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The Other Shooter: The Saddest and Most Expensive 26 Seconds of Amateur Film Ever Made

For many of us, especially those who weren’t alive when it happened, we’re all watching that event through Zapruder’s lens.

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Our faith in the filmic record can create problems for knowing what actually happened. In 2003, the critic Richard B. Woodward wrote that the assassination became "fused with one representation, so much so that Kennedy's death is virtually unimaginable without Zapruder's film." And as a couple of researchers argued in The New York Times in 2007, the Warren Commission's dependence on the Zapruder film in its investigation contributed to the disrepute of its report. Max Holland and Johann Rush contend that Zapruder's film is incomplete, that he stopped filming and started again long enough to miss the first shot heard in the square that day—a shot that might have hit the President right as his car rounded the corner, if not for a traffic post that is thought to have deflected it. "The film, we realize, does not depict an assassination about to commence. It shows one that had already started."

In any case, Zapruder would make a handsome profit from the footage, but he was so disturbed by his decisive moment that he eventually relinquished the original film, to the later chagrin of his family, to the Secret Service. He never owned or used another camera again, and died of stomach cancer in 1970.

And then, in March 1975, after a full version of the film had begun to circulate on college campuses, a fresh-faced Geraldo Rivera welcomed assassination researchers Robert Groden and Dick Gregory onto the ABC late-night television show Good Night America, to present what they called, accurately, "the first-ever network television showing of the Zapruder home movie."

The subsequent "outrage" of the public over the film's airing led to the quick formation of three Congressional committees, including the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and launched the first of many legal battles. April 1975: Time Inc. settles with Zapruder's heirs in a suit that arose from the ABC showing, agreeing to sell the original film and its copyright back to the Zapruder family for the token sum of one dollar. Time Inc. wanted to donate the film to the U.S. government, but the family refused until 1978, when it approved of the transfer the film to the National Archives and Records Administration for safe-keeping.