New Movie about “Lady Hay” and the Graf Zeppelin: “Farewell”

by Dan Grossman on December 16, 2009

A new film about Lady Grace Drummond Hay (biography) and the LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin premiered on November 22, 2009, at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.   The film “Farewell” is composed entirely of archival footage with narration based on the writings of Hearst reporter Lady Drummond Hay, and tells the story of Graf Zeppelin’s Round-the-World flight of 1929.  The film was produced in the Netherlands by Pieter van Huystee and directed by Ditteke Mensink, based on research by Gerard Nijssen.

According to the filmmaker:

“Farewell tells the story of Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, the only female passenger on the first journey around the world of the Graf Zeppelin in 1929.  Grace writes about her adventures on the journey, not only in articles in the Hearst Newspapers, as a reporter, but also in her diary. Traveling high in the sky, up over a world, in a way she has never experienced before, Grace changes. Her former lover Karl von Wiegand is amongst the other passengers. During her long voyage their love is once again tested. When the Zeppelin finally flies over New York Grace says goodbye to Karl and the lovers lose touch. Landing in New York she is welcomed like a cinema star.  In 1929 people were convinced this journey would be a splendid turning point in history. A few weeks later Wall Street crashed and a dark period in history began.”

Reviews have praised the film’s beautiful use of archival footage of the Graf Zeppelin itself and scenery filmed during its flights, and its skillful use of narration and editing to tell a romantic, if somewhat fictionalized, story of the relationship between Grace Drummond Hay and Karl von Wiegand.

Movie Poster for FarewellFact vs. Fiction

While the filmmakers call the production a documentary, it is actually a mixture of fact and fiction “inspired” by a true story.  The narration by actress Poppy Elliot, as the voice of Lady Drummond Hay, was largely written by director Ditteke Mensink, and certain events were dramatized and fictionalized.

The film depicts Hay and von Wiegand “losing touch” after the 1929 flight, but in fact the couple remained close companions for the rest of their lives.  They traveled together on the Dornier Do X flying boat in November, 1930, and on the maiden voyage of the airship Hindenburg from Germany to America in 1936.  Lady Drummond-Hay and von Wiegand were together in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded the islands in 1942, and both were interned in a Japanese prison camp.

Other historical liberties were also taken by the director:

The film depicts the Graf Zeppelin being lost over the Pacific for two days on its flight from Japan to the United States, during which time the airship was out of radio contact and had to land on the water to repair damage to one of its fins.  In fact, the ship covered the 9,653 km between Tokyo and Los Angeles in just a little more than 3 days (79:03 hours), and its average speed of 122 km/hr made this leg was one of the fastest trips of the Graf Zeppelin’s career.  The repair of the stabilizer was based on a real episode, but it occurred during the ship’s first transatlantic flight in 1928, and the ship did not, of course, land on the rough ocean to conduct the repair, which was performed inflight.  (Graf Zeppelin could land on the water, but only on calm lakes and protected inlets, and not in mid-ocean.)

Lady Grace Drummond Hay and Karl von Wiegand aboard Dornier DO-X flying boat

Lady Grace Drummond Hay and Karl von Wiegand aboard Dornier DO-X flying boat (click to enlarge)

The film footage does not always match the plot, and some scenes supposed to depict the Graf Zeppelin actually show a United States Navy dirigible, complete with U.S. Navy sailors and officers in uniform.  One scene supposed to show Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1929 actually shows Friedrichshafen, Germany with the airship Hindenburg in the background; the Hindenburg was not built until 7 years later.

The film even takes liberties with the name of its main character, referring to her as “Lady Hay” in promotional materials, although she was never known as Lady Hay in real life.  As the widow of Sir Robert Hay Drummond-Hay, she was known as Lady Drummond Hay, or Lady Hay Drummond-Hay.

But in spite of its few historical inaccuracies, which can be justified in the interest of poetic license, Farewell is a critically acclaimed film which will bring renewed attention to the history of the Graf Zeppelin, and its archival footage is sure to delight airship fans around the world.

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

f. girard August 23, 2014 at 4:09 am

The coloured section about Japan show several times the famous Golden pavillion Temple as well as the Kiyomizu area (the name is written, in Japanese, on shop banners), both located in Kyoto. Not in Tokyo.
I watched the ‘documentary’ last night on the French-German TV channel Arte (replay).

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Edward Morbius April 28, 2013 at 2:39 am

Another bit of liberty taken: the footage from 1:02:28 – 1:02:46 isn’t of ships lost during a Japanese typhoon, but of the 1923 Honda Point disaster in which 7 US Navy destroyers (of a fleet of 14) ran aground at the north end of the Santa Barbara Channel, attempting to navigate via dead reckoning in thick fog, with a loss of 23 sailors.

Clearly visible is #309, the USS Woodbury, though the hulls of the Young, Chauncy, and Fuller are also seen, possibly the Nicolas and Lee toward the end of the pan shot to the upper left.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NH_66721_Honda_Point.gif
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Point_Disaster

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Rita Stegeman September 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I just saw the film on Dutch digital channel and I was absolutely captivated by the story. The narrative done by actress ms Elliot is excellent. Ofcourse I could see only archive material was used, but I never watch the film like a documentary. I know Gerard Nijssen’s work eversince 1995 when I started working at Neth. Inst. for Sound and Vision where he often is doing his filmresearch.
Never knew he worked on this film. Excellent job!!

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Margaret Evans March 4, 2011 at 8:48 am

I have just seen this documentary on Canadian TV (TVO) and was fascinated by it. I am curios to know more about the accomodation on this Air Ship and the faciities provided in what appears to be a very small space. How many berths were there? Where was food and luggage stored and what toilet facilities were provided? Were conditions sanitary and was there enough room to move about the ship? It would be very interesting to see a plan of the Air Ship depicting the various rooms and facilities provided. Thank you. Margaret

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Dan (Airships.net) March 6, 2011 at 6:12 pm

You can find that information by navigating to the Graf Zeppelin section:

http://www.airships.net/lz127-graf-zeppelin/interiors

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Ron Syroid January 31, 2011 at 10:49 am

FAREWELL (2009), the movie of the 1st global journey by the Graf Zeppelin, based on writings of Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, is available as a DVD to purchase at the following website –

http://www.pvhfilm.nl/webshop.html ***

The movie will be shown at the Cleveland Int’l Film Festival, in partnership with the Akron based Lighter-Than-Air-Society, during March 24-April 3, 2011

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Smile Moon March 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Will copies of the DVD be available for purchase at the Cleveland International Film Festival?

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Judy Z March 29, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Dear Ron
I was glad that there is a DVD of Farewell but when I clicked on “bestel” or whatever, the language was I presume Dutch. I don’t read Dutch. Is there a English language site to go to to find and hopefully buy the film?

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Pieter Willems November 27, 2010 at 11:36 am

You can watch the movie Farewell until Dec 6th 2010 via the follow link:
http://beta.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1013339

While the website is in Dutch, the orginal English version of the movie is used. It does display subtitles but you can easily ignore them and still enjoy the beautiful footage.

Pieter Willems
Amsterdam

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Paul Adams August 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Did anyone find out when this Documentary will be released on DVD?

Thanks,

Paul

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Art Lewry April 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

While there was a lot to like about this film – the score, the footage and the story ‘inspired’ by true events I have to wonder why clips of Frank Capra’s 1931 film Dirigible were used for the Pacific-crossing sequence. Even to the untrained eye, the images of what was very obviously a US Navy crew from Dirigible’s “breaking up” scene would be jarring and confusing.

As a film, however, it has made me, like others, want to find out more about Lady Drummond Hay, Karl von Wiegand and, of course, Hugo Eckener (the footage of him I felt really conveyed something of his presence and charisma). It would have been a fascinating research project (especially Grace’s letters) – so well done Gerard.

Interesting also to read through the comments about the film on this site… “gripping historical narrative”, “great piece of factual film”, “amazing and wonderful documentary”. I know the filmmakers have not overtly promoted the film as a documentary, but it is certainly being thought of as one. A lot of people obviously believe that what was shown in the film was an accurate portrayal of what happened during the round the world voyage. What opinions does anyone have about stories and films “inspired” by historical events and the influence they might have on perceived history?

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Gerard Nijssen May 9, 2010 at 5:14 am

Dear Art Lewry
I fully agree with you about the use of Capra’s film Dirigble. I did not agree with that use. But as the filmresearcher I was not able to put this through. The regisseur Ditteke Mensink did not see my point. It was my standpoint that only footage of the Graf Zeppelin (on several journeys) would be used as Zeppelin footage in the movie. Furthermore I’am an historian and I don’t see Farewell as a documentary. For me it is a feature film based on archive footage. I wanted to show my fascination of the Zeppelin and of the historical period around august and september 1929 (the and of the fabulous Twenties, just before the Great Depression) in a film based only on archive footage. And I hope people will enjoy it.
with best regard Gerard Nijssen

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Edale March 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I saw this film on public television last night and was simply entranced by it and like others it made me want to find out more about Lady Drummond-Hay. However, I was disappointed to read that it was not truly a documentary and that the voice over was not if fact, what Lady Drummond-Hay had written. However, the archival material was facinating.

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Gerard Nijssen March 30, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Because this film was my idea and the film- and historical research was done by me, I would suggest you would mention my name as well in the maincredits: Gerard Nijssen. I’am a filmreseacher from Amsterdam

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Jo Teeuwisse November 24, 2010 at 11:49 am

I LOVED this movie, absolutely amazing.
I’ve been obsessed with airships ever since I was a little girl and am now also obsessed with the 1930s.
Watching this movie made me cry and long for days when airships still took to the skies with style and grace.

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Gerard Nijssen March 30, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Because this film was my iea and the film- and historicak research was done by me, I would suggest you would mention my nae as well in the maincredits: Gerard Nijssen from Amsterdam

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Martin Snell May 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

Dear Mr Nijssen

I write on behalf of my brother, who is a pilot in Australia and fascinated by the entire airship period of aviation history. Our mother’s father’s family, originally from Flensburg, is related to Hugo Eckner.

Can you provide me with some information concerning your Farewell film, please? When, if at all, will appear in cinemas? Are there plans for it to appear on DVD? Will it be shown on television only?

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Kind regards

Martin Snell

Habsburgerstrasse 3
CH-6003 Luzern

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Mike March 7, 2010 at 10:09 am

while waiting for your dvd you might like to know the bbc broadcast is now available as a torrent, for anybody so inclined…….google
around the world by zeppelin torrent

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MARGARET SMITH March 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Please in form me of where and when it is possible to buy the DVD ‘FAREWELL’. I meant to watch this documentary as it was recommended by a friend, I even missed it on BBC IPlayer, very disappointed by myself to say the least!

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david helms April 2, 2010 at 10:27 pm

how can i get a copy of the dvd? please respond and thanks.

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David A Platt April 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

If you are quick it will be shown wednesday 14th april on BBC4 at 02:30am.

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Mike February 22, 2010 at 12:01 am

Hello,

I’d like to join the end of the long line of potential customers for a dvd release…….any news? :)

Regards,

Mike

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Simon Himsworth February 20, 2010 at 4:23 pm

BBC I-player is no longer showing the film, is it going to be released on DVD or in any other format?

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Colin Kilgour February 15, 2010 at 10:17 am

william hosking said:

<>

I have to disagree. I thought Ms. Elliott’s narration was superbly done – delivered in dulcet, mellifluous tones which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the whole

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Mike Parsons February 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Where and when can I buy a copy on DVD or video

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Dan (Airships.net) February 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I asked the producers that question a few weeks ago, and I will let the readers know when I find out any information.

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Ron Syroid January 31, 2011 at 10:50 am

FAREWELL (2009), the movie of the 1st global journey by the Graf Zeppelin, based on writings of Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, is available as a DVD to purchase at the following website –

http://www.pvhfilm.nl/webshop.html ***

Jan 31, 2011

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Gerard Nijssen February 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

Farewell is based on my idea. I also did the filmresearch and historical research on the film about the worldtrip of the Graf Zeppelin. It is strange that the BBC doesn’t mention my name in the credits.

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Gareth Watkins March 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Hi Gerard

“Farewell” has just screened in Wellington, New Zealand .. I just wanted to let you know that I thought it was a beautiful piece.

Absolutely stunning footage that was so well crafted together.. I can’t imagine the amount of research time involved .. but the result is absolutely beautiful.

Thanks :)

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Trevor A Smith February 13, 2010 at 10:35 am

I really enjoyed this movie it was just great to see all the archive footage. So, some of the account was fiction it made me look up Lady Grace and the Graf Zeppelin. It’s a crime that such a woman has faded from history a great journalist of her day without doubt. I hope that more is published about her life and work.

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Bill Lumb February 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Only came across the film by accident. Absoulutely intrigued. The negative – what treatment did it receive and was the negative ‘nitrate’?

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s de salis February 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm

A wonderful film completely spoilt by too loud background music

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william hosking February 8, 2010 at 11:26 am

I was rivetted by the film, and in partcular by the coloured section about the geishas in Japan. My only criticism was the voice over by Polly Elliott which was weakly delivered, and should have been more appropriately done by a more cultured voice in keeping with Grace Drummoned Hay’s background.

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Tael January 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm

So…is it live action with some old footage spiced in or does it rely solely on footage from the Graf?

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Dan (Airships.net) January 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm

All archival.

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Pete Moreno December 28, 2009 at 10:15 am

I have original photos taken of Graf Zepplin in Los Angeles. With original handwritten notes, arrival times. Family inherited photos.

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david helms April 2, 2010 at 10:33 pm

hi pete. how can i possibly get a photo of the graf zeppelin? i have been trying to secure a copy for many years. can you help me and thanks for a reply?

david helms

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Jonas M. Lanter December 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Dear Ladies and Gents. I’m also a member of the “Zeppelin Study Group”. It’s possible for ordering this Documentary-movie Farewell?
Yours faithfully jonas m lanter, Zurich 16th Dec 2009

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Charles February 7, 2010 at 9:05 pm

The documentary is currently available on the bbc i-player

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00qpjpr/Around_the_World_by_Zeppelin/

Reply

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