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The Hindenburg Disaster Newsreel Footage with Herbert Morrison commentary can still pack a wallop today

10/10
Author: tavm from Baton Rouge, LA
18 August 2008

Just watched the famous footage of the airship Hindenburg bursting into flames with audio commentary from Herbert Morrison of radio station WLS-Chicago, Ill. (which is where I was born) Mr. Morrison is understandably breaking down uncontrollably as he sees the terrible tragedy before his eyes. It should be noted that the remote from Lakehurst, N.J. didn't air live on the air but was transcribed via disc recording for later broadcast. That recording would years later be dubbed in newsreel footage shot by cameramen from Fox, Pathe, Hearst, and Paramount. Another one from Universal was also supposed to be involved but ending up seeing a Broadway play when the Hindenburg arrived much later-due to bad weather-than scheduled. Perhaps the most fascinating documentary footage ever shot up to that time of a disaster concerning a man-made dirigible and fire. I watched this on Internet Archive.

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"Get this, Charlie! Get this, Charlie!"

8/10
Author: ackstasis from Australia
29 September 2008

It's extraordinary to hear Herbert Morrison's classic journalistic instinct coming into play almost immediately after the LZ 129 Hindenburg spectacularly erupted into flames on May 6, 1937 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. The narration starts off with a routine introduction, with Morrison sounding a bit bored, as the Zeppelin comes in to the mooring dock; then – unexpectedly – "it burst into flames! Get out of the way! Get out of the way! Get this, Charlie; Get this, Charlie!" At this point, the 31-year-old Chicago reporter (on assignment from WLS radio station) thought of nothing but capturing the moment for all prosperity, in the process immortalising himself and making the Hindenburg disaster one of the most recognisable air disasters in history. Though Morrison's on-the-scene commentary has become inseparable from the newsreel images of the Hindenburg's fate, the images and audio were recorded entirely separately, and were not synchronised until many years later; most newsreels of the day accompanied the footage with over-dramatic title cards or studio-recorded narration.

After watching 'The Zeppelin Hindenburg (1936),' a rare compilation of amateur footage that covers one of the airship's successful trans-Atlantic crossings, I was prompted to seek out the more exciting footage that has burnt itself into history. Since there are many newsreels of the disaster to be found on the internet, I watched a brief selection: 'Hindenburg Explodes (1937),' filmed by Pathé cameramen; 'Hindenburg Explodes, Scores Dead (1937),' released by Universal Newsreels (even though their cameraman wasn't present at the incident) and two alternative clips with Morrison's commentary dubbed over the footage. In one of the clips, Morrison's voice is surprisingly high, suggesting incredible panic and anxiety, though this can likely be attributed to the footage being recorded at a slower frame-rate, meaning that playback has been misleadingly sped up. Engineer Charlie Nielsen also played a crucial role in capturing the incident, lowering the cutting head back to the recording disc after it was dislodged by the shockwave from the explosion. In total, 36 people lost their lives in the disaster – and Charlie got it, all right!

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