A 60-year-old home movie could finally reveal whether multiple shooters, and not a lone gunman, assassinated President John F. Kennedy – but the federal government has been hiding it for decades, according to an explosive new lawsuit.
The heirs of Orville Nix, a Dallas maintenance man who recorded the moment of Kennedy’s death with his home-movie camera, have tried for years to get his original film back from the government’s clutches.
“It would be very significant if the original Nix film surfaced today,” said Jefferson Morley, author of “The Ghost” and other books about the CIA.
With recent advances in digital image processing, the original film “would essentially be a new piece of evidence,” Morley explained. “There’s a significant loss in quality between the first and second generation” of an analog film like Nix’s.
Nix’s clip, unlike the better known film shot by Abraham Zapruder, was taken from the center of Dealey Plaza as the presidential limousine drove into an ambush on Elm Street in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
It provides the only known unobstructed view of the infamous “grassy knoll” at the time of the fatal shot – the area where, some researchers claim, additional snipers were concealed.
Nix’s original film was last examined in 1978 by photo experts hired by the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
Based in part on that analysis, the panel concluded that Kennedy “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” and that “two gunmen” likely fired at him.
But the technology of the time left the experts in doubt about whether Nix’s movie captured those alleged marksmen — and the complete, original film disappeared without a trace. Only imperfect copies remain, including one that flashed on theater screens in Oliver Stone’s “JFK.”
Forty-five years later, computer-enhanced analysis of the original frames could at last solve the mystery, spurring the Nixes back to court after their 2015 lawsuit was dismissed by a different tribunal that lacked jurisdiction in the matter.
The new suit, a 52-page filing in the US Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., is loaded with dozens of documents that meticulously trace the winding path taken by the original film since Nix created it
In 1963, the UPI press agency paid Nix $5,000 – about $50,000 today – for a 25-year license. Nix handed over his reel, which UPI promised to return in 1988.
When Nix died in 1972, the rights passed to his wife and son. They were never notified when the House Special Committee on Assassinations subpoenaed the original film from UPI in 1978.
The lawsuit details the government’s startlingly sloppy handling of the priceless piece of American history from that point on, chronicling patchy documentation and lax security.
It also alleges that officials at the National Archives and Records Administration have repeatedly lied to the family, claiming never to have had the “out-of-camera original” film in their possession.
But the filing presents newly uncovered evidence that the HSCA’s photo analysts delivered Nix’s original film directly to NARA in 1978, once their work on it was complete.