Biography of Filmmaker Abraham Zapruder Part 1

About the man who filmed the JFK assassination Abraham Zapruder, history and biography of the filmmaker.


Abraham Zapruder (1904-1970)

The only film by Abraham Zapruder that achieved public viewing was a 15-second street scene, shot with an 8-millimeter camera. Zapruder was not a professional filmmaker. He had never worked in Hollywood. He was strictly an amateur whose audience was confined to the living room of his house in Dallas, Tex.

But on Nov. 22, 1963, Abraham Zapruder lost his amateur standing. His short strip of celluloid was the most dramatic, horrifying, and controversial piece of film of the 20th century.

John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, was scheduled to arrive with his wife in Dallas that morning around 11:30. Hearing that the presidential motorcade was bound for the Dallas Trade Center and would pass his dress-manufacturing office on the way, Zapruder hoped he could get a glimpse of the charismatic Chief Executive. When he suggested to his secretary that they walk outside and watch the motorcade, she urged him to get his movie camera. Zapruder hurried home to Marquette Street, loaded his 8-millimeter Bell and Howell camera with color film, grabbed his Zoomar telephoto lens, then rushed back to his office in the Dal-Tex Building on the northeast corner of Elm and Houston streets.

He and his secretary left the building, crossed Houston Street, passed the Texas School Book Depository on the northwest corner, and walked 50 yd. or so west on Elm Street toward the Triple Underpass, looking for a good position from which to film the motorcade. Because he was a short man, Zapruder climbed up on a 4-ft.-high concrete abutment on a grassy knoll on the north side of Elm. From there he commanded a view of Dealey Plaza and Houston, Main, and Elm streets.

According to the Hertz electric sign clock atop the Texas School Book Depository, the motorcade appeared at 12:29. Zapruder started his camera rolling. The President's Lincoln came down Houston from Main, turned sharply left on Elm, and approached the underpass at 11 miles an hour. Abraham Zapruder watched him waving in the camera's viewfinder.

"As they were approaching where I was standing," he later recounted, "I heard a shot and noticed when the President leaned toward Jacqueline. Then I heard another shot. It hit him in the head and practically opened it up...

"I was still shooting the picture until he got under the underpass--I don't even know how I did it."

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