Recent television programs about the 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy reminded North Texas resident William Ward Warren that he had his own footage of the late president's arrival in Dallas.
"He had seen some of the Kennedy assassination specials that were on cable TV last fall, and that reminded him that he had this home movie, and that he needed to do something with it," said Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. "It was just sitting on top of his grandfather clock, with three other reels - about two hours of home movies - and of course, living in the North Texas area, he knew about us and he contacted the museum."
The Sixth Floor Museum is on the sixth and seventh floors of a warehouse formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository. It is believed that the president's assassin shot the fatal bullet from that area of the building.
In 1963, Warren was a 15-year-old student, excused from school the day of the presidential visit. His film shows President Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson arriving at Love Field in Dallas.
Gary Mack said the donated film was in good condition but needed some repair. "The film had dried out a bit," he said. "We use a little lab near Boston to do all our film to video transfers, and they went through the Kennedy sequence and pieced it together, and cleaned it and fixed the splices and transferred it to video, and it just looks terrific."
Unlike the news footage of the time, the Warren film is in color. Filmed in Kodachrome Two, its color is highly resilient, almost 50 years after the assassination. "The amateur photographers - they used color film for the most part - and that just makes it more real and understandable today," said Mack.
The film is also shot from a different angle than others. "The amateurs were on another side of a fence," said Mack. "So with Ward Warren's film, you really feel like you're right there, people were jockeying for position and waving and pushing and shoving."