The Zapruder film, often considered the most studied home movie clip ever, is back under the microscope.
Shot by Abraham Zapruder, a 58-year-old Russian immigrant, the 26-second film captures the moment President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. The 50th anniversary of the late president's assassination is on Friday, sparking renewed interest in the video.
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Zapruder was a manufacturer of women’s clothing who was a fan of Kennedy. He said he didn’t intend to film the motorcade, but did so at the urging of a friend. Fox's Dallas affiliate reported
that he was standing on a concrete block at Dealey Plaza, an assistant steadying him from behind, when Kennedy was shot.
Time later bought the film and the copyright for $150,000. Individual frames were published in Life magazine.
“As I was shooting, as the president was coming down from Houston Street making his turn, it was about a half-way down there, I heard a shot, and he slumped to the side,” Zapruder told an ABC affiliate
at the time. “Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn’t say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything, and I kept on shooting. That’s about all, I’m just sick, I can’t ...”
The film became a critical element of the Warren Commission hearings and subsequent investigations into the assassination. Kennedy was directly in front of Zapruder when he filmed the event from slightly higher ground.
The film is the only known video of the entire assassination sequence. He screened the movie clip for Secret Service agents before agreeing to sell the rights to Time Inc. He gave $25,000 to the widow of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit, whom assassin Lee Harvey Oswald shot when the officer stopped him for questioning about 45 minutes after the president was fatally wounded.
Time later sold the film back to Zapruder for $1. In 1999, the government paid the family $16 million for the original film. The copyright was donated by the Zapruders to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
Zapruder died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 66.
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