A new film about Lady Grace Drummond Hay and the LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin premiered on November 22, 2009. The film “Farewell” is composed entirely of archival footage and claims to 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.
A work of fiction, not a documentary
The filmmakers call the production a documentary but it is a work of fiction. Events were highly dramatized or completely fictional, and the narration by actress Poppy Elliot, as the voice of Lady Grace Drummond Hay, was not taken from a diary but largely written by director Ditteke Mensink.
The director took many historical liberties in the film:
- The film depicts Graf Zeppelin 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. The ship was never lost or even delayed during the flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles (at an average speed of 122 km/h, the airship covered the 9,653 km between Tokyo and Los Angeles in 79:03 hours — little more than 3 days — making it one of the fastest flights of Graf Zeppelin’s career), and while the stabilizer repair is based on a real episode, that incident occurred during the ship’s first transatlantic flight in 1928 and not the Round-the-World flight, and the airship did not land on the rough ocean to conduct the repair: Graf Zeppelin could land on water only on calm lakes or protected inlets and the 1928 fin repair was performed in-flight.
- The film includes footage of Graf Zeppelin stowaway Clarence Terhune, but he was not aboard the 1929 Round-the-World flight. Terhune snuck aboard the return leg of Graf Zeppelin’s maiden flight to the United States, flying from Lakehurst, New Jersey to Friedrichshafen, Germany in 1928.
- The film depicts Hay and Karl von Wiegand “losing touch” after the 1929 flight, but the couple remained intimate 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, and they were together in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded the islands in 1942: Lady Drummond-Hay and von Wiegand were interned in a Japanese prison camp.
The film’s footage also does not always match the plot or narration. One scene claims to show Lakehurst in 1929 but actually shows Friedrichshafen, Germany in 1936: the airship Hindenburg can be seen in the background. Most bizarrely, scenes that are supposed to depict the German Graf Zeppelin actually show an American Navy dirigible, complete with U.S. Navy sailors in white “dixie cup” sailor hats and American naval officers in uniform.
The film even takes a small liberty with the name of its main character: it refers to her as “Lady Hay” in promotional materials, but as the widow of Sir Robert Hay Drummond-Hay she was always known as Lady Drummond Hay or Lady Hay Drummond-Hay.
But when viewed as a work of fiction, and not a documentary, the film is beautiful and enjoyable. It makes great use of archival footage to tell a romantic if fictionalized story of the relationship between Grace Drummond Hay and Karl von Wiegand.
Don’t watch “Farewell” thinking it is a documentary, but do watch the film. If you love airships, you will be glad you did.
Thank you for this clarification! I was duped into thinking this was a true documentary and recommended it to friends as such. Was embarrassed to discover that some of the most dramatic episodes in the film did not occur on this flight. I corrected the record with my friends to… Read more »
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).
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
You can find that information by navigating to the Graf Zeppelin section:
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… Read more »
Will copies of the DVD be available for purchase at the Cleveland International Film Festival?
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?
You can watch the movie Farewell until Dec 6th 2010 via the follow link:
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.
Did anyone find out when this Documentary will be released on DVD?
While there was a lot to like about this film â€“ 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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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
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.