cloudy
Sunday August 30th, 2015 1:59AM

Zapruder film: Images as history, pre-Smartphone

By The Associated Press
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of reports this week marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.)

............................................................................

If anything of consequence occurs in this era of smartphones and multi-G wireless networks, a horde of "citizen journalists" will doubtless be on hand to capture and broadcast the sights and sounds. But of hundreds of witnesses in Dallas's Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963, only a handful managed to record the biggest news story of a generation: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And of the documents they produced, only one stands out: the Zapruder film.

It's not much: About 6 feet of narrow, cellulose material, containing fewer than 500 grainy images and running just 26 seconds long. And yet the home movie that clothier Abraham Zapruder shot with his Bell & Howell camera may be the single most important piece of evidence in perhaps the most argued-about crime in the nation's history.

Zapruder was in a unique position to capture the events that day a half-century ago.

Standing on a 4-foot-high concrete pedestal, his receptionist bracing him from behind, the 58-year-old Russian immigrant followed the progress of JFK's Lincoln limousine as it rolled toward him down Elm Street. He thought the popping noises he heard were part of some joke, he later told the Warren Commission, and "then I saw his head opened up."

"I started yelling, 'They killed him, they killed him,'" he testified before the investigative panel in July 1964. "I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass - I don't even know how I did it."

Tests showed that the camera - loaded with Double 8-millimeter Kodachrome II color film - recorded at an average speed of 18.3 frames per second. Depending on how much film leader and unexposed black footage are counted, there are either 486 or 487 frames with assassination-related images.

Although there was no sound, the Zapruder film allowed investigators and researchers to establish the interval between gunshots.

Zapruder had the film developed and three copies made - two of which he gave to the Secret Service and FBI.

Richard Stolley, then Pacific bureau editor for Life Magazine, had flown in from Los Angeles and reached Zapruder by phone around 11 p.m. The next morning, he was in Zapruder's office at Jennifer Juniors, Inc., watching the film with two Secret Service agents.

"I have to say, seeing that film and seeing the head shot - the infamous frame 313 - was the most dramatic moment of my career," Stolley recalled in a recent interview. "We all reacted as if we had been simultaneously gut-punched."

Competitors avidly sought the film, too. But in the end, Stolley won out, getting Life the print rights for $50,000. The magazine paid Zapruder another $100,000 the following week for the remaining copyrights.

Aside from some still images, it would be years before the general public saw what Zapruder's camera had captured. (Life even withheld frame 313 "out of deference to the grieving Kennedy family," Stolley has explained.)

In 1969, about a year before his death, Zapruder testified as to the film's authenticity during the New Orleans trial of Clay Shaw, the only person ever prosecuted for the assassination. District Attorney Jim Garrison played the film for the jury 10 times - a scene that formed the dramatic crescendo of Oliver Stone's 1991 film, "JFK."

Most Americans did not see the Zapruder film in motion until March 1975, when ABC News aired a copy during Geraldo Rivera's weekly "Good Night America" show.

The outcry helped spur formation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which would famously conclude that the murder was most likely the result of a conspiracy involving multiple shooters.

In April 1975, Time, Inc. transferred the original camera print and copyrights back to the Zapruder family. The National Archives and Records Administration agreed to store the film "as a courtesy."

In 1999, the government agreed to pay Zapruder's family more than $16 million for the film. The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas owns the copyright.

The original is now housed at the archives' facility in College Park, Md., in a cold-storage vault, where conditions are kept at a constant 25 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 percent relative humidity. On Oct. 22, a technician removed the film from its protective can for its first inspection in 11 years.

"The reel is in excellent condition, has retained the vivid color typical of Kodachrome, and does not exhibit signs of physical deterioration," NARA spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

On Oct. 15, Life released a new book, "The Day Kennedy Died." In its pages for the first time, each of the frames is shown, in order.

In so many ways, the Zapruder film is a relic, says the 84-year-old Stolley, who shared his recollections in the book. If he were dispatched to Dallas today, he says, "I'd be a little nonplused about who do you negotiate with."

"I mean, in effect," he says, "there would be NO Zapruder film today."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end
In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty - once again - for millions of individuals and businesses.
2:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Hawaii's Big Island under tropical storm watch as Ignacio is upgraded to Category 4 hurricane
HONOLULU (AP) — The Big Island of Hawaii is bracing for high winds, heavy rain and ocean swells of up to 20 feet as strengthening Hurricane Ignacio approaches the state.Ignacio has grown to a Category...
8:20PM ( 5 hours ago )
At events both somber and raucous, Gulf Coast marks 10th Katrina anniversary, looks to future
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As the church bells rang marking the decade since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the 80-year-old woman wept softly into a tissue as she leaned against her rusting Oldsmobi...
6:38PM ( 7 hours ago )
US immigration patterns shift: India, China outpacing Mexico as more skilled workers arrive
DALLAS (AP) — Siddharth Jaganath wanted to return to India after earning his master's degree at Texas' Southern Methodist University. Instead, he built a new life in the U.S. over a decade, becoming a...
6:03PM ( 7 hours ago )
Fed Vice Chair Fischer leaves door open for a Sept. rate hike, saying inflation likely to rise
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer left the door open Saturday for a Fed rate increase in September, saying the factors that have kept inflation below the central bank's t...
4:31PM ( 9 hours ago )
Experts: GOP candidates' tough talk doesn't always square with facts of US-China relationship
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — If there was ever a week for the Republican presidential candidates to talk tough on China, this was it: Spurred by the stock market's wild ride, they lashed out at the world's most populous nation.
9:34PM ( 1 day ago )