tv The Presidency Abraham Zapruder and JFK Assassination CSPAN December 20, 2017 11:13pm-12:42am EST
american history tv, this weekend only on c-span3. interested in american history tv? visit our website c-span.org/history put can view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs, and watch archival films and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. next we'll hear from the granddaughter of abraham saturday pruder, the man who filmed the anyone teen 63 assassination of president kennedy. she wrote a book about that film 26 seconds, the personal history of the zapruder films. good evening, everyone.
welcome back to the hilltop, welcome back to smu to dallas hall and also a fun program that is a joint program tonight between our center for presidential history and our clement center for southwest studies. always exciting when the two history centers here at smu can come together and it's wonderful for us, the younger partner, the clement center has been the leading center for southwest studies at least a generation. so we as still in our toddler phase, look up to them and they also baby-sit us. it works out really quite nicely. i'm really thrilled to have you all here tonight for our continuing series looking at history and presidential history especially since this one in particular our talk tonight has of course a dallas flair to it, it's fundamentally a dallas
story and we all know especially having gone through the last 50th anniversary of the fateful day in 1963 how much dallas is continuing to wrestle with what happened here, how much dallas is coming to terms with it and i want to take a moment and point out one of our good friends who is from the sixth floor museum which i said this in front of her before, is to my mind the single best public history museum in the country and -- [ applause ] >> precisely because it takes a hard look as much as possible and that's what we're going to do tonight especially with this dallas story. i also want to point out that you may have heard that about 25 years ago, in fact, exactly 25 years ago, congress in its great infinite wisdom and foresight,
not a phrase usually associated with congress, they knew we were going to have this event tonight and consequently wrote the law specifically so that all those jfk documents would become available. if you have not heard, in fact, i was just shown the phone just ten seconds ago, president trump has decided to release most of the documents, which is great for us because that means that whenever we do a kennedy event going forward we'll always have a bigger audience because people will always say what about those other documents, so i guarantee you there's nothing of interest in those documents. i have not seen them but i'm feeling very confident about that. we are here tonight to discuss a particular moment from that 1963 event and a particular moment that you have all seen, one of the fascinating things to me about the entire sequence that will hear tonight about the zapruder film, because human
memory is formed thorough images and visual representation, you have been to the sight of the zapruder film. you have no idea that you were not there because your processing the information and it's really become a way that that sight, dealey plaza has become a global sight. you don't ever have to have been there to be there. we're going to hear that story tonight. we'll hear it from alexander zapruder who began her career as one of the founding staff of holocaust museum in washington, d.c. she graduated from smith college and got a master's degree in education from harvard university and in 2002 completed her first book entitled, savage pages, young writers diaries of the holocaust from yale university press which that year won the national jewish book award for the best book exploring the history of the
holocaust. it was also subsequently made into part of a mtv series called, i'm still here, and she has recently come out in a second paperback edition. in november of 2016, she published this book, her second book, this is my personal copy, so i get this back, a personal history -- 26 seconds, a personal history of the zapruder film which is the subject of her remarks tonight. help me in welcoming our speaker tonight, alexandria zapruder. [ applause ] >> thank you so much. can you all hear me? can you y'all hear me? i want to thank andrew grabul who is the director for the center and also jeffrey engle director of the center for preservation history for
inviting me tonight. i'm so glad to see this great crowd of people and of course in the front row, my beloved family, my aunt myrna, dear family friends, and that always makes it extra special for me to be in dallas. so what i thought i would do is begin by talking a little bit about how this book came to be. in the years that i was growing up, i think it would be safe to say that the one thing that the zapruder family did not talk about what the zapruder film. we with just -- it was something that was compartmentalized completely in our lives. it wasn't that we didn't know about it, it wasn't that i wasn't aware of it but it wasn't something that we ever really talked about. i overheard my parents or i saw people stop my parents and ask
them about our name, but i can't recall a single time in my childhood when i really asked a direct question about the film. what i knew growing up really were the stories about my grandfather that my father told about who he was, his sense of humor, his personality, his eccentric sides and jokes and talents, but the film was something that was off to the side and it might have stayed that way except that my dad got sick in 2004 and died rather young in 2006 and at some point during his illness he said to me he, you know, somebody really should interview me about the film. and i remember thinking this is -- there's something -- he has something to say but i didn't interview him, which of course i regret now, but it was not something that i could do.
it was not something that we could do as a family and so after he died, i began thinking about the documents which were scattered around, things at my aunt's house, things in the lawyers' offices, papers, records, photographs and i started to feel that it was important -- would be important to bring these documents together and preserve them and i was not alone in the family in thinking that this was something that we needed to do and also to interview people who were close to our family or who were involved in the life of the film who might be able to shed light on it. but what i realized is that i didn't -- i didn't know what to ask. i didn't know -- i knew nothing about the life of the film, really. the narrative was completely unknown to me even being able to conduct this first thing and figuring out what about this body of material might represent i need today educate myself.
i started reading about the film, being a writer and someone whose curious about the past and what i found as i began to read the books that had been published was that there were these gaps in the historical record. all these places where there were parts of the story that were missing and there were parts of the story that had been told in the absence of any information from our family, conjecture, assumptions, you know, ways of interpreting our family's motives or behavior and i began to understand that our family's public silence had left out, really, a critical thread in the understanding of the film and the essential piece of that is that when people wrote about the film, they forgot that it was a home movie. the centrality of the home movie was never lost for us, this was
so personal for my grandfather and personal to our family and all the decisions that he made and that my father made in later years grew out of our family's values and our family's sense of what was important and my grandfather's history and that shaped the life of the film and that private life was braided together with the public life in a way that had never really been explored and it hadn't been for that i'm not sure i would've written this book because i don't think that i would have felt there was a public story to tell but i began to understand only a zapruder could fill in those gaps and in order to do that i was going to have to become an expert on this topic. that i had known nothing about for most of my life. so that is what this book does and what i'm going to do tonight is just introduce you a little bit to the life of my grandfather and our family and talk about the taking of the film and how my grandfather's
past influenced it and the lie of the film over 50 years. so our grandfather was born in 1905 in russia, that is him in his mother's arms in the photograph there, the little blonde boy probably the age of two or three. his mother hannah, had four children. they were extremely poor. they lived exactly in the circumstances of hardship and suffering that all jews would have in imperial russia at that time. anti-semitism not being able to be educated, poverty, depravation of all kinds and his own father left russia where they were from in 1909 to come to america and left hannah with her four children, and they remained in russia until they did not reach the united states
until 11 years later in 1920, and during that time there was, of course, world war i. there were many, many, many anti-semitic violence to the jewish community. sometime in those years the brother, so you can see there's abraham and then there are three siblings, ida who's all the way to the left, maurice the little boy in the middle, and fanny the little girl to his right, at some point in those years maurice, between 1915 and 1920, maurice either died or was killed, the circumstances are not clear and this photograph and this document shows hannah's emergency passport application. the father, israel, had gotten his naturalization, u.s.
naturalization, citizenship and so she was able to apply for emergency -- for an emergency passport from warsaw and make her way to the united states but by the time she did that, maurice was uncertainly dead and i think you can see the difference in her from the time of the first picture that was taken and her face in this later one after having lived through the war and 11 years of having been a mother to her four children alone at the loss of the son, the revolution and trying to make her way to america. they arrived in 1920, were reunited with my great-grandfather israel and our grandfather was someone who in russia had always wanted to study and always wanted to play music. he had a deep, deep love of music and was extremely
talented. he was able to play music by ear. he never had a lesson but he was just -- this was a great passion of his and when he came to america he said about becoming as thoroughly american as he could as quickly as he could like so many people did. and this i found this document in the family papers, his certificate of literacy having gone to night school to learn english. this like so many jews of this generation of this time and place, he of course went to work on 7th avenue in the garment industry. this is his industrial ladies garment workers union booklet that shows inside that he paid his dues faithfully i want you to know and then this 1925 is abe in the middle with hair which is not how he's usually seen and holding a banjo with his friends in lake ronkonkoma. and i think it's so amazing to
see that first picture of him, this little boy in imperial russia and 20 years later there he is with his bowtie on the lake with his friends and embracing his new life in america as thoroughly as he could. i like to say that i don't know if this is true, my aunt is here so she can correct me if i'm wrong, i like to say that our grandfather had three great loves, he loved music, he loved cameras and gadgets and he loved my grandmother and this is what she looked like standing in front of the tenement that they both lived in. that's how they met. on beaver street in brooklyn in 1933 and she really loved him from the very beginning. she was just smitten or so i was told by alice feld who was her
oldest friend and she set her cap at him and that was it. they married in 1933 and here they are at niagara falls, where else and the thing about my grandfather that is so relevant for this story because so far this story is probably like a lot of your parents or grandparents stories. it's extremely familiar. coming to this country very poor, becoming american, embracing a new life. for my grandfather and my grandmother, being american, snappy dressers, not having an accent, you know, embracing a social life, adopting american ways was deeply important to them. my grandfather wanted to shed everything that had to do with the old ways, with russia and with everything that that represented. his older sisters, on the other hand and his parents, were not so successful in doing that and it was something that i think he
saw that they were just of an age where it was that much harder for them to really let go of the past but as a boy of 15 coming to this country and coming of age here, this was incredibly important to him and the other thing i should say is that they went to the other thing they done their honeymoon was to go to the 1933 chicago world's fair and the theme of the world's fair was a century of progress and that really encapsulates this other great love of his, gadgets, cameras, anything that represented madernity. he loved to tinker around the house and make things better. this gave him enormous pleasure and that relates to him being such a home movie enthusiast. just briefly show you, they
moved to dallas 1941, here they are together in dallas, a picture that i think really captures something of their rapport. i should have said in the beginning i never knew my grandfather. he died with when i was 11 months old so everything that i know about him i know from stories and from interviews and from the photographs and so -- and i always grew up with a sense of his absence and this book gave me an opportunity to fill in a great many gaps about his story and who he was. and then here he is with my grandmother and my aunt myrna and my dad looking adoringly to his father. they moved out to marquette street in highland park and really attained the middle class. did exactly what one was supposed to do coming to america as an immigrant and found their way. so will fast-forward now to 1963.
here's my grandfather, this is how most people are used to seeing him and with his -- his receptionist marilyn who had no idea she was so hot until i found this picture. she's kind of fabulous with the cigarette and everything. so they -- this is a good moment to sort of talk about i think the zapruders and the kennedys because at this time in the early 1960s, everyone in our family were devoted kennedy supporters. my grandfather and grandmother, of course, my aunt had volunteers for the campaign, had sold poll tax in south dallas and my dad, one of the amazing things that happened in the course of this research was that i found -- well, first one of these letters, there was a letter that my father had written to senator kennedy during the campaign that came to
me through gary mack, the former curator of the sixth floor museum and when i was corresponding with the presidential -- the kennedy presidential library i came upon another letter that my father had written to president kennedy in 1962. he had just graduated from harvard law and he wrote this beautiful letter pleading for a job and saying, i want to be part of the new front frontier -- i'm asking you what can i do and so it really represented for me not only a window into my father as a young man and a very much an idealist and very much of this time, but also the depth of attachment that our family had for president kennedy and the kennedy's as so many other people did. this wasn't something that came about retroactively but was something that existed from the very beginning.
on the morning of november 22nd, 1963, you all we will recognize, of course -- usually i have to show people this map and show them where my grandfather was standing but i have a feeling in this particular room i could dispense with that activity. my aunt myrna and ruth who is also in the front row, went down to love field to welcome the president and the first lady and were there at this moment when they got off the plane. my uncle was waiting on main street looking out of his office building to see the motorcade go by and -- and my grandfather had that morning gone to his office, which was located at 501 he will am street just adjacent to where the motorcade was going to pass by and had said several days before that he planned to bring his movie camera and i should
have said by now that 1963, he had started taking home movies in 1934 when my aunt was a baby and there are a lot of -- i mean, forgive me, but really boring home movies of her taking a bath and of her waking up from a nap and sitting and eating in her high chair. so he was -- he was really someone who had been taken movies for a long time and he was quite good at it and the previous year he had bought some of you may have seen coming in, the bell and howell director series zoommatic camera he had bought this brand-new top of the line camera but he had left it home that day and it's such an interesting story. people have always said, this is a great example of where being a zapruder helps. he forgot it or it was rainy or
he was thought he was too short but the truth is that, he was always as i've learned, always a little ret sent, a little hesitant to put himself forward, a little insecure, perhaps because he hadn't had an education or because he was an immigrant. lillian rodgers who was his long time assistance and became a dear friend of the family, basically nagged him until he went home to get it and, you know, people always say this is so amazing, this is so incredible, this is such a twist of fate but if you knew him and her, you knew that this is how everything happened in their relationship. he hesitated, she nagged, he demurred, she nagged a little bit more and then he did it. that's how it went. and so again, it's this weird way in which for me i understood at some point as i began to do this work that i knew things
that i didn't even know i knew. i didn't know the history of the zapruder film but i knew the zapruder family. i knew how things worked. i knew our story and -- and those were the pieces that could be put together with this bigger history to tell it in a fuller way. he went down to dealey plaza with the camera, scouted out a spot, again, being quite a good photographer, he tried a couple locations before eventually settling on this four foot highly concrete abutment where he stood, set the camera to full zoom. he had marilyn the hot receptionist standing behind him because he had vertigo and to make sure he didn't get dizzy and i'm just saying, and -- and waited for the motorcade to pass by. so i'm going to -- i'm going to
let my grandfather take over and some of you may have seen this short interview that he gave describing what he saw that day. >> a gentleman just walked into our studio that i'm meeting for the first time as well as you. may i have your name please, sir. >> my name is abraham zapruder. >> and would you tell us your story, please, sir. >> i got out and about a half hour earlier to get to a good spot to shoot some pictures and i found a spot in one of these concrete blacks near the park near the underpass and i got atop there. there was another girl from my office behind me. and as i was shooting as the president was coming down from houston street and making his turn, about half way down there i heard a shot and he slumped to the side like this and then i heard another shot or two, i
couldn't say it was one or two and i saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything and i kept on shooting, that's about all it. i'm just sick. >> i think that pretty well expresses the entire feeling of the whole world. >> so that interview was taken -- was made just within hours of the assassination. what we've now has been pieced together about the events of that immediate afternoon were that, immediately after the assassination, of course, our grandfather knew exactly what had happened and knew for sure that the president was dead, which not -- no one else around him knew this. he got down from this concrete ledge and was distraught, screaming that the president was dead, that he'd been killed and was dazed on the plaza and was
approached by a reporter from the dallas morning news who saw him with the camera and said, what do you have -- do you have film of what happened? and our grandfather immediately responded that he needed to talk to the federal authorities. immediately aware that there was going -- that he had to be in touch with someone from the federal government. so harry mccormick new the head of the secret service and found him. so my grandfather went back to the office. they're waiting for him was darwin payne, another reporter who interviewed him at that very moment and the notes for that
interview, hands written notes from that interview are powerfully poignant and in the museum. my grandfather immediately tried to reach my father. my parents meanwhile, my parents meanwhile had my dad had gotten a job in the justice department working for bobby kennedy, his long awaited dream job working in the administration. they had married on october 31st, 1963, had their honeymoon and come to washington so this was two weeks after he had started this job that he had wanted so much and my grandfather was able to get my father on the phone and the way that my father remembered this was that he was distraught, he was crying, he kept saying over and over again that the president was dead but the thing that stood out to me when i read this account that my father had given was that he kept saying he
couldn't believe that this had happened in america. he couldn't believe that the president could be shot down like a dog on the street. and again, i think it takes knowing his past to understand that he had just been a witness and the recorder of this moment that belonged to the exact past that he had fled from. this was exactly the kind of senseless violence, political assassinations, somebody being dragged off a train and killed, that -- that he had left behind in russia for america because of everything that america represented. and although i don't think that he could have put that into words in that way at that moment, the fact that he kept emphasizing that he couldn't believe it happened here i think speaks so much to the particular irony of him having been the person who caught this on film and what it really meant for him to be that person, witnessing it
in that particular moment. there was not time to think about that then. things happened very quickly. forrest sorrels came to jennifer juniors. they set out to try to get the film developed and here is another very important, one of those little moments, things that happen in history that change the course of history that in ways that you couldn't predict, forrest sorrels did not in that moment say, mr. zapruder, we're going to take your camera with the film in it and get it developed and we'll be in touch with you. he said let's go see if we can get the film developed and so they set off together and this interview was done at wfaa where they went to try to get the film processed unsuccessfully, went on to kodak and they learned that oswald had been arrested. if it comes out would you give us a copy and my grandfather
said, sure. and that was that. it is one of the things about this story that i thought so much when i was writing it is that you cannot forget that it was 1963. it's moments like this that remind you of a time when that would have been an interaction between these two people over this object instead of it being immediately swarmed upon and understood as something that could potentially be of enormous significance. it took the rest of the day to get the film developed, to get duplicates made, to deliver two copies of the film to the secret service in dallas and by the end of the night, my grandfather came home in his car with the original camera, the original film and a copy of the film with him, walked into the house that night and without saying anything to anybody set up the
projector and showed the film to my grandmother and my uncle. my aunt reports that she was much too distraught to watch the film at that time. and i ended up beginning the book with this story of the film being shown in the den of the zapruder family home on the night of november 22nd, because i think again it puts the film where it belongs understood as a home movie exactly the way that the film's had always been shown in the den to the family, that even though this had this tremendous significance it was nevertheless deeply, deeply personal to him and that was something that never changed. that night before my grandfather could go to bed he got a call from richard stali who had come to dallas, learned my grandfather's name, looked him
up in the phone book and called the house wanting to know if he could come over and see the film and this is a photograph of a young dick stali. the immediately my grandfather understood i think the outlines of the problem that was facing him. there was going to be a media frenzy over this film. he was traumatized, of course, deeply fearful that it would be exploited or used in a way that was not in keeping with his values, but aware that he needed to be rid of it, that he wasn't going to be able to keep it and that he had this object in his hands that he was going to have to figure out something, what to do with it. and in that context i think that the call from dick stali was something of a relief. "life" magazine was very much beloved, a very trusted pictorial magazine at the time. they were decent, respectful
people, they had a relationship with the kennedy family and i think he felt in that moment that this might offer him a way out of the situation, a way to entrust it to someone and to an institution that would treat it respectfully but also not have to keep it and that is, in fact, what happened. i'm not going to take too much time to go into all the details. you can read the book if you want to. but i will just say that over the course of the weekend, first the print rights were sold on saturday morning and then the film rights on monday. there was an unbelievable frenzy in the office on, a scene that i describe in great detail over what the reporter's desperately trying to get their hands on the film and trying to convince my grandfather to sell to them and not to richard stali and a rather colorful episode with dan rather that occurred on monday and i'll just leave that there.
one of the things that -- sorry. there's one missing here. one of the things that made -- this is a little bit out of order but one of the things that made this story complicated -- we're just missing a slide. that's interesting how that happens. okay. one of the things that made this story very difficult for me to take on was that there was a moral dilemma at the heart of it, a moral dilemma that my grandfather was very much aware of -- i'm actually going to go back to this one -- that my grandfather was very much aware of in that kind of reverberated through my family even though we didn't talk about it and that was the obvious thing, how does one ultimately financial profit
from a national tragedy like this without taking a moral hit? this was something that plagued my grandfather over the weekend of the assassination. what to do? what to do? i couldn't keep the film. he knew he needed to get rid of it. it it represented aid financial opportunity, the truth is that he grew up incredibly poor in russia and i think anyone can understand how hard it would have been to walk away from that -- in that moment and yet it felt wrong. it felt like there was something about it that was deeply unpalatable to him and contrary to his values. he struggled over those days trying to figure out what to do and ultimately what he did i think is -- is that he walked the line and by that i mean he did sell it to "life" magazine, he sold it for $150,000 but he made life promise to treat the film with dignity and good taste
which is in the contract, you can just stop and imagine for a moment a contract with a major magazine that requires that they handle this film with dignity and good taste, that's the last time that ever happened -- i can tell you that right now, but also that they would defend the copyright, prevent the film from being exploited or sensationalized for from being widely distributed in illegal copies and he donated $25,000 to the widow of j.d. tibbet who was the officer who was shot in the texas theater. i think he was trying to find a way to find a balance, not to give it away, not to walk away from the money but also not to sell it to the highest bidder, to put certain things in place to try to protect it and to do something good with the money that he had, and this kind of balance would be repeated
throughout our family's life again and again and again every time we had to deal with the film and we fashioned this kind of dilemma that was more or less the approach that our family took. so the middle section of the book i'm going to shift gears here because for 12 years from 1963 to 1975, the film was owned by "life" magazine not by our family and one of the great things that happened in the course of my research was that i went to the "life" magazine archives and i asked if i could see all the files related to the zapruder film fully expecting them to say no and they said sure and they just turned them over which was just unbelievable, actually. and what i ended up finding in these hundreds of pages was this very revealing i think and important story about the
beginning of the life of the with zapruder film in america and the dilemmas that began to swirl around it from the very beginning which only grew greater and greater and greater over the years. these are some of -- some of you will recognize these images. the first one printed on november 29th of the film in the issue about the president's assassination and this one in color, from the memorial edition. from the very beginning "life" magazine faced its own dilemma which was how to use the zapruder film with dignity? how to balance the public's need to see this -- these images or desire to see these images with the very strong editorial feeling that these were inappropriate as indeed they were to the time and that the american public shouldn't see them, shouldn't see them because they were disrespectful to the president, shouldn't see them because they were too violent
and graphic. this basic problem remained the problem of "life" magazine for the 12 years that they owned it but with each passing year, the pressure grew on "life" magazine to make this film available. of course, with the warren commission and later the conspiracy theories that began to grow and the suspicion that the warren commission -- that the conclusions of the warren commission were inaccurate, the fact that people could not see the film continued to feed this sense that something was being held back. in reality, "life" magazine was not in collusion, the records clearly show that "life" magazine wasn't in collusion with the federal government to hide something from the american people, but they were really reflecting a time when there was a strong sense that this was something that people shouldn't see and even as that changed, they were protecting their financial and commercial interests in the film.
they did not have a way to show it as a film and they didn't want to give it to somebody else like cbs news for example, who wanted to see it and requested repeatedly and so instead they just sat on it and the more they sat on it the more frenzied the desire grew to see the film. all of this is even more complicated by the fact and i'm just going to -- this is just a little sense of some of the documents -- all of this was further complicated by the fact that gradually, starting in the late '60s versions of the film began to leak out and people began to see it and when they saw it, because of the way that the film looks, it did not look like what the warren commission concluded.
you all know what i'm talking about. it looks like the president was hit in the front of the head. even if you believe the president was hit in the back of the head, it still looks like he was hit in the front of the head and so there was this intrinsic problem which was every time someone saw it seemed to be further confirmation of the fact that "life" magazine was suppressing this film because it did not conform to the findings of the warren commission. so this -- these are the outlines of this tremendous tension that took place inside "life" magazine and this -- this rising pressure walter cronkite went on the air and criticizing "life" magazine for not making it public, bootlegs began to get out, lawsuits against "life" magazine and eventually in 1969 there was of course the famous clay shaw trial. jim garrison in new orleans
accusing businessman clay shaw of conspiring to kill the president and there was a subpoena to get the film and to show it. this was the first time -- this is now 1969. the first time the film was ever shown in a public setting in the courtroom and as you can see this is the headline of the new orleans states item, our grandfather was compelled to testify much to his regret. he did not want to testify but he did, and one of the outcomes of this trial was that jim garrison who got a hold of the copy of the film through his subpoena set about making as many bootleg copies as he possibly could and distributing them as widely as he could and one of the very interesting things for me about this is that, of course this wasn't what
our family wanted, but there is a way in which you can understand that the people who were bootlegging the film and the people who were distributing it really believed that there was a cover-up and that this was truth that was being suppressed and that they were doing the right thing. and so the thing about this book that i found so fascinating in the end is that at so many different junctures there are people who disagree with one another but no one with's really wrong, you know. people are reflecting different times or different values or different spirits or a change in culture but ultimately the desire to see this film was something that simply couldn't be suppressed and "life" magazine was not in a position to make it available for all the reasons that i've said. so there's the conundrum that continued to get played out over and over again. this is a photograph of our grandfather who died on
august 30th, 1970 and five years later the film was returned to our family. it was geraldo rivera aired a bootleg copy of it on his program. it was the first time it was seen on national television. amid this ib cred feel that there was the zapruder film showed the truth that until the zapruder film was made public it would always be, you know -- that this truth would always be suppressed and "life" magazine by this point had really had it. there was nothing in it for them. they couldn't use the film because they couldn't do so in keeping with the terms of their contract essentially. there was no way to use the film in good taste. it can't be shown in good taste. it's not in good taste and so there was no way for them to do it. the records show them trying to do it. it always somehow fizzled and
all the criticism coming at them from all of these different quarters and finally the bootlegs which they were contractually obligated to defend the copyright but it was impossible to defend. no one could defend it. that's all they would have done and, in fact, in one of the memos one of the executives said i get it from all sides. i get it from the networks, i get it from the public, i get it from the zapruders. they had it and so they decided that they were going to get rid of it and here's another part of the story -- my aunt is shaking her head. there was always sort -- the story was always known that "life" magazine returned the film to our family and paid -- and we paid $1 for it. that was always well-known what people didn't know is that the force behind that decision was my grandmother who was -- force is the right word. she was a force of nature for all those who knew her.
you can testify to that and she felt very, very strongly that the film should be back in our family, that this is what her husband would have wanted, that it was our responsibility, perhaps that it might have some value some day. i hate to say it but that's true and -- and no one else in the family really wanted to deal with it and "life" magazine would have been happy to donate is to the library of congress or national archives but my grandmother basically, to use a yiddish expression, just bugged him until finally he agreed to negotiate with life for the return of the film and i love this because this is how history really happens.