Crime History, March 6, 1975: Zapruder film of Kennedy assassination premieres before national audience


The Zapruder camera is held at the National Archives in College Park.

On this day, March 6, in 1975, for the first time ever, the Zapruder film of the President Kennedy assassination was shown to a national TV audience.

The 8 mm Zapruder film, about 26 seconds longs, was the only visual recording of the assassination. It was made by Abraham Zapruder, who was filming the presidential motorcade with his home-movie camera in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

The silent film showed a gunshot striking Kennedy in the head followed by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy climbing out of her seat as the vehicle speeds away.

Zapruder made three copies of his film, giving two to the Secret Service and selling the other to Life magazine.

Zapruder sold the film to Life magazine, for $150,000, plus royalties. Zapruder donated the first $25,000 to the widow of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

He insisted that that Frame 313 – which showed the gunshot striking JFK’s head – be excluded. He felt that it was too shocking, too graphic, and he didn’t want the public or the Kennedy family to see what he had seen.

Life prevented all broadcasts of the 26-second, 483-frame film for 13 years, although bootleg copies could be found on college campuses.

The film finally made its American TV premiere on ABC news magazine “Good Night, America” without permission of Life or the Zapruder family.

The showing of the film caused a national uproar, adding to conspiracy theories because the final shot looks like it could have been fired from a different direction than the first because of the backward motion of the president’s head.

The original film is currently stored at the National Archives in College Park.

– Scott McCabe

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