The Zapruder Film by David R. Wrone
Reframing JFK's Assassination

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Synopsis

It is the most famous home movie of all time, the most closely analyzed 26 seconds of film ever shot, the most disturbing visual record of what many have called "the crime of the century."

In 486 frames—a mere six feet of celluloid—Abraham Zapruder's iconic film captures from beginning to end the murder of President John F. Kennedy in broad daylight. An essential piece of evidence, the film has become nearly synonymous with the assassination itself and has generated decades of debate among conspiracy theorists and defenders of the Warren Commission's official report. Until now, however, no scholar has produced a comprehensive book-length study of the film and its relation to the tragic events of November 22, 1963.

David Wrone, one of our nation's foremost authorities on the assassination, re-examines Zapruder's film with a fresh eye and a deep knowledge of the forensic evidence. He traces the film's history from its creation on the "grassy knoll" by Dallas dressmaker Zapruder through its initial sale to Life magazine and early reproductions and its analysis by the Warren Commission and countless assassination researchers, licensing by the Zapruder family, legal battles over bootleg copies, and sale to the federal government for sixteen million dollars.

Wrone's major contribution, however, is to demonstrate how a close examination of the film itself necessarily refutes the Warren Commission's lone-gunman and single-bullet theories. The film, as he reminds us, provides a scientifically precise timeline of events, as well as crucial clues regarding the timing, number, origins, and impact of the shots fired that day. Analyzing the film frame-by-frame in relation to other evidence—including two key photos by Phil Willis and Ike Altgens—he builds a convincing case against the official findings.

Without fanfare, he concludes that more than three gunshots were fired from more than one direction and that most likely none were fired by alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. If true, then JFK's death was the result of a conspiracy, for the Commission's nonconspiracy conclusion requires a maximum of three shots and one gunman.

Wrone, however, does not speculate as to who actually shot JFK or why—or even if Oswald was a part of the conspiracy. In fact, he is no fan of conspiracy-think and is just as critical of the legion of conspiracy theorists as he is of the Warren Commission (which, he reveals, crushed dissent within its own ranks).

Doggedly pursuing the evidence wherever it leads, Wrone has produced a meticulous, clear-eyed, and provocative new reading of this remarkable cinematic Rosetta Stone.
 

About David R. Wrone

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David R. Wrone is professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
 
Published November 22, 2003 by University Press of Kansas. 380 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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While Wrone's exhaustive consideration of the film itself quickly becomes tedious, he provides a few chapters that tell some intriguing stories, such as Zapruder's early actions in the initial hours after the assassination (when he first realized he possessed a valuable "property"), the several s...

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Project MUSE

Wrone then couples this finding with the movement of Kennedy's head backward, which suggests a shot from the front, with no evidence in either frame of damage to the back of Kennedy's head, which would have suggested a shot from the rear.

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