Project Description

lindbergh
“Lindbergh” is a powerful slice of history, an engrossing study of a complex figure.” -LA Times

What most remember but few fully appreciate is this: he was the first man to fly from New York to Paris, and he did it alone, without a radio, sextant, or parachute, in a single-engine plane with a top speed of only 119 miles per hour. His Spirit of St. Louis covered 3,610 miles in 33 hours and 30 minutes. He was only 25 years old, and the historic date was May 21, 1927.

What has been forgotten, if it was ever understood at all, is that Charles Lindbergh did more than just cover great distances in the air,

he also journeyed through a time of change like no other. Born before the Wright brothers first flight, Lindbergh died having witnessed man’s conquest of the moon. The events that made Charles Lindbergh an American hero — his epic flight, the tragedy of his son’s kidnapping and murder, his flirtation with Nazism on the eve of World War II – are essential to his story. But beyond the myth, beyond the Lindbergh etched on our memory from heroic photographs or shaky frames of newsreel film, there lies an even more complex and dynamic individual.

Lindbergh’s life teems with contrasts and contradictions. He was a public man who struggled all his life to protect his own identity from a hero-worshipping society. He hated the press, yet spent most of his life attracting publicity. He avoided power, yet used his fame to try and influence world events. He valued accuracy and a sense of perspective, yet his own perspective was often flawed and frightening. He was cold and self-righteous, with social and political views that were narrow and naive. He perceived the strengths and weaknesses of individuals or nations in starkly scientific terms, espousing a faith in genetic determinism that hid a thinly veiled racism. He lived a life of absolutes, never doubting his own abilities or the altitude of his own moral high ground. His extraordinary character brought him unparalleled accomplishment but also public humiliation and lonely isolation.

Few men in this century have ever captured the hearts and minds of a nation as Charles Lindbergh did in 1927, and it is in the consequences of his fame, for the man and for his nation, that the true meaning of Lindbergh’s life lies. Lindbergh, Stephen Ives’ debut film for the PBS series American Experience, faithfully traces the chronology of Lindbergh’s life and explores the fabric of the society which so euphorically embraced him and then bitterly cast him aside. Bringing together for the first time interviews with Charles Lindbergh’s wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, youngest daughter, Reeve and eldest son, Jon, the film creates a powerful and emotional family portrait that penetrates beneath the stereotypes and misconceptions about Lindbergh’s life, and presents a revealing portrait of Lindbergh not as an icon, but as a man with both extraordinary human strengths and all-too-familiar human weaknesses.