When was the Zapruder film first shown to the American people?

In the Age of Viral Video, it is hard to believe but it is true: Abraham Zapruder’s home movie of JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963 was not shown to the American people for twelve years after it was first taken.

The film was among the most important pieces of evidence in the death of the president. But the U.S. government, the Kennedy family, or Time-Life Inc. (which bought the film from Zapruder) cared to make it public. There were questions of taste. The graphic depiction of violence was not normal in the American culture the way it is today.

Zapruder film fram
Life Magazine published images from Abraham Zapruder’s film of JFK’s assassination .

Selected frames of the Zapruder film–what we would call “screen grabs”–were published in Life magazine, a week after the Dallas tragedy. Within a few years blurry copies were shown on college campuses. But an early-generation version of the film–now available in many different iterations on YouTube– was not shown to the nation until March 6, 1975.

That’s when Robert Groden, photographic consultant for the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, made history with JFK activist Dick Gregory. They appeared on Geraldo Rivera’s ABC late-night TV program “Good Night America” and showed the Zapruder film of the assassination to a mass audience for the first time.

The film had an immense impact on American public opinion. It seemed to show President Kennedy struck by gunfire from two directions.

That’s what CIA director John McCone privately told JFK’s brother, Robert, in December 1963. That was not an opinion that the government, the Kennedy family, or Life magazine care to encourage.

Amidst public outrage about revelations that the CIA had been plotting to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro at the time of JFK’s death, Geraldo Rivera, an enterprising young reporter, dared to put Groden on the air.

A taboo had been broken. Now Zapruder’s film can been seen by anyone with a computer and Internet connection.

Robert Groden – A View From The Grassy Knoll from AARC Library on Vimeo.



From a 5-Star Amazon review of Jefferson Morley’s CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files,

“Can’t imagine a more meticulous take down of the CIA’s decades-long subterfuge surrounding the assassination.”

Jefferson Morley’s new ebook, CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files, available on Amazon, provides the fullest account of the role of CIA operations officers in the events leading to the death of JFK, with a guide to what will be declassified in October 2017.


34 thoughts on “When was the Zapruder film first shown to the American people?”

  1. Has anyone heard from Doug Horne recently as to the status of his 4K Z-film analysis by a group of Hollywood SFX experts, which is supposed to definitively prove his theory that the Z-film was altered by the CIA’s Hawkeye Works labs in Rochester within 48 hours of the assassination?

  2. My assessment of available evidence leads me to conclude the Z film was altered. I don’t have the technical knowledge to know how. Is the provenance of the ‘in-camera’ original established?, and has the ‘in-camera’ original been checked for splices by independant analysts? If the ‘in-camera’ original matches the film versions available then I suspect any alteration was highly skilled work.
    If the ‘in-camera’ original has had frames removed and been subjected to simple masking of the rear of JFK’s head, then this provides a far less contentious route to acceptance of film alteration.

  3. “…oh, one last thing! Given today’s date and that of tomorrows…”what if…”what if, in another fifty years or so, someone turned up the “East Wind Rain” telex? I mean, that would be an historical game changer wouldn’t it?
    If…if someone were to produce another copy of the z film in fifty years from now, that too would be a game changer! However: much like the “east wind” telex, and all the commotion over that; I fear, that at the end of the day, all that we will be left with in regard to the assassination, is the official story, and our common sense as to what actually happened…unless someone comes up with another copy of the z film, we will be left with only our assumptions!”-DM

    1. DM,

      It is IMPOSSIBLE to forge an undetectable “copy” of Kodachrome II film using artificial light – a necessity for any form of projector, aerial printer, process printer et al.

      If you are willing to pronounce both Rolland Zavada, and Raymond Fielding liars, you will be joining the ranks of other charlatans who pretend to understand special effects, film chemistry and movie making machinery.

    2. I agree with the film being altered. I have said it before, I believe the back of the head exit wound has been blackened out. Someday soon we will see Better evidence.

  4. “…there is something that I wish to share with everyone but am unable to do so at this time, with regard to the “z” film! However, in the mean while: Having viewed the redacted, or extent copies of the “z” films (literally thousands of times-forward; backward; frame by frame), I too have concluded, that these extent versions have been(like almost all the other evidence in this case) redacted! That the version in the Smithsonian/Archive is in fact…edited! Doctored.
    Question. Has anyone noted the “defect” to the President’s right side of his jaw? This “defect” can bee seen in the extant versions of the “z” film, as well as in the autopsy evidence! JFK’s jaw on his right side, is jetting out as though his jaw has been…dislodged at the mandible! Could this defect be the result of an earlier bullet strike to the back of the head? Might this be some evidence of film tampering? Covering up a small caliber bullet (.22LR) strike perhaps? Enlarging individual frames and air brushing out the blood and other evidence of additional shots, then reducing the frames and putting them back in? I mean, that is how it was done back in the good ol’ days wasn’t it?
    Nobody within the assassination community really likes to give Mr. Leroy Blevins any credit, but he has uncovered some things that are of note. For example; the bullet strikes captured in the extant film, that hit the concrete by the manhole(z396-z402)cover, and the dirt(z420).
    No doubt, other film researchers prior to Mr. Blevins have also made the same claims, as did many of the eye witnesses in the plaza that day.
    Perhaps there is another version of the z film out there. Perhaps, some day soon (very soon), someone might release that film to the public…maybe sometime after the release of documents in 2017? Who knows?
    Just a little, “food for thought”..for everyone!”-DM

  5. JFK in Trauma Room One: The Missing Piece: Last Moments Before Death

    Chief of Anesthesiology Dr. M. T. Pepper Jenkins led the team to resuscitate President Kennedy at Parkland Hospital, Nov. 22, 1963. THIS RARE FOOTAGE reveals many private moments with Mrs. Kennedy, and second-by-second efforts done to save the President – excerpts are from a formal presentation to an invited audience in Beverly Hills in 1993.

    This answers one question definitively; Jackie retrieved a portion of her husband’s brain when she crawled out on the trunk of the limo.

    The description of the head-wound as “along the right side of the head is verified, and the fact that it did not show until the the hair and scalp was pulled aside. Add to this the fact that this portion of JFK’s brain was blown back onto the trunk, not forward, and we have an indication of the trajectory of the bullet; a shot from the front.

    1. Warren commission testimony of a Nurse outside Parkland Hospital.

      Miss BOWRON – He was very pale, he was lying across Mrs. Kennedy’s knee and there seemed to be blood everywhere. When I went around to the other side of the car I saw the condition of his head.
      Mr. SPECTER – You saw the condition of his what?
      Miss BOWRON – The back of his head.
      Mr. SPECTER – And what was that condition?
      Miss BOWRON – Well, it was very bad—you know.
      Mr. SPECTER – How many holes did you see?
      Miss BOWRON – I just saw one large hole.

      ‘verified’ schmerified!

  6. It important to note that evidence that contradicts the Zapruder film’s authenticity has only slowly come out. Most crucially the Parkland testimony in the 1990’s, but also release of the Bethesda witness testimony, claimed to fully support the Zapruder film(by the HSCA), but on release showing not to. The discovery that the ‘jet effect’ hypothesis was dubious is relatively recent. The ability to study frames as ultra high resolution scans is recent (we wait with baited breath for analysis on these). A 1990’s and onwards look at the evidence casts enormous doubt on the Zapruder film authenticity.

    1. “The discovery that the ‘jet effect’ hypothesis was dubious is relatively recent.”~Eddy

      Yes and updated by modern forensics with this analysis by Sherry Fiester CSI:

      Blood Spatter
      “Backspatter is blood ejected from the entry wound and travels against the line of fire, back towards the shooter. Although forward and back spatter pattern display some common features, there are also dissimilarities. Studying forward and back spatter patterns created during a singular incident identifies those differences. By differentiating between forward and back spatter in shooting incidents, the identification of the direction of the origin of force is possible (James, 2005).

      Scientific journals, books, and research published since the late 1980s indicate the blood observed in the Zapruder film displays the pattern shape of back spatter. It also extends from the wound area a distance characteristic of back spatter, particularly when correlated to blood documented elsewhere on the scene. The timing for the pattern creation and the dissipation rate identifies it as back spatter. In fact, all available information concerning the blood spatter pattern in the Zapruder film corresponds in every measurable manner with back spatter replicated in forensic laboratories and described in peer-reviewed publications since the late 1980s. Consequently, the only possible conclusion is the back spatter in the Zapruder film is genuine. Identifying the blood in the Zapruder film as back spatter signifies a shot from the front of President Kennedy.”~Fiester

      Fiester’s analysis also demolishes several of your other assertions.

      1. Sherry Feister beleives the film is genuine. She states there was no Limo stop and explains all the witnesses who saw this are in a ‘dissociative state’. How you get into a dissociative state when watching a Limo through binoculars is anyones guess. I can fully understand why someone would start from the Zapruder film, as Feister and Alvarex do, and work from it. I feel they are wasting their time, unless the proponderence of evidence supports its veracity, which it doesn’t.

        1. Eddy,
          It is very frustrating to read you speaking to “the proponderence [sic] of evidence,” when you misrepresent this evidence so consistently.
          It is equally frustrating when you will not read the entire content of the argument on my blog. When it is obvious that your eyes glaze-over when it comes to the technical information on film and special effects cinematography.
          This is not a hard subject to get your head around. All you have to do is pay attention, as it is explained very well by Zavada, Fielding, and if I may say so myself.
          It is clear to me that you refuse to come to grips with my counter argument because of your preconceptions and biases.
          Therefore, I am making my arguments here mainly to the readership of JFKfacts in general. As I don’t see much of a chance of getting through to you.
          So again I offer the complete argument in defense of the authenticity of the Zapruder film:

          1. I will not be deterred from my views by distractions (whether technical essays or use of medical jargon). I judge the evidence as indicating JFK left Dealey Plaza with a large hole in the rear of his head . There is evidence that disagrees with my judgement, the Zapruder film is one such piece. Mine isn’t a fine judgment, I’m confident it is correct. I’m happy to be provided with genuine evidence that contradicts my judgement but I view the two main arguments against the judgment as lawyerly stunts. The two arguments being a) The exact wound location is disputed. b) Technical analysis shows the film could not have been altered.On the second argument ,I would say that the Intelligence agencies are a bit vague on what they can and can’t do, and some technicians claim the film could have been altered. Thats why I don’t get distracted by the technical arguments about film alteration.

    1. Jim Garrison managed to subpoena a copy of the film for the Shaw trial. Time Life fought against it, considering the film their private property. Most bootleg copies at the time were made from the trial copy.

  7. Excellent article Mr. Morley. All should read it.
    It brings in to perspective somewhat the time and place.
    Life in the 70’s and 80’s most of us didn’t know about due to the MSM. There were no cell phones or computers for the public.

    1. To elaborate: Jackie briefly pushes against the rear of JFK’s neck and head as she climbs onto the back of the limo. There is no way she would place her (white-gloved) hand directly on such a bloodied, injured site, and there is no sign in the footage of her white-gloved hand being bloodied as she subsequently places it on the boot of the limousine. It seems these actions alone discount any rear exit wound.

        1. David Regan,

          To be specific, what does “right rear portion of the head.” actually mean?

          I am not being quaint, I mean where EXACTLY was this wound according to the trained medical personnel at Parkland Hospital.

          The answer is the “parietal-occipital”, this is distinct from the “occipital protrusion” – look this anatomical information up on the Internet, and grasp that simply saying “right rear portion of the head,” tells us nothing specific.

    1. The source is Arthur Schlesinger Jr. In his diary he records a conversation with Bobby Kennedy in Decemeber 1963 in which RFK recounted a conversation with CIA Director John McCone, a personal friend. RFK said that McCone said he had seen the Zapruder film and that the president had been hit by gunfire in two different directions. Schlesinger’s diaries have been published as “Journals: 1952-2000.” See http://www.amazon.com/Journals-1952-2000-Arthur-Schlesinger-Jr/dp/0143114352

      1. Jeff. John McCone’s statement is nothing more than speculation and isn’t worthy of any mention simply because his view of the Zapruder Film and, most importantly, what it shows is pure conjecture on his part. Everyone has an opinion on that Film and they are each only just that. Opinion.

        1. “Everyone has an opinion on that Film and they are each only just that. Opinion.”~Bill


          Not all opinions are equal in their technical validity.

          We have a fairly vast array of opinions on this forum concerning the film. But who has the knowledge and experience with film to form an educated opinion?
          One must correlate many aspects of study and expertise to give such an opinion.

          I would ask those such as yourself and our alterationist promoter Eddy, to give the forum some idea of what knowledge either of the two of you have in special effects film, in knowledge of film chemistry, knowledge of the mechanical tools for achieving visual effects in film, or even film based photography in general.

          1. Your right , I am an alterationist, but my view requires no knowledge of any of things you suggest. Here’s my simple, logicla thought process. The Parkland witness testimony, and some Bethesda testimony convinces me there was a large hole in the rear of Kennedy’s head and NOT a large hole in the top/side of his head. As the Zapruder film shows no such hole I have to conclude its been Doctored. There are no tricks up my sleeves Mr Whitten.

          2. “testimony convinces me there was a large hole in the rear of Kennedy’s head and NOT a large hole in the top/side of his head.”~Eddy

            ALL of the doctors that testified to the wound said it was parietal-occipital. All of the photos of them putting their hands on their head to illustrate put their hands on the parietal-occipital area.

            The parietal-occipital is NOT the occipital protrusion, which is where most people now assume was the exit wound/ It is an assumption based on the so-called McClelland Drawing, which was supposedly “approved by” Dr McClelland. But there is no signature by he or any of the other doctors verifying this as fact. This drawing is as low as the occipital protrusion – and does NOT match the actual testimony of ANY doctor who saw the wound.
            The hand placements of the doctors photographed are a full hand-width higher that this drawing; at the parietal-occipital.
            The fact that the autopsy photos and X-rays show the wound at the parietal-occipital as well, is a good indication that the McClelland drawing has had a false consensus effect on the memories of even some of the doctors that viewed the original wound first hand. I say this because their original testimonies are clear in stating that the wound was located at the parietal-occipital. The early photos show their hands place there.
            The Zapruder film show ejecta from the parietal-occipital.

            My conclusion Eddy: By god the wound was at the parietal-occipital!

      2. Bill, this was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. As an average citizen, of course John McCone’s conjecture should be considered as purely that, highly subjective speculation. But as the head of US intelligence, don’t you think he would have been extremely circumspect about making such a statement to the brother of the deceased, the President of the United States? If this conversation between McCone and Bobby Kennedy took place after 11.22.63 and sometime in mid-December when Schlesinger recorded it in his diary, where is the follow up? Did McCone – a man in a position of highly significant authority – pursue the inquiry into what he thought he saw on the Z Film? Did Robert Kennedy demand the film be studied more carefully by the Warren Commission? These answers may be available directly thru the Warren Commission documents in the National Archives. at MFF or History Matters; but if so, why introduce a thread full of volatile questions without linking to the answers?

      3. The Director of Central Intelligence

        November 7, 1963

        Dear General:

        Thank you so very, very much for autographing my deluxe copy of your book, “Mandate for Change.” I appreciate your doing this.

        The book is excellent. Although I confess that because of the pressures of South Vietnam and other matters, I have not read it all. I plan to complete it within day or two. It will occupy an important place in my library ……

        In addition, I hope you are getting a royalty from sales of the book because I am a pretty good customer of yours, having now bought three copies …..

        Warm personal regards and all good wishes.


        John A. McCone

        General Dwight D. Eisenhower
        Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

          3025 WHITEHAVEN STREET, N.W.
          WASHINGTON 8, D.C.

          23 December, 1963

          Dear General,

          I have just returned from Saigon and found some things there which I would like to discuss with you. Theiline and I plan to be at our house in San Marino from December 28 to January 2nd. I know your obligations will have you enormously busy when you are in Pasadena but perhaps there will be an opportunity for an hour together. It might even be possible for you and Mamie to slip away from the hotel and come to the house, as I am very anxious to have both of you see it.

          I will call you when I arrive in Los Angeles. In the meantime, the warmest regards and my very best to you and Mamie in which Theiline joins me.


          John A. McCone

          General Dwight D. Eisenhower
          Eldorado Country Club
          Palm Desert, California

          Two years later McCone would rejoin the board of his engineering firm, military contractor Bechtel-McCone (which would merge with Haliburton decades later) along with CB Thornton, CEO of Litton Industries. Thornton and Robert McNamara were members of the Whiz Kids – the small elite clique of WWII Army Air Force veterans who went to work at Ford Motor Co. to pursue management science. Thornton helped persuade Brown Bros. Harriman partner Robert A. Lovett to propose McNamare to the post of Secretary of Defence at the time that John McCone served as the Director of Intelligence. .

  8. ROBERT McCLELLAND, MD In testimony at Parkland taken before Arlan
    Specter on 3-21-64, McClelland described the head wound as, “…I
    could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right
    posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had
    been shattered…so that the parietal bone was protruded up through
    the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior
    half, as well as some of the occipital bone being fractured in its
    lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned in such
    a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself
    and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue,
    posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue had been
    blasted out….”
    [Note: McClelland says “right parietal occipital area.” He does not say the occipital protuberance.]

  9. “If the film has not been altered then Dr Luis Alvarez has explained, with the expertise of a highly regarded physicist how a shot from the rear produced the head injury shown in the film.”~Eddy

    That is a preposterous assertion. It is countered by CSI Sherry Fiester:


    And the Zapruder film is proven 100% authentic here:


  10. I understand Jackie Kennedy wondered out loud to others the cruelty of the Kennedy Ambush in Dealey Plaza. We all do.

    Some murders are worse than others as shown in the Zapruder Film.

    It is no wonder FRAME 313 was not shown till the 1970s.

    IMO rogue CIA organized the plot to murder President Kennedy.

    It also may have been a wider CIA plot.

    There is no possible justification for removing by Murder a duly elected President.

    It was MURDER. It was a Coup d’Etat.

    I am so tired of hearing JFK died because he wanted Peace in the world.

    Or that he did not intend to go ahead with a war in Vietnam.

    Or that those in the CIA OR FBI who knew had to protect their jobs.

    These people involved in his Murder & Coverup had their own agendas that did not derive from respect for democracy or love of their country.

    They were vile and misguided. MURDERERS! They deserved to pay with their own lives.

    But they didnt.

  11. If the film has not been altered then Dr Luis Alvarez has explained, with the expertise of a highly regarded physicist how a shot from the rear produced the head injury shown in the film. The Grassy Knowl shooter witnesses can be discounted, the Parkland testimony can be discounted. Everyone who stated the Limo stopped or considerably slowed is wrong. All testimony from Bethesda describing a large rear headwound is wrong. An awful lot of corroborating testimony has to go out the window, if the Zapruder film accurately depicts events.

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