In 1941, Zapruder moved to Dallas, Texas, to work for Nardis, a local sportswear company. In 1949 he co-founded Jennifer Juniors, Inc., producing the Chalet and Jennifer Juniors brands of dresses. From the summer of 1953 to April 1954, Zapruder worked at Nardis side by side with Jeanne LeGon.[a] His Jennifer Juniors offices were on the fourth floor of the Dal-Tex Building, across the street from the Texas School Book Depository.
At the time of the assassination, Zapruder was an admirer of President Kennedy and considered himself a Democrat. Zapruder had originally planned to film the motorcade carrying President Kennedy through downtown Dallas on November 22, but decided not to film the event as it had been raining that morning. When he arrived at work that morning without his camera, Zapruder's assistant insisted that he retrieve it from home before going to Dealey Plaza because the weather had cleared.
Zapruder's movie camera was an 8 mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Model 414 PD—top of the line when it was purchased in 1962. Zapruder had planned to film the motorcade from his office window but decided to choose a more optimal spot in Dealey Plaza where the motorcade would be passing. He chose to film on top of a 4-foot (1.2 m) concrete abutment which extends from a retaining wall that was part of the John Neely Bryan concrete pergola on the grassy knoll north of Elm Street, in Dealey Plaza. Zapruder's secretary, Marilyn Sitzman, offered to assist Zapruder as he suffered from vertigo and was apprehensive about standing on the abutment alone. While Sitzman stood behind Zapruder and held his coat to steady him, he began filming the presidential motorcade as it turned from Houston Street onto Elm Street in front of the Book Depository. Zapruder's film captured 26.6 seconds of the traveling motorcade carrying President Kennedy on 486 frames of KodakKodachrome II safety film. Zapruder's film captured the fatal head shot that struck President Kennedy as his limousine passed almost directly in front of Zapruder and Sitzman's position, 65 feet (20 m) from the center of Elm Street.
Zapruder would later recall that he immediately knew that President Kennedy's wound was fatal as he saw the president's head "...explode like a firecracker." Walking back to his office amid the confusion following the shots, Zapruder encountered The Dallas Morning News reporter Harry McCormick, who was standing near Zapruder and noticed he was filming the motorcade. McCormick was acquainted with Agent Forrest Sorrels of the Secret Service's Dallas office and offered to bring Sorrels to Zapruder's office. Zapruder agreed and returned to his office. McCormick later found Sorrels outside the Sheriff's office at Main and Houston, and together they went to Zapruder's office.
Zapruder agreed to give the film to Sorrels on the condition it would be used only for investigation of the assassination. The three then took the film to the television station WFAA to be developed. After it was realized that WFAA was unable to develop Zapruder's footage, film was taken to Eastman Kodak's Dallas processing plant where it was immediately developed later that afternoon. As the Kodachrome process requires different equipment for duplication than for simple development, Zapruder's film was not developed until around 6:30 p.m. The original developed film was taken to the Jamieson Film Company, where three additional copies were exposed; these were returned to Kodak around 8 p.m. for processing. Zapruder kept the original, plus one copy, and gave the other two copies to Sorrels, who sent them to Secret Service headquarters in Washington.
While at WFAA, Zapruder described on live television the assassination of President Kennedy:
I got out in, uh, about a half-hour earlier to get a good spot to shoot some pictures. And I found a spot, one of these concrete blocks they have down near that park, near the underpass. And I got on top there, there was another girl from my office, she was right behind me. And 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, like this. Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn't say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up [places fingers of right hand to right side of head in a narrow cone, over his right ear], all blood and everything, and I kept on shooting. That's about all, I'm just sick, I can't...
I think that pretty well expresses the entire feelings of the whole world.
You have the film in your camera, we'll try to get...
Yes, I brought it on the studio, now.
We'll try to get that processed and have it as soon as possible.
Sale of rights
Late that evening, Zapruder was contacted at home by Richard Stolley, an editor at Life magazine (and first editor of the future People magazine). They arranged to meet the following morning to view the film, after which Zapruder sold the print rights to Life for $50,000. Stolley was representing Time/Life on behalf of Publisher Charles Douglas Jackson.
The following day (November 24), Life purchased all rights to the film for a total of $150,000 (approximately $1,228,000 today).
The night after the assassination, Zapruder said that he had a nightmare in which he saw a booth in Times Square advertising "See the President's head explode!" He determined that, while he was willing to make money from the film, he did not want the public to see the full horror of what he had seen. Therefore, a condition of the sale to Life was that frame 313, showing the fatal shot, would be withheld. Although he made a profit from selling the film, he asked that the amount he was paid not be publicly disclosed. He later donated $25,000 (about $205,000 today) of the money he was paid to the widow of Officer J. D. Tippit, a Dallas police officer who was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald 45 minutes after President Kennedy was killed.
In his testimony to the Warren Commission, Zapruder was asked for his impression regarding the direction of the shots:
LIEBELER: Did you form any opinion about the direction from which the shots came by the sound, or were you just upset by the thing you had seen? ZAPRUDER: No, there was too much reverberation. There was an echo which gave me a sound all over. In other words that square is kind of—it had a sound all over.
Zapruder added that he had assumed the shots came from behind him because the President's head went backwards from the fatal shot, and also that the wound on the side of the President's head was facing that direction. He also said he believed it because police officers ran to the area behind him.
He broke down and wept as he recalled the assassination, and did so again at the 1969 trial of Clay Shaw.
Zapruder died of stomach cancer in Dallas on August 30, 1970, and is buried in the Emanu-El Cemetery in Dallas.
Notable others who claimed to have taken pictures or films of the event
The following individuals were not interviewed by the Warren Commission.
Gordon Arnold - He claimed to have filmed the motorcade as well as the Badge man, who he said confiscated his film, from the top of the grassy knoll. Arnold's claims have been contested due to inconsistencies over time as well as incongruities with the film record and the testimony of various witnesses.
Mary Moorman - She took a Polaroid picture at the moment of the fatal shot, which some have claimed to depict a puff of white smoke in front of the supposed Badge man at the top of the grassy knoll.
Babushka lady - She is an unknown lady wearing a scarf who apparently had a camera in front of her face during the event.
Timequest, a 2000 film in which Kennedy's assassination was prevented by a time traveler, had Zapruder (Andrew Dunn) instead aiming his camera at the fence behind the grassy knoll and filming Robert F. Kennedy after a would be second gunman was killed by his men, then having his footage confiscated by a secret service agent, but eventually obtained by a movie director and shown on television several decades later.
In the Assassin's creed video games, Zapruder is a member of the Templar Order and also the second shooter after Oswald who takes the first shot on President Kennedy. He helped the Templars to recover an Apple of Eden from Kennedy's body.
^Towards the end of June 1959 until 1973, she was the fourth wife of George S. De Mohrenschildt. From the summer of 1962 and prior to their leaving for Haiti in June 1963, Jeanne and George De Mohrenschildt befriended an immigrant from the Soviet Union, Marina Oswald and her husband Lee Harvey Oswald. George De Mohrenschildt said that there were only 25 or 30 families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area from either Russia or the Soviet Union in the early 1960's and that these families were close.
^Betty Temple Howell, Southwest Styles: CASUAL OR DRESSY Keep It Smart! The Christian Science Monitor, Oct 26, 1953 Women Today Pg. 10, (1148 words)
Forecast for spring from the Dallas Fashion Market emphasizes the importance of fabric in achieving the soft, fluid look… and different age groups by Chalet. of Texas, a firm just four years old in the Dallas market.
^ abcJohnson McMillian, Patricia (2013). Marina and Lee: The Tormented Love and Fatal Obsession Behind Lee Harvey Oswald's Assassination of John F. Kennedy. Steerforth Press. p. 269. ISBN1-586-42217-0.