The Hindenburg

Synopsis: This film is a compendium of the facts and fiction of the events leading up to the disaster. For dramatic effect, Sabotage was chosen as the cause, rather than electricity lashing out at a couple of tons of hydrogen.
Director(s): Robert Wise
Production: Universal Pictures
  Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
125 min

The Hindenburg is coming again.

That's what all the excitement is about.

In spite of protests like this...

the pride of Germany is due here

on the morning of May 6.

During the 1937 season...

the giant airship is scheduled

to make 18 round trips...

from Frankfurt to Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Just 150 years ago,

the Montgolfier brothers, two Frenchmen...

made the first controlled flight

in a hot-air balloon.

This rock-a-bye baby is perkin' along

with a new gas:

Soon, an airborne banana split

with four scoops.

In the Gay Nineties,

ballooning really got off the ground.

Ladies, check the balloon sleeves on

those stylish aeronauts in the basket.

By the early 1900s everyone agreed...

an airship should be shaped

like a cigar.

Yes, sir, what the world needed

was a good five-cent flying machine.

Alberto Santos-Dumont,

a young Brazilian in Paris...

achieved a major breakthrough...

when he hooked a two-cylinder

gasoline motor to the basket.

Flat tire, Alberto?

All the same, he went on to win

the 100,000-franc prize...

for circling the Eiffel Tower

in his 80-foot Tootsie Roll.

Next came the semirigid airship...

with a light metal frame supported by...


Things are looking up.

These early birds have

more varieties than Heinz.

Bigger and better airships,

all of them air-conditioned...

continued to pop up

before the World War.

The outdoor types.

With a girl along,

that probably was more fun...

than the rumble seat of a Stutz Bearcat.

Around this time,

a retired German army officer...

known as the crazy old

Count von Zeppelin...

flew a 400-foot sausage equipped

with two marine motors for 20 miles.

But seriously, folks,

after this amazing feat...

everyone wanted to be associated

with the Zeppelin Company.

The count and a young associate,

Dr. Hugo Eckener...

founded the world's first

air passenger line.

In 1924...

the Zeppelin Company built

an airship for the U.S. Navy...

the LZ 126,

rechristened "The Los Angeles".

Until last year the Graf Zeppelin...

was considered the marvel of the age.

Since 1928 she has carried 13,000

passengers over a million miles...

without a single mishap.

But then, at the Zeppelin Company

works in Friedrichshafen...

German genius created

the airship supreme: the Hindenburg.

Her vast, cathedral-like hull,

almost three football fields long...

is an intricate web spun from more

than ten miles of duralumin girders.

Fifteen stories high...

it houses 16 giant cells containing

over 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen...

which lifts her 242 tons

of luxury into the clouds.

She is the climax of man's

dream to conquer the air...

the new queen of the skies.

The embassy received hundreds of letters

like that last year, Mr. Ambassador.

Mostly from cranks.

We can expect many more this season.

Mrs. Rauch's letter is different.

It's specific.

She spells out how and where

the zeppelin will be destroyed.

A time bomb over American territory.

- Franz.

- Erwin.

Showing us how you do it in Spain?

I'm afraid I don't fly very much there.

Good to have you back, Franz.

We hear they're giving you

a Knight's Cross to your Iron Cross.

For writing up dossiers, I suppose.

Half the time on our own people.

They're turning us

into a Gestapo, Erwin.

Get me out of Intelligence.

Get me back my Reconnaissance command.

That might not be easy, Franz.

Why not? All you have to do

is sign the order.

You've been brought back for

a special problem which we've inherited.

We've had our suspicions, Colonel...

and now that letter confirms there is a plot

to sabotage the LZ 129 on this flight.

Obviously, Dr. Goebbels, the sane thing

to do is to cancel the flight...

until the Gestapo uncovers the plot.

Sane but weak.

The propaganda value of the LZ 129

is highly important.

From a military standpoint,

she's a flying dinosaur.

Colonel, the LZ 129

is a world symbol of Nazi power.

It is an honor to guard her safety,

and you've been chosen.

My field is the estimation of enemy

air operations, it's not espionage.

A zeppelin ride should be

a vacation compared to Spain.

You're being loaned to the LZ 129...

as the officer in charge

of security for this trip.

You will have the power to do

anything you think necessary...

but quietly and discreetly...

or it might appear

we have internal opposition.

Ah. And you're afraid it might

strengthen the resistance movement.

There is no

resistance movement, Colonel.

That's reassuring coming

from the Minister of Propaganda.

I mustn't keep you

from your next appointment.

Let us hope that you will change

your opinion of our "flying dinosaur."

Perhaps I will, unless there's

an egg hatching in her.

The Hindenburg is scheduled

to leave in two days, Colonel.

Why did the Gestapo

wait till now to show us this?

It's inexcusable that our passengers have

to make other travel arrangements this late.

- The flight hasn't been canceled.

- Not canceled? I thought...

- Why are you here?

- I'll be aboard.

A sort of special security officer.

I'd like you along, Captain Lehmann,

as senior airship observer.

You may have to work with the Gestapo,

Colonel, but I don't.

You built the Hindenburg, Dr. Eckener.

Don't you want to protect your interests?

I've protected them for 40 years

by taking no risks.

Even if I wanted to go,

you'd never be able to clear it.

Dr. Eckener and I are out of favor

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Nelson Gidding

Nelson Roosevelt Gidding (September 15, 1919 – May 1, 2004) was an American screenwriter specializing in adaptations. A longtime collaboration with director Robert Wise began with Gidding's screenplay for I Want to Live! (1958), which earned him an Oscar nomination. His long-running course on screenwriting adaptions at the University of Southern California inspired screenwriters of the present generation, including David S. Goyer. Gidding was born in New York and attended school at Phillips Exeter Academy; as a young man he was friends with Norman Mailer. After graduating from Harvard University, he entered the Army Air Forces in World War II as the navigator on a B-26. His plane was shot down over Italy, but he survived; he spent 18 months as a POW but effected an escape. Returning from the war, in 1946 he published his only novel, End Over End, begun while captive in a German prison camp. In 1949, Gidding married Hildegarde Colligan; together they had a son, Joshua Gidding, who today is a New York City writer and college professor. In Hollywood, Gidding entered work in television, writing for such series as Suspense and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and eventually moved into feature films like The Helen Morgan Story (1957), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), The Haunting (1963), Lost Command (1966), The Andromeda Strain (1971), and The Hindenburg (1975). After the death of his first wife on June 13, 1995, in 1998 Gidding married Chun-Ling Wang, a Chinese immigrant. Gidding taught at USC until his death from congestive heart failure at a Santa Monica hospital in 2004. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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