96. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the United States Information Agency (Wilson) to President Kennedy 1

On August 23, 1962, the Senate passed a resolution that the USIA films on Mrs. Kennedy’s trip to India-Pakistan should be shown to the American public.2 Unfortunately, no action was taken by the House.

We recommend going ahead with commercial distribution of the film in this country, although we fully realize it may call forth some criticism from members of the House.

We have evolved the following plan for distribution: The two films,3 which run for a total of 37 minutes, will be edited into one 30 minute film.4 United Artists, on behalf of the motion picture industry, will pay for the editing and will distribute the film at Christmas time along with their feature production, “Taras Bulba,” which stars Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis. Both the timing and the particular feature film should result in the best possible audience.

United Artists estimates that the film will be shown in at least 8,000 theaters. It will be followed by a trailer indicating that it was produced by the U.S. Information Agency and shown by its overseas posts on a world-wide basis.

United Artists will assume all distribution costs, which include the buying of prints and advertising. They will retain 35% of the gross as their distribution fee. The remaining 65% will be used by United Artists to provide USIA with additional prints and language versions. This will enable us to service the requests of our overseas posts which we [Page 252] have been unable to meet within our regular budget. Any part of the 65% which is unspent will be turned over to the Treasury Department.

We would appreciate your opinion on this plan of action.5

Donald M. Wilson
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Box 91, USIA 7/62–12/62. No classification marking. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates that it was received in the White House on October 17 at 4:55 p.m. An unknown hand, presumably the President’s, wrote “ok” in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum. Although no drafting information appears on the memorandum, another copy indicates that it was drafted by Wilson and that copies were sent to Guarco and Plesent. (Kennedy Library, United States Information Agency Records (RG 306), Series 1, Records, 1961–1964, Box 1, Memoranda 1961–1964 [1 of 3])
  2. The First Lady traveled to India and Pakistan in March 1962. Senate Concurrent Resolution 84. In a July 20 memorandum to Salinger, Wilson stated that Gore had introduced the resolution in the Senate and Fulton in the House in order to “permit arrangements whereby USIA would make the films available to educational and commercial media in the United States.” (Kennedy Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Executive, Box 184, FG 296 U.S. Information Agency 3-1-62–3-31-63)
  3. Invitation to Pakistan and Invitation to India, directed by Seltzer. See Appendix A.1 and A.2.
  4. Jacqueline Kennedy’s Asian Journey.
  5. In an October 22 memorandum to Wilson, Evelyn Lincoln wrote: “The President read your memorandum concerning the distribution of the USIA film on Mrs. Kennedy’s trip to India-Pakistan and he asked me to tell you that he approves your plan of distribution.” (Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Box 91, USIA 7/62–12/62) In a November 7 memorandum to O’Brien, Wilson indicated that USIA had “decided to proceed with the domestic distribution of a 30 minute film on Mrs. Kennedy’s trip to India and Pakistan.” (Kennedy Library, United States Information Agency Records (RG 306), Series 1, Records, 1961–1964, Box 1, Memoranda 1961–1964 [1 of 3]) On December 25, Jacqueline Kennedy’s Asian Journey, paired with Taras Bulba, opened in U.S. theaters. (Bosley Crowther, “‘Taras Bulba’ Stars Brynner and Curtis,” The New York Times, December 26, 1962, p. 5)