In 1975, a movie was made depicting the Hindenburg disaster. It was directed by Robert Wise and starred George C Scott. With such talent, it should have been a masterpiece. Instead, it became known as a farce.
Too much of the movie was fictional and even inaccurate, including the unsupported claim that a crew member planted a bomb on the airship. The crew member was given a different name (Karl Boerth) but in the book the movie was loosely based on, the crew member is identified as Eric Spehl, who was actually at the nose of the Hindenburg and was burned to death.
Although the film tried to stay accurate to its setting, there were numerous differences between the film and reality. Some aspects were added for dramatic purposes. The scene when the port fin’s fabric rips did not happen to the Hindenburg, but a similar event happened to the Graf Zeppelin during its first flight to America.. Additionally, although the Hindenburg did have a Blüthner baby grand piano aboard for the 1936 season, it was not aboard the final flight in 1937.. While the interior of the ship was very accurately created, a stairway was added to the lower fin for dramatic purposes; in the real Hindenburg, there was just a ladder for crew members to walk down. Several aspects of the airship’s takeoff and landing procedures were also inaccurate. Prior to takeoff, the airship would not need to be attached to the mooring mast and used the landing ropes during takeoff. It is common for airships to be towed out of their hangar and simply be pushed into the air by the ground crew. The mooring mast used in the landing sequence is black, while the real mooring mast was red and white. During the landing sequence the ship drops water ballast through some of the windows near the nose instead of at the tail section, as it did during the final approach.
Several anachronisms also occur in the storyline. At one time Edward Douglas refers to the fact that the German car manufacturer Opel is to be taken over by General Motors “the next day”. In fact, Opel had already been taken over completely in 1929.* On board the Hindenburg, the Countess is reading a paperback book, which is a German-language edition of Gone with the Wind. Paperback books were introduced in Germany no earlier than 1948. At Berlin there are Citroën HY delivery cars which were built in the 1950s.
Here is the depiction of the Hindenburg’s destruction in the movie:
That seems accurate enough, but if they remake this movie, then the truth about the cause of the fire and crash needs to be told. It was NOT sabotage!
To make the movie worth watching for present day audiences, perhaps it could depict a group of time travelers recruiting a passenger (who would survive, of course) to help investigate what happened (or was going to happen, from the passenger’s point of view). In my opinion, the most likely character to be depicted in this way would be Joseph Spah. Not only was he in the safest place in the airship to escape from the fire (the windows at the front and bottom of the ship), but he had made several visits to the tail section of the ship, supposedly to feed the dog he was bringing with him to America. This led him to be considered a suspect in the airship’s destruction.
In any case, such a remake should be done in the simple interest of justice. No crew member would have jeopardized his career, let alone his life, to destroy the Hindenburg, and destroying it would have done no real damage to the Nazi cause. Let’s put that sabotage idea to rest forever.