A plausible explanation of Life’s Zapruder film fail

In reponse to a poignant HuffPo piece, Jean Davison says the late Paul Mandel of Life magazine was wrong, but not necessarily lying, when he mistated some facts about JFK’s assassination.  

She writes:

“One of the Z frames published in that issue was Z193, which shows JFK turned to his right ‘as he waves to someone in the crowd.‘ We all know that JFK wasn’t turned nearly far enough in Z193 to have been hit by a SN bullet, but I wonder if that was as obvious to Mandel then as it is to us now?”

Davison adds: Mandel didn’t necessarily know “the layout of Dealey Plaza.” The Texas Schoolbook Depository isn’t visible in the film, she notes. WE know it’s far behind JFK. But can we be sure that Mandel understood that?

No, we cannot. This very plausible explanation for Mandel’s mistake strengthens the notion that he was seeking to reassure without intending to deceive.


5 thoughts on “A plausible explanation of Life’s Zapruder film fail”

  1. Setting aside the aspect of the misreported angle of the throat wound shot for the moment, at the very least this shows that the anterior neck wound was being referred to publicly as an entry wound. The FBI report was less than a week away. Here is a prominent national publication telling a wide swath of the public that JFK was hit in the throat from the front. One good reason for that would be the description by the Parkland Hospital surgeons. In an early telephone conversation with Johnson, I believe, Hoover refers to the neck wound as a wound of entry, mistakenly describing a scenario where the president is hit before turning onto Elm Street. Of course, the Warren Commission Report turned it into an exit wound, in spite of its original (pre-tracheostomy) appearance. The Report also moved the location of JFK’s back wound up to the base of his neck, to better accommodate the downward angle from the TSBD.

  2. I’m sympathetic to any reporter operating under a deadline and/or pressure from top management. Mandel comes across as genuine to me, but was he vulnerable?

    My question relates the head of the fish, in this case C.D. Jackson and Henry Luce along with his wife, Clare. Doesn’t every reporter experience the all-seeing influence of their superiors, not to mention in this instance, the owner of Time-Life? Given that this was virtually the story of the century, wouldn’t ownership have followed the reporting very closely, wouldn’t they have asked these same questions, and certainly wouldn’t they have viewed the Z film, a number of times? My discussion with the man who secured the Z film on behalf of Life magazine was disconcerting at best.

    I would like to hear from those with direct experience in newsrooms – how much pressure is exerted on a reporter, albeit on a subliminal level, during crucial events?

    1. Interestingly enough though, I read that Luce and John Kennedy had a rather amiable relationship and a shared humor even though they were frequently at odds politically.

      Surely Luce took an active role in the Z film, at the very least signing the check for it. But how aware was he of the facts surrounding the assassination? What about the episode with the Cubans and his wife? And what about Jackson’s conservative ties with the American Security Council and other related private organizations yielding so much power and influence. “Their” president had been shot as well. Where was the outrage? Pointed directly at Lee Harvey Oswald.

  3. One easy point is that JFK clearly never “clutches” his throat. That is pretty obvious, but maybe you could forgive a small amount of exaggeration.

    It does look like JFK turns to the right making his chin about even with his right shoulder a little bit before you see the Stemmons sign. But he clearly doesn’t make the arms to throat movement until the car emerges by a fair amount.

    All in all, the clause we’re discussing does seem somewhat reasonable after going back and looking at the Z film again.

    I still marvel at people that can watch that film in real time and conclude the head shot came from the rear though. Makes you wonder who was actually allowed to watch the Z film and whether some of the reporters that claimed to have seen it at this time really had seen it.

  4. “In reponse to a poignant HuffPo piece” … actually I would call it a “whining” Huff Post piece with the derogatory “JFK conspiracy theorists” phrase in the headline.

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