Hindenburg Disaster Newsreel Footage

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Hindenburg Disaster Newsreel Footage[1] refers to the footage filmed by several newsreel companies of the Hindenburg disaster where the zeppelin Hindenburg crashed and burned on May 6, 1937.

The film is frequently played with narration by Herbert Morrison, who was there to watch the zeppelin's arrival in the United States. Morrison was a 31-year-old Chicago radio reporter, and his commentary was recorded, and not broadcast until later. It has since been combined with the separately filmed newsreel footage. To modern eyes it may appear to have been a live broadcast with pictures and sound, but it was not. Most of the original newsreels have their own narration, and many edited reels exist. One of these is a silent film with Pathe footage of the first 1936 landing at Lakehurst and Universal Newsreel footage of the disaster. Another edit uses footage of the Disaster from Paramount and Movietone Newsreel with Herb Morrison's recording. [1]

Four newsreel cameramen were in attendance at the time of the disaster. None captured the initial signs of disaster as most cameras were focused on the ground crew at the start of the fire.

In 1997, the original reels were selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Contents

Multiple reels

There are four known newsreels of the fire, filmed and released by Pathé News, Paramount News, Movietone News, and Universal Newsreel. A fifth reel is of unknown origin.

  • Pathé: Cameraman William Deeke had focused the camera on the ground crew before he stopped filming, but when the ship exploded his camera was already in focus on the airship. However, his camera malfunctioned due to the blast and had to use a hand crank. The footage only starts when ship's tail was on the ground and the side collapsed inward. The footage suffers from slight camera shake. [2]
  • Movietone: Filmed by Al Gold, the Movietone News cameras aimed at the ground crew when the fire broke out. It only started to roll again as the tail touched the ground. Movietone had soundman Addison Tice present as well, and he recorded some of the audio of the disaster (one can hear him say "you alright now, Al!"). [3]
  • Universal: This newsreel caught most of the explosion. Aimed at the ground crew from a far away distance, the ship explodes and in five seconds (the time it took for the stern to be consumed by the fire) the camera pans upward filming the fire as the tail drops down and the nose burns like a blowtorch. It does not show what is happening below the burning airship as it crashes as the camera focuses more on the fire itself until the bow nears the ground.[4] It is unknown who filmed this newsreel. It may also be possible that the footage was not filmed by a Universal cameraman because they left due to the bad weather; James J. Seeley filmed for Hearst's News of the Day and Universal may have acquired rights to his footage.
  • Paramount: Starting slightly after the Universal reel, this reel was filmed by Al Mingalone using an Eyemo, which gave a telephoto view. It shows a close-up view of the fire and people running away from the airship.
  • Unknown: This footage has been shown in numerous documentaries. It is of poor quality and is rather shaky and filmed from about the same time the Pathé reel started filming. [2]

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