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Roy Cooper 8MM Movie

Wade Rhodes

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Does anybody know what happened to this film or negatives?



The day began at the Texas Hotel in Fort Worth. It ended in front of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. Friday. November 22, 1963.

On a political trip to Texas, John Kennedy had visited San Antonio and Houston. In the morning, he looked out from his Fort Worth hotel and saw a crowd gathering outside in the rain. The public response to his visit was better than he had expected, and he was somewhat enthusiastic. The political situation was critical. He had barely won Texas, and thus the presidency, in 1960. Now, one poll had his popularity in the state down to 50%, two-thirds of what it had been a year earlier. He faced intense conservative hostility. The president spoke to the crowd. He and Mrs. Kennedy flew to Dallas, and entered an open car in a motorcade that was supposed to take him to a luncheon speech.

More than thirty years after the most traumatic criminal event in modern American history, video has been discovered that further documents the events of that day.

Discovery stimulates emotions

The film was shot for KTVT-TV. The station is now a CBS affiliate. In 1963, it was an independent with two newscasts. The film's discovery has been dramatic and emotional for people at the station. "For those of us who are old enough to remember the Kennedy assassination, it was more than fascinating. It took us back, once again, to November 22, 1963," says Jim Holland, News Director of KTVT.

"You got an emotional jolt from seeing footage that had never been seen before, and remembering where you were and what happened that day. It was an emotional experience for some people here." --- Jim Holland, News Director, KTVT-TV

Film had been hidden for 33 years

The silent, 16 mm film apparently had been rescued from the trash at the television station in 1963, and kept hidden for more than 30 years. One copy was almost destroyed when a house burned.

The 45 minutes of footage surfaced when a former news photographer's daughter and wife donated it to the National Archives. It had been held by the family of Eli Sturges. This was a copy of footage that had also been kept by the family members of another channel 11 photographer, Roy Cooper, Jr. They are deciding what to do with that original.

Sturges' daughter told the Dallas Morning News that her father and his best friend, Cooper, closed the curtains tight and screened the film at their home.

"I can remember my dad splicing pieces of film together at the kitchen table ... They wanted to get rich, but, they also hoped other people could learn from it." --- Janet Veazey, Photographer's daughter

The men made the duplicate for Sturges as a backup. It was a tense time. The President had been assassinated. Many people thought there was a conspiracy and others involved. "When Roy came to us, he was terrified. He didn't want anybody to know about it," Mrs. Sturges told the paper.

Roy Cooper retired before Holland arrived to become News Director. But, he stayed in touch with the newsroom. "He would come and visit me once a month, just to sit and chat. In all his visits and in all that time, he never once let on that he had this film in his possession," says Holland. It appears that Cooper was unable to do much with it. "He supposedly had sold two minutes of it several years ago to a lesser-known documentary company. I think that both Roy and Eli thought that some day the footage was going to be worth some money, and that's why they hung on to it," he explains.

The old black and white video is fascinating. Governor Connally stands up in the limousine and tips his hat as the Kennedys get in. A smiling, charismatic president moves casually, but, confidently in Fort Worth.

Among the highlights of the film:

· President and Mrs. Kennedy walking hand in hand. "That is an unusual shot, because people seldom saw them display affections publicly," Holland says.

· A shot of Jack Ruby in the background of the Lee Harvey Oswald "press conference," which definitively placed him there. "Ruby has said it was at that point when he decided to kill Oswald," says Holland.

· Lyndon Johnson walking out of Parkland Hospital after the president had died. "He was about to go to the airport to be sworn in as President of the United States," says Holland.

· Many crowd shots and aftermath shots.

Although these are outtakes, the film chronicles: the president's arrival in Fort Worth the evening before the assassination; a breakfast speech; a speech outside the hotel where the breakfast was held; the departure from Fort Worth; the arrival at Love Field; the motorcade, which a cameraman shot about a block from the assassination; and the pandemonium after the shooting. The photographer ran into the railroad yard behind the grassy knoll, where the initial search was concentrated to find the assassin or assassins.

One question in the minds of many broadcasters is: Who has the rights to it? "Technically, you could say that the station retains the rights to it, but we have decided to waive the rights, if the footage is released by the Archives. We're not in a position to want to block anyone's usage of it," says Holland.

I contacted KTVT TV about the film a few years ago, and never got a response.


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