This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.

The FBI had made its own copy of the original Nix film in 1964. (That copy was later donated to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which chronicles the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.)

In the mid-seventies, UPITN (the successor to UPI Newsfilm) closed its offices in New York. Burt Reinhardt, who was leaving the company, placed the original Nix film in a safe deposit box at a neighborhood Chase bank and, in my presence, sent the key to the box to Al Bock, UPI’s chief accountant.

In the late seventies, The House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations subpoenaed the original Nix film from UPITN. It was then sent to an Arizona university for further testing, where the Itek and Caltech analyses were confirmed.

Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, informed me that the original Nix film was returned to UPITN in 1979. He found a receipt for the film at UPITN, signed by two UPITN employees. One is deceased and the other’s signature is unreadable. UPITN was unable to locate the original film.

In 1990, twenty-five years after the film was purchased, WTN, the successor to UPITN, returned all material related to the Nix film to the Nix family as required by the original contract. Gail, Orville Nix’s daughter, called to ask me the whereabouts of the original, informing me that she had received only prints of the film. I told her that I knew nothing about the whereabouts of the original since Burt Reinhardt had sent it to UPITN.

The 1991 Oliver Stone film, JFK, includes sequences, sometimes in slow motion, from the Nix film. According to Mack, Gail Nix had provided Stone with an 8mm print, and Stone had blown it up to 35mm.

Later that year, I received a call from a Warner Brothers lawyer informing me that Stone had used film of the assassination without the consent of UPITN. I assumed that Stone had used some of the Muchmore film and I referred him to Ken Coyte, President of WTN, who charged him a $10,000 usage fee.

Originally, UPI Newsfilm had blown the Muchmore film up to 16mm, slow-moed it, stop-motioned it and delivered prints with scripts to all its clients. The original was turned over to the UPI still picture service, which sent frames from it to its clients. It later cut into the film to print other stills for inclusion in its best-selling book on the day of the assassination. The film was never fully restored.

AP Television, which acquired the UPITN library in 1998, announced in 2004 that it had digitized and archived the Muchmore film. It has no copies of the Nix film.


CORRECTION 11/22/2011: In the 1978 article, this sentence stated the Muchmore film also captured Secret Service agent Clinton Hill climbing aboard the presidential limousine to shield Jackie Kennedy. In fact, the Nix film captured that scene. The text has been corrected by removing the claim.

 

Maurice W. Schonfeld was the managing editor of UPI NewsFilm. He later was the founding president of CNN, and has had a long career in television news and production.