Filming Kennedy: Home Movies from Dallas

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Elsie Dorman

Elsie Dorman
Elsie Dorman Collection

"The films that she took, although they have been very important to a lot of investigators, they’re not really good films."

James Dorman, son of Elsie Dorman
November 18, 2002
Oral History Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

As a supervisor of book distribution for Scott Foresman Educational Publishers, Elsie Dorman had an office on the fourth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building. Although she was well known in the office for her intelligence and remarkable memory, she had no idea how to operate her husband’s Kodak Brownie, Model 2 home movie camera. Yet, with her husband in poor health and the president scheduled to pass by her place of work on November 22, 1963, Dorman suddenly became responsible for documenting the president’s visit in a home movie.

Her son, James, recalled in his 2002 oral history, “It scared her quite a bit because she had never used a camera before.” As a result, her film—the only one filmed from the depository building—“is out of focus quite a bit and shaky.” Kneeling down, holding her camera to the side of her face, and filming through a half-open window on the fourth floor, Dorman began her sequence as the motorcade turned from Main Street onto Houston Street, and she continued filming as the motorcade traveled toward her building.

Meanwhile, her female coworkers, watching from nearby windows, began to comment on Jackie Kennedy’s pink dress. Since she could not see the Kennedys clearly in the camera viewfinder, Dorman held it against her face hoping the camera would capture the scene in the direction she was looking; as a result, her film panned wildly around the area and quickly lost sight of the presidential limousine.