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The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976)

TV-PG | | Crime, Drama | TV Movie 26 February 1976
Fact-based story of the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son and namesake of the famed pilot, and ensuing trial of accused and convicted killer, Bruno Hauptmann.

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(as JP Miller)
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Denise Alexander ...
Violet Sharpe
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Peter Donat ...
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Mr. Anderson
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Koehler
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Gov. Hal Hoffman
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Chief Harry Wolfe
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Lt. Jim Finn
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John Curtis
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Joseph Stern ...
Dr. Schonfeld
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Betty Gow (as Kate Woodville)
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Storyline

When the child of world-famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh is kidnapped from his New Jersey home, speculation about who took him and why grips the entire nation. During the subsequent investigation, the child is found murdered, and a German carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann emerges as the primary suspect. The media buzz surrounding the trial is enormous, and while the facts seem to be against Hauptmann, the wild theories nevertheless continue to proliferate. Written by Jwelch5742

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Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

TV-PG
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Details

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Release Date:

26 February 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Entführung des Lindbergh-Babys  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When the 20-month-old Lindbergh baby appeared on the 1932 cover of TIME magazine, he became the youngest cover subject in the magazine's history. See more »

Goofs

On the stand Bruno said he was gassed on Xmas 1918, the war ended on Nov. 11,1918. See more »

Crazy Credits

In deep appreciation this film is dedicated to Leonard Horn for whom it all began. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Without a Trace (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Pretty Good True-Crime Drama
13 August 2003 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This is the sort of thing that TV does rather well sometimes, a more or less true story with competent (but either over-the-hill or just-beginning) performers, no expensive special effects, and time enough for attention to detail if not one thousand takes per shot.

It's quite well done, a good example of the form. The cast is particularly good: Walter Pigeon as the somewhat biased judge, Martin Balsam as the raffish but sloppy defense counsel, David Spielberg as the waspy headline-grabbing prosecutor, Dean Jagger as an expert witness on carpentry, Cliff De Young as a cool, composed, remote Lindbergh (true to life, that is), and equally talented performers in multiple smaller roles. Anthony Hopkins is superb. He captures Hauptmann's brittleness and anxiety perfectly in a fine performance.

Did he do it? The movie doesn't tell us, although the final impression we're left with is that he is in fact guilty. His story of how he came by the marked bills in the ransom payoff is about as implausible as anyone could imagine, the worst Fisch story you ever heard.

Yet the prosecution's case was full of gaping holes and minor to major weaknesses, although the film doesn't make this clear. For instance, Colonel Lindbergh is called to a Bronx police station to listen to the members of a lineup shout out the kidnapper's words and try to identify the criminal. Lindbergh does so promptly and positively. Yet of the five men in the lineup, Hauptman is the only one with a German accent, which the police already knew the kidnapper had. And Lindbergh must identify the voice from the other side of a closed door. And the voice is one that he heard only from a distance, and two years earlier. Martin Balsam as Riley, defending Hauptmann, mentions none of this in his cross examination. The same is true for Joseph Cotton, who has never seen the kidnappers and who has earlier refused to identify Hauptmann's voice as that of the criminal. Two years is a long time to identify a muffled voice heard speaking only a few sentences on a dark night two years ago. And Spielberg's treatment of Hopkins on the witness stand is inexcusable. There were newsreel cameras in the courtroom at the time and Spielberg uses every dramatic trick in the book to influence the jury. What a performance! And afterward he does everything except face the cameras, flourish his cape, and take a bow. It's impossible to believe that such shenanigans could take place in a courtroom today, even the most lenient.

This was the original "crime of the century." Lindbergh was an icon. There were songs written about him ("Lucky Lindy") and dances named after him (the "Lindy Hop"). Hopewell, New Jersey, the scene of the kidnapping must have been a small quiet town in 1932 because it was still a small quiet town in 1972 when I lived nearby. The Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington however is almost unrecognizable. The building is the same but any view of it from the street is blocked by the shade trees that have matured since the movie cameras of 1934 captured it on film. Those same movie cameras show us a mass of onlooking, souvenier hackers, and journalists, screaming and swaying back and forth, a herd of African wild dogs savaging its prety.

The movie leaves one wondering about things like this: Dean Jagger's carpentry expert testifies that a board found at the scene of the crime was once part of the same larger plank that yielded a board built into the attic of Hauptmann's garage. Our technology is now so advanced that almost certainly more information could be gleaned from those two boards. I wonder where that evidence is now?


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