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Films >> Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, The (1976) >>

Crime of the Century (1996)
In 1996 HBO Pictures releases a film based on Ludovic Kennedy's controversial novel The Airman and The Carpenter. The film starred Irish actor Stephen Rea as Bruno Richard Hauptmann and international star Isabella Rosselini as his wife Anna. The film portrays Hauptmann as the scapegoat of the New Jersey State Police, and particularly portrays Norman Schwarzkopf as a corrupt investigator who fabricates evidence in order to convict Hauptmann. Although the book is a Herculean project with the intent of discrediting evidence against Hauptmann, the film traces, instead, the background of this German immigrant who became the most hated man in America. We see a gentle husband and father, and a supportive wife who never gives up her belief in her husband's innocence. In fact, it is Rosselini's performance that carries the film. Anna is portrayed as being the first to see how things are going with the trial, and pointing out that Bruno is being used as a scapegoat. It is frankly disturbing to think that the police would go as far as they do in this film, blackmailing and bribing witnesses, in order to "solve" the case. However, the same sentiments are seen briefly in The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, when Hopkins' Hauptmann shares a private moment with his jailer, mulling over the fact that he is like a hunted animal. The stark difference here, though, is that in the 1976 made-for-television film, Schwarzkopf is depicted as the concerned friend of the Lindberghs, and if any of the police are seen as desperate, it is the NYPD. The contrast comes in the fact that The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case is a film based on the facts of the trial and official documents only, whereas Crime of the Century, directed by Mark Rydell (who also directed The Rose), is an emotional look at what the Hauptmann's went through, and the careful investigation of an author who is intent on exposing what he and many others believe to be the greatest moment of misjustice in American history.

Online Reviews:

Bowles, Jennifer. "HBO Movie Looks at Charles Lindbergh Kidnapping-Murder Case." Standard-Times 14 September 1996.

Krewson, John. "Crime Of The Century." The Onion AV Club.
The Spirit of St Louis (1957)
This film is a very long and in-depth look at Charles Lindbergh's 1927 transatlantic flight but an important one to understand the heroism that made Lindbergh such a national hero and thus a candidate for the 1932 kidnapping and media frenzy. Mostly, Spirit is a star vehicle for Jimmy Stewart who plays the hero so well that you will actually wish that Lindbergh were Jimmy Stewart. The recreated scenes from the takeoff are particularly well done, with the rain-soaked field and Lindbergh proclaiming, "Well, I might as well go," in that oh-so-undaunted fashion we are expecting. Of course, there are a few kitchy add-ins, for example, instead of clearing the telephone wire by a matter of feet, this Lindbergh clips a telephone wire as he barely misses other obstacles on take-off. However, this is something that we, and most of the other reviewers of the time, can completely forgive. Where the film runs into trouble is in the abrupt way it comes to its finale. Lindbergh lands, and a small snippet of his New York reception is shown, and that's it. It seems as though 1957 society, or at least Mr. Billy Wilder, is not ready for anything more about the reluctant hero. We see very little that brings us into the life of Lindbergh, save for some colorful flashbacks and some daring barnstorming scenes. In fact, some of the criticism of this film can be laid at the feet of Mr. Stewart, who by this time in his career had the "American" down so well, that he single-handedly created a "Type." It is hard to see this portrayal of Lindbergh as little more than the retelling of a hundred other heroic stories. In The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, we see much more of what is perceived to be Lindbergh the man. We see him at home, interacting with his wife, and with the press. However, even with all the private moments we witness in the 1976 film, there is still never a complete picture of the man. It is as though the directors are afraid to sully the memory of that day in May 1927. We never see what makes the man; we only see what society has made of him.

Online Review:

Crowther, Bosley. "'Spirit of St. Louis' Is at the Music Hall." The New York Times 22 February 1957.

See Also

Lindbergh's Great Race. Videocassette. Dir. Cameron Richardson. Goldhill Video, 1996. 90 min.