DALLAS (Reuters) - Previously unreleased footage of John F. Kennedy's fateful motorcade in Dallas moments before he was gunned down was released on Monday, a surprising new detail in a saga that has gripped the United States for four decades.
The silent 8mm film shows a beaming Jacqueline Kennedy close up in vivid color waving to the crowd.
A group of excited bystanders -- women sporting big 1960s hairstyles -- waves to the cameraman shortly before the motorcade sweeps past.
The president's coat is clearly if briefly seen bunched up on his back -- a detail that will be scrutinized by conspiracy theorists who see evidence of a plot in, among other things, the fact the bullet wounds on his jacket and body did not appear to match.
The film was donated to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas by amateur photographer George Jefferies and his son-in-law, Wayne Graham. It was released to coincide with the Presidents Day federal holiday.
Museum curator Gary Mack said he was not surprised Jefferies took so long to come forward.
"Everyone who captured the motorcade before the assassination thinks their pictures are unimportant. But to historians, all photos and home movies are important to possibly answer questions that will be asked in the future," he said.
Located in the former Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a sixth-floor window on November 22, 1963, the museum is devoted to Kennedy's presidency and the events surrounding his assassination.
The footage was taken less than 90 seconds before the fatal shots were fired. The 40-second film also shows the scene of the crime the following day.
The footage is sure to be new fodder for conspiracy buffs who have long maintained Kennedy was the victim of a sinister plot orchestrated by shadowy elements in either the government, the "military-industrial complex," the Mafia or communist Cuba.
"I've already seen the footage on a conspiracy Web site -- it's interesting for the conspiracy researchers to study Kennedy's coat which appears to be bunched up on his back," Mack said.
He said since Kennedy's jacket was riding high on his back, the entry wound in his body did not match the expected position in his coat -- grist for the conspiracy mill that charges more than three shots were fired.
Investigators maintain the shooting was carried out by Oswald acting alone. The most complete and best-known film of the Kennedy assassination to come to light was taken by bystander Abraham Zapruder.
Mack said the new footage offered the best view of Mrs. Kennedy in the motorcade he had ever seen.