for those wanting it, and there is virtually no insight into the internal operation of the campaign.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Von Pein on December 6, 2003
Format: DVD
Robert Drew's "Primary" (1960) is a fascinating "You Are There" film, as we follow "Campaign '60" Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey all across the state of Wisconsin as the two White House hopefuls wield their all-too-apparent campaign skills during a series of wet and gloomy days just prior to the Wisconsin Presidential Primary.
Drew's camera is very often literally right smack in the face of the candidates as they chat with ordinary folk on the small-town streets, while shaking too many hands to count, trying to woo voters.
The "sync sound" camera utilized by Mr. Drew (and crew) was innovative for its time, giving the viewer the ability to hear, as well as see, the candidates up close and personal. Although, it appears the limited success of this "new-fangled" sync-sound technology is evident throughout this 53-minute black-and-white "Cinema Verite" production, with several portions of the film's "Live sound" not exactly meshing perfectly with the lips we see moving on screen. Occasionally, the sound is a few beats behind the video being shot. But, considering the newness of this type of "Live" filming of subjects, I'd say it was an excellent job done by the Robert Drew team of filmmakers.
Off-screen narration is kept to a minimum during the film, with the emphasis obviously being on letting the camera run and letting whatever happens...happen.
There's even a "scene" in the film where JFK's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, shows up "on the stump", helping out with his brother's efforts in this very important Primary. We're also treated to a very funny moment as RFK is being introduced to the waiting crowd of Kennedy supporters, when the person responsible for Bobby's intro announces him as "John Kennedy's son"!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Commander Adama on November 30, 2003
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Robert Drew's "Primary" is a classic "you-are-there" documentary about the hard-fought 1960 Democratic presidential primary in Wisconsin. The primary featured two attractive liberal Senators - the wealthy, charismatic John F. Kennedy of Massachussetts, and the folksy, gregarious Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. Both candidates gave Drew and his film crew unprecendented access to the inner workings of their campaigns. Filmed entirely in black-and-white, the video has little narration - instead you spend roughly fifty minutes following each candidate as he campaigns around the state, and then watching each candidate as they listen to the voting results on election night. I had seen many clips from this video in other documentaries on JFK's life and career, so it was nice to finally see the entire video. Humphrey is seen campaigning to farmers and country folk in western Wisconsin - his main base of support. Riding in a bus with an "Over the Hump with Humphrey" sign plastered on the front, he jokes with farmers, appears on a TV "question-and-answer" show, and talks with his bus driver while his campaign manager snoozes in the back. Kennedy is seen wooing voters in Milwaukee and other cities in eastern Wisconsin, where Polish voters sing (horribly off-key) JFK's campaign song "High Hopes". He and his wife Jackie then shake the hands of each voter there, and you can clearly see the hold that JFK had on female voters, as most of those shaking hands are younger women who cast an adoring look on Kennedy as he smiles and asks for their support.Read more ›
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nichomachus on July 15, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
This is an interesting Robert Drew documentary of the final days of the 1960 Democratic primary in Wisconsin, between Minn. Senator Hubert Humphrey and Sen. Kennedy. The packaging and most commentary focuses on JFK, but actually there is fairly equal coverage of both campaigns, and I think it's a disservice to Humphrey to ignore that.
It was, of course, a very interesting election year, with Kennedy's eventual razor-thin victory over Nixon in the general campaign. New campaign techniques, especially the mass appeal of television, were evolving along with the tried and true machine politics and stumping. You see quite a bit of that here in PRIMARY.
This Wisconsin primary was very much a toss-up at the time, as well as strategically important for the nomination, so you see the candidates working quite hard to get out and connect with voters. Kennedy fans will love to see JFK working the crowds (one shot has five or six young women literally sprinting down a sidewalk to him) as well as election night with his wife and staff waiting for the results to come in. Jackie Kennedy also figures prominently. At one stump stop before a Polish crowd, right before election night, there is some great editing of Jackie's brief remarks to the crowd, with shots of her hands nervously playing behind her back. They did something similar with Kennedy as well. Kennedy's Catholicism was still a big issue, yet to be neutralized, which many will find interesting.
However, I think the portions devoted to Humphrey, the "orator of the dawn," are equally interesting. Lyndon Johnson once said that Humphrey prepared for a major address "by taking a deep breath.
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