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Was Muchmore’s film shown on WNEW-TV, New York, on November 26, 1963?


Paul Rigby
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It is an article of faith among leading anti-alterationists that Mary Muchmore a) definitely did shoot film footage of President Kennedy’s execution (despite her explicit denial to the FBI); and B) that this brief film sequence was shown on WNEW-TV, New York, on Tuesday, 26 November 1963.

When asked for both a specific timing and print sources for this certainly, however, said advocates have a marked tendency to become a little vague, or just plain conflicting. Responses for the showing time range from “morning,” to “just after midday,” or “afternoon” – of November 28, according to a recent bizarre contribution from Josiah Thompson – with appropriately imprecise citations of an unnamed New York newspaper report, of unspecified title on an unknown page, which appeared either on the afternoon of 26 November, or a day, possibly two, later. All of which is odd, because there are contemporaneous print sources for the showing of an assassination film by WNEW-TV on Nov. 26. The trouble is, as we shall see, that they don’t quite reinforce the simple-minded story the anti-alterationists would have us believe.

I first came across a dating of and location for the Muchmore film’s debut in Barbie Zeliger’s Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory (University of Chicago Press, 1992), which directed the reader – see p.68 n7 (p.233) - to the December 2, 1963, edition of Broadcasting: The Businessweekly of Television and Radio (Vol 65, No 23), and a piece entitled “A World Listened and Watched.” On p.37, I found the following:

“United Press International claimed it provided the first film for TV of President Kennedy’s assassination when it sold sequences shot by Dallas amateur photographer Marie Muchmore to WNEW-TV New York, which showed it last Tuesday (Nov. 26). The 8mm film, which was enlarged to 16mm, shows the President being hit by the bullets as Mrs Kennedy and a Secret Service agent try to help him. UPI Newsfilm rushed additional copies to its subscribers around the world.”

So far, so good for the anti-alterationists.

Better still, the same edition, on p.69, carried a full page advertisement from UPI. Curiously, however, the advert made no mention of the film-taker’s name. Here it is, in full:

“The first film showing the assassination of President Kennedy was telecast in New York on November 26. It was a UPI Newsfilm exclusive It was serviced to UPI Newsfilm subscribers the world over.”

This reluctance to name the film-taker, as noted, struck me as curious: It was not without precedent, though, as we shall shortly see.

Further reading unearthed an even earlier print source for the claim that the Muchmore film had debuted on WNEW-TV, New York, on Tuesday, Nov 26. The lengthy report, entitled Pictures of the Assassination Fall to Amateurs on Street, was authored by Rick Friedman, and appeared over three pages in the Editor and Publisher edition dated November 30, 1963. The germane passage ran as follows:

“Another film clip taken by an amateur went out to the public Nov. 26. United Press International released to its television subscribers around the world a 16mm sequence which was exclusive to the wire service. Taken by Marie Muchmore of Dallas, it also shows the motorcade coming into view, the President slumping over, Mrs Kennedy reaching for him, and Secret Service man jumping into the back of the President’s car. The film was enlarged for tv from its original 8mm format.”

This seemed such unequivocal confirmation of the anti-alterationists’ version of events – I didn’t flatter myself that all of them had missed the item - that I wondered what on earth stopped them from citing this source with cheerful regularity. Then I turned the page.

Friedman’s article was spread over three pages. The passage on Muchmore and WNEW-TV appeared on p.17, the second of them. The third and final page was to be found distantly on p.67. As I read it, I realised at once why Friedman’s article could not be adduced by Thompson, Mack et al: Friedman had proceeded to commit heresy. The Muchmore film was not the only film of the assassination to have made it onto American television on November 26, 1963:

“By Tuesday, numerous pictures, both still and movie, were being offered to news media. At least one television station was besieged with protests after it had shown scenes of the President’s motorcade at the moment of the shooting. Many viewers considered them to be too gruesome.”

This couldn’t have been the Muchmore film, which, even allowing for changing mores, could not conceivably have been considered “too gruesome,” even in 1963. Nor, to his limited credit, did Friedman seek to pretend it was. But what was this film, and who had taken it? Was there another assassination film in circulation in the US on November 26? Indeed there was, according to the Milwaukee Journal of November 26:

AP, "Movie Film Depicts Shooting of Kennedy,” Milwaukee Journal, November 26, 1963, part 1, p.3:

Dallas, Tex.-AP - A strip of color movie film graphically depicting the assassination of President Kennedy was made by a Dallas clothing manufacturer with an 8 millimeter camera.

Several persons in Dallas who have seen the film, which lasts about 15 seconds, say it clearly shows how the president was hit in the head with shattering force by the second of two bullets fired by the assassin.

Life magazine reportedly purchased still picture rights to the material for about $40,000.

("The film also was being distributed by United Press International Newsfilms to subscribing stations. WITI-TV in Milwaukee is a subscriber, but will reserve judgment on whether to show the film until after its officials have viewed it.")

The tale is not quite finished, though. There was, I discovered last year, an even earlier print source for a film shown on WNEW-TV on Tuesday, November 26. Again, note the absence of an attribution to a named film-taker:

“WNEW-TV (Channel 5) claimed it was the first TV station in the country to televise an amateur photographer’s film footage of President Kennedy’s assassination. The film was distributed by United Press International and aired by Channel 5 at 12:46 a.m. yesterday,”

Richard K. Doan, “Now the Task of Righting Upset Schedules,” New York Herald Tribune, 27 November 1963, section 1, p.21.

As with Friedman’s piece, so, too, with Doan’s report – it didn’t quite tell the tale the anti-alterationists peddle. And begged the question: Was it really the Muchmore film shown on WNEW-TV? Or was it the first public version of the Zapruder, the one seen and twice described by Dan Rather on November 25? Had the films been switched, with the Z film (public version one) hastily withdrawn, and the Muchmore – or merely frames from it - substituted? What there any evidence to support such a hypothesis? To my surprise, there was.

On the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News, 4 star edition, on Tuesday, 26 November 1963, under the headline “Man Who Came to See JFK Makes Tragic Movie,” there is the following blurb above 4 stills, which take up the rest of the page:

“These dramatic pictures are from an 8mm ‘home movie’ reel, shot by Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder who went to see President Kennedy ride through cheering throngs in Texas city. His camera recorded one of the most tragic moments in American history. Story page 3,” Philadelphia Daily News, Tuesday, 26 November 1963, p.1 (4 star edition).

Below lay from 4 frames from…the Muchmore film.

Something very interesting was going on with the assassination films on November 25-26, 1963. What it was, and why, offers the potential to shed important light on much more than just the history of the films.

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It is an article of faith among leading anti-alterationists that Mary Muchmore a) definitely did shoot film footage of President Kennedy’s execution (despite her explicit denial to the FBI); and B) that this brief film sequence was shown on WNEW-TV, New York, on Tuesday, 26 November 1963.

When asked for both a specific timing and print sources for this certainly, however, said advocates have a marked tendency to become a little vague, or just plain conflicting. Responses for the showing time range from “morning,” to “just after midday,” or “afternoon” – of November 28, according to a recent bizarre contribution from Josiah Thompson – with appropriately imprecise citations of an unnamed New York newspaper report, of unspecified title on an unknown page, which appeared either on the afternoon of 26 November, or a day, possibly two, later. All of which is odd, because there are contemporaneous print sources for the showing of an assassination film by WNEW-TV on Nov. 26. The trouble is, as we shall see, that they don’t quite reinforce the simple-minded story the anti-alterationists would have us believe.

I first came across a dating of and location for the Muchmore film’s debut in Barbie Zeliger’s Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory (University of Chicago Press, 1992), which directed the reader – see p.68 n7 (p.233) - to the December 2, 1963, edition of Broadcasting: The Businessweekly of Television and Radio (Vol 65, No 23), and a piece entitled “A World Listened and Watched.” On p.37, I found the following:

“United Press International claimed it provided the first film for TV of President Kennedy’s assassination when it sold sequences shot by Dallas amateur photographer Marie Muchmore to WNEW-TV New York, which showed it last Tuesday (Nov. 26). The 8mm film, which was enlarged to 16mm, shows the President being hit by the bullets as Mrs Kennedy and a Secret Service agent try to help him. UPI Newsfilm rushed additional copies to its subscribers around the world.”

So far, so good for the anti-alterationists.

Better still, the same edition, on p.69, carried a full page advertisement from UPI. Curiously, however, the advert made no mention of the film-taker’s name. Here it is, in full:

“The first film showing the assassination of President Kennedy was telecast in New York on November 26. It was a UPI Newsfilm exclusive It was serviced to UPI Newsfilm subscribers the world over.”

This reluctance to name the film-taker, as noted, struck me as curious: It was not without precedent, though, as we shall shortly see.

The name of the film-taker was totally irrelevant. UPI wanted to blow its own horn and naming Muchmore would drawn attention away from them. Why should they have named her? Calling it an “exclusive” seems to indicate it wasn’t the “Z-film” frames of which had already been published.

Further reading unearthed an even earlier print source for the claim that the Muchmore film had debuted on WNEW-TV, New York, on Tuesday, Nov 26. The lengthy report, entitled Pictures of the Assassination Fall to Amateurs on Street, was authored by Rick Friedman, and appeared over three pages in the Editor and Publisher edition dated November 30, 1963. The germane passage ran as follows:
“Another film clip taken by an amateur went out to the public Nov. 26. United Press International released to its television subscribers around the world a 16mm sequence which was exclusive to the wire service. Taken by Marie Muchmore of Dallas, it also shows the motorcade coming into view, the President slumping over, Mrs Kennedy reaching for him, and Secret Service man jumping into the back of the President’s car. The film was enlarged for tv from its original 8mm format.”

This seemed such unequivocal confirmation of the anti-alterationists’ version of events – I didn’t flatter myself that all of them had missed the item - that I wondered what on earth stopped them from citing this source with cheerful regularity. Then I turned the page.

Friedman’s article was spread over three pages. The passage on Muchmore and WNEW-TV appeared on p.17, the second of them. The third and final page was to be found distantly on p.67. As I read it, I realised at once why Friedman’s article could not be adduced by Thompson, Mack et al: Friedman had proceeded to commit heresy. The Muchmore film was not the only film of the assassination to have made it onto American television on November 26, 1963:

“By Tuesday, numerous pictures, both still and movie, were being offered to news media. At least one television station was besieged with protests after it had shown scenes of the President’s motorcade at the moment of the shooting. Many viewers considered them to be too gruesome.”

This couldn’t have been the Muchmore film, which, even allowing for changing mores, could not conceivably have been considered “too gruesome,” even in 1963. Nor, to his limited credit, did Friedman seek to pretend it was.

“Scenes” can refer to stills and it wouldn’t surprise me that even though one can’t see much in the Muchmore film people might have considered seeing a person get killed in real life “gruesome” and judging on the stills from Muchmore on Duncan’s link there are better quality versions than the one on YouTube.

But what was this film, and who had taken it? Was there another assassination film in circulation in the US on November 26? Indeed there was, according to the Milwaukee Journal of November 26:
AP, "Movie Film Depicts Shooting of Kennedy,” Milwaukee Journal, November 26, 1963, part 1, p.3:

Dallas, Tex.-AP - A strip of color movie film graphically depicting the assassination of President Kennedy was made by a Dallas clothing manufacturer with an 8 millimeter camera.

Several persons in Dallas who have seen the film, which lasts about 15 seconds, say it clearly shows how the president was hit in the head with shattering force by the second of two bullets fired by the assassin.

Life magazine reportedly purchased still picture rights to the material for about $40,000.

("The film also was being distributed by United Press International Newsfilms to subscribing stations. WITI-TV in Milwaukee is a subscriber, but will reserve judgment on whether to show the film until after its officials have viewed it.")

The author presumably hadn’t seen either film, he or she could have falsely assumed it was the same film. The last two sentences were obviously added by a local reporter.

Are you really proposing that WNEW actually broadcast the Z-film? Can you quote anyone who claims to have seen it? Don’t you think that after a big deal was made about it being shown on TV for the “first” time in 1975 someone would have said ‘hey I saw that 12 years ago!’? If “they” were plotting to further alter the film why show and release a copy on the 26th? Don’t you think someone who saw it might have noticed it matched the stills of Zapruder in Life?

The tale is not quite finished, though. There was, I discovered last year, an even earlier print source for a film shown on WNEW-TV on Tuesday, November 26. Again, note the absence of an attribution to a named film-taker:
“WNEW-TV (Channel 5) claimed it was the first TV station in the country to televise an amateur photographer’s film footage of President Kennedy’s assassination. The film was distributed by United Press International and aired by Channel 5 at 12:46 a.m. yesterday,”

Richard K. Doan, “Now the Task of Righting Upset Schedules,” New York Herald Tribune, 27 November 1963, section 1, p.21.

As with Friedman’s piece, so, too, with Doan’s report – it didn’t quite tell the tale the anti-alterationists peddle. And begged the question: Was it really the Muchmore film shown on WNEW-TV? Or was it the first public version of the Zapruder, the one seen and twice described by Dan Rather on November 25? Had the films been switched, with the Z film (public version one) hastily withdrawn, and the Muchmore – or merely frames from it - substituted?

Did it really say 12:46 AM? If so that might have been a typo. Hard to believe they would have been flooded with calls about the "gruesome" film if it had been shown at 12:46 AM (Wednesday -)Thursday. Nothing else in the above blurb contradicts the notion the Muchmore film was shown. Was there anything else about the film? Any chance of you uploading a scan of it? And while you're at it could upload scans of the other's?

What there any evidence to support such a hypothesis? To my surprise, there was.

On the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News, 4 star edition, on Tuesday, 26 November 1963, under the headline “Man Who Came to See JFK Makes Tragic Movie,” there is the following blurb above 4 stills, which take up the rest of the page:

“These dramatic pictures are from an 8mm ‘home movie’ reel, shot by Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder who went to see President Kennedy ride through cheering throngs in Texas city. His camera recorded one of the most tragic moments in American history. Story page 3,” Philadelphia Daily News, Tuesday, 26 November 1963, p.1 (4 star edition).

Below lay from 4 frames from…the Muchmore film.

Obviouslly no one at the paper had seen the Z-film, at best they'd seen the stills published in Life. People including the news media do make mistakes you know, on 9/11 it was reported that flight 93 crashed “at Camp David”, on the day Reagan was shot it was reported Brady had died, “Dewey Wins” etc but this is further verification the Muchmore film had been released by (and more probably on) Nov. 26. How late in the day did the “4 star edition” go to press? Might that be after 12:46 pm? Can we safely assume the stills hadn’t appeared in earlier editions, hmmm why do you think that might be? Thanks also for the citations the Muchmore film was show as advertised. Excellent, you’ve debunked yourself!

NOTE - I changed some of Paul's quotes to boldbecause otherwisw I would "have posted more than the allowed number of quoted blocks of text"

EDIT - Typos and various errors fixed, 2 sentences added

Edited by Len Colby
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Those MM frames are from the restored version that was taken from a 16mm "pre-splice" "pre-damage" copy. It was restored by a British company, but the version shown by the Discovery channel was incorrectly telecined. I fixed this problem a little over a year ago and posted the repaired frames. I think the frames that Duncan referenced are probably copies of these. Most of the You Tube variants are copies from Groden's video, which contains the damaged/spliced frames.

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Paul, I'm not a very filmy citizen, but it souds very interesting, to put it mildly.

What are the sources on your comment about Dan Rather describing the film on Nov. 25th?

Nat,

Trask’s National Nightmare on six feet of film: Mr. Zapruder’s home movie and the murder of President Kennedy (Danvers, MA: Yeoman Press, 2005), pp.137-144, offers transcripts of Dan Rather’s two surprisingly detailed descriptions of the film, as offered on November 25, first to radio listeners, then to CBS television news watchers (Walter Cronkite presiding). I have assumed them accurate, whether wisely or not remains to be seen.

Rather’s descriptions suggest a compelling reason for the recall of the first public version of the Z film. In both of them, Rather describes Connally as having turned to face the President, with his right arm extended towards the latter (radio) or merely reaching with an unspecified arm (tv) in response to Kennedy’s agonised response to the first bullet’s impact. Anatomically, then, Connally was in completely the wrong position to receive a bullet in the back from the rear. In fact, he was side-on to the TSBD, chest facing the grassy knoll, when, according to both Rather descriptions, the front of his exposed white shirt clearly manifested the exit wound.

You see at once the problem for the manufacturers of the two official orthodoxies (TSBD and the grassy knoll – I think of them as a pair).

Interestingly, Trask notes elsewhere that Rather was shown the Z film again on November 26 – in effect, one can’t help thinking, “re-educated” as to the film’s contents – at KRLD. According to Trask, it was one of the two copies sent to Washington, and recalled by the Dallas Secret Service (p.131). Call me cynical, but I rather suspect they were not the same film:

“The evening of November 25 the Secret Service contacted the FBI requesting that the FBI-lent first-generation copy be returned to the Dallas Secret Service, as it was needed the next morning. The film was put upon a Braniff Airlines fight scheduled to arrive in Dallas at 3:21 a.m. By 9:00 a.m., the film was delivered by an FBI agent back into the hands of Secret Service Inspector Kelley,”

Richard Trask. National Nightmare on six feet of film: Mr. Zapruder’s home movie and the murder of President Kennedy (Danvers, MA: Yeoman Press, 2005), p.122.

By coincidence, November 25 was not only the day that Rather offered his two descriptions, but also the day on which Time-Life initiated a survey/reconstruction; and, late in the afternoon, that the same organisation felt belatedly compelled to buy the film rights to Z (or so the received version has it). Even more interestingly, it was the same night that Russian TV viewers were treated to a film of the actual shooting, a film that could not – because of the time differences involved – have been the Muchmore film.

All in all, then, for the Zapruder film, a very event-filled day, November 25.

Paul.

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The name of the film-taker was totally irrelevant. UPI

“Scenes” can refer to stills and it wouldn’t surprise me that even though one can’t see much in the Muchmore film people might have considered seeing a person get killed in real life “gruesome” and judging on the stills from Muchmore on Duncan’s link there are better quality versions than the one on YouTube.

Doesn't convince, Len. There was a film circulating which was genuinely gruesome and it wasn't the Muchmore:

"In the meantime, sometime on Sunday in New York City, Life's publisher C.D. Jackson viewed with horror the images of the newly arrived film. According to secondhand sources, its shocking scenes convinced him that the magazine should acquire motion picture rights to the film as well to keep the its frightful death sequences out of the hands of exploiters and such gruesome images away from the public,"

David R. Wrone. The Zapruder Film: Reframing JFK's Assassination (University Press of Kansas, 2003), p.35.

Sounds like the same film to me:

“By Tuesday, numerous pictures, both still and movie, were being offered to news media. At least one television station was besieged with protests after it had shown scenes of the President’s motorcade at the moment of the shooting. Many viewers considered them to be too gruesome,”

Rick Friedman, Pictures of the Assassination Fall to Amateurs on Street, Editor & Publisher, November 30, 1963, p.67

Paul

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Paul...I find all of your Z research valuable, fascinating, and largely new to me.

Keep up the good work.

Jack

Only if you guarantee to ensure Jim Fetzer makes good use of the spare pair of reading specs I've popped in the post to him tonight!

Appreciated.

Paul

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Something very interesting was going on with the assassination films on November 25-26, 1963. What it was, and why, offers the potential to shed important light on much more than just the history of the films.

The history of the Muchmore film can be read in Trask's book "The Pictures of the Pain". If anyone doubts what film was flown to NY and shown on TV, then read Trask's book. The interesting part about Muchmore's film was that it wasn't known to the Feds until after it had been aired to the public.

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The name of the film-taker was totally irrelevant. UPI wanted to blow its own horn and naming Muchmore would drawn attention away from them. Why should they have named her? Calling it an “exclusive” seems to indicate it wasn’t the “Z-film” frames of which had already been published.

We call the film "The Muchmore film", but UPI bought the rights to that film sight unseen from Marie Muchmore, thus it was now their film. So if Muchmore's name wasn't attributed to the news when the film was shown ... its hardly a big deal IMO.

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Something very interesting was going on with the assassination films on November 25-26, 1963. What it was, and why, offers the potential to shed important light on much more than just the history of the films.

The history of the Muchmore film can be read in Trask's book "The Pictures of the Pain". If anyone doubts what film was flown to NY and shown on TV, then read Trask's book. The interesting part about Muchmore's film was that it wasn't known to the Feds until after it had been aired to the public.

Sorry, Bill, but I've accidentally sent my only pair of reading specs to Jim Fetzer. Please remind me of the page reference and/or footnote in Trask's Pictures of the Pain wherein he explicitly states that Muchmor's film was shown on WNEW-TV on 26 November 1963 at, well, anytime? I would hate readers of this thread to be left with the impression that you've just made this up and that, in fact, there is no such claim made by Trask anywhere in the book.

Paul

PS Check your pants aren't aflame. I fear a conflagration.

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Something very interesting was going on with the assassination films on November 25-26, 1963. What it was, and why, offers the potential to shed important light on much more than just the history of the films.

The history of the Muchmore film can be read in Trask's book "The Pictures of the Pain". If anyone doubts what film was flown to NY and shown on TV, then read Trask's book. The interesting part about Muchmore's film was that it wasn't known to the Feds until after it had been aired to the public.

Sorry, Bill, but I've accidentally sent my only pair of reading specs to Jim Fetzer. Please remind me of the page reference and/or footnote in Trask's Pictures of the Pain wherein he explicitly states that Muchmor's film was shown on WNEW-TV on 26 November 1963 at, well, anytime? I would hate readers of this thread to be left with the impression that you've just made this up and that, in fact, there is no such claim made by Trask anywhere in the book.

Paul

PS Check your pants aren't aflame. I fear a conflagration.

Paul...I checked the chapter on Muchmore. I could find no mention of NWEW-TV. What I did

find:

1. The FBI was not interested in her fillm

2. She sold the UNDEVELOPED film to UPI for $1000 (she did not see her film)

3. She denied taking footage on Elm Street

4. Nobody knew of her Elm footage till 1964 publication of FOUR DAYS

5. Following Trask's narrative of her activity, it seems impossible for her to move from her filming

location on Houston to the location where her "Elm footage" was shot from in the time allowed.

6. Her Elm footage lasts only 3 seconds, but is perfectly framed on the limo.

Jack

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