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The Zapruder Film

Reframing JFK’s Assassination

David R. Wrone

New in Paperback: September 2013
388 pages, 22 color photographs, 18 black and white photographs, 6-1⁄8 x 9-1⁄4
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1943-6, $19.95 (t)

Also available in cloth
ISBN 978-0-7006-1291-8, $29.95 (t)

book cover imageIt 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. 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 forty-year history from its creation on the “grassy knoll” by Dallas dressmaker Zapruder through its initial sale to Life magazine, 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 the film itself necessarily refutes the Warren Commission’s lone-gunman and single-bullet theories. The film, he notes, 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 it 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 involved. In fact, he 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.

“One of the most sober JFK assassination books of any year. Wrone seems to be without an ideologically motivated agenda. He seems interested only in finding and presenting the evidence responsibly. . . . Of all the Zapruder film analyses I have read, Wrone’s is the most lucid for a non-expert, and the calmest in tone.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Wrone is neither a Warren Commission defender nor an outlandish conspiracy theorist but a careful historian who presents a strong case that the Warren Commission hastily and wrongly concluded that Oswald murdered Kennedy. . . . Strongly recommended.”—Library Journal

“An important, valuable, and compelling addition to the literature on the assassination that argues convincingly that the film is both authentic and contains evidence of a conspiracy.”—Michael L. Kurtz, author of The JFK Assassination Debates: Lone Gunman versus Conspiracy

“Wrone’s knowledge of the assassination’s complex and daunting evidentiary base is unparalleled.”—James H. Lesar, founder and president of the Assassination Archives and Research Center

“A stimulating, clearly written, and well-researched study.”—Journal of Southern History

“The vivid images captured by the Zapruder film are eminently recognizable, perhaps more so than any other film footage ever captured, so much so that anyone who reflects on JFK’s assassination quite likely does so from Abraham Zapruder’s vantage point.”-—Walter E. Dellinger III, Maggs Professor of Law at Duke University and former Solicitor General of the United States

DAVID R. WRONE is professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.


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