In this episode, we’ll learn about historical events that happened this week in history as they were depicted in Rush, Patton, and Braveheart.
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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.
August 1, 1976. Nürburg, Germany
The sound of engines can be heard as we see a quick succession of shots between different race car drivers. One of them looks to the clouds in the sky just as the camera cuts to a TV anchor giving a report. He explains the conditions are still dangerously wet, but a decision—just then, the movie cuts to another TV anchor. It’s in the same location, but this anchor is speaking in French as he lets viewers in his country know the race will continue despite the wet conditions.
We can see crews making their final preparations for the race as the drivers are in their Formula 1 cars. From overhead, we can see a row of cars lined up and ready to go. Throngs of people are lined up and in the stands for the live event. Based on the TV anchors we saw just a moment ago, I’m sure countless more are watching at home.
The hum of the engines grow louder as the flag is raised…and they’re off!
The cars race down the wet track, kicking up little sprays of water from their large tires. Going around the first turn, it’s neck-and-neck for the lead cars. We hear the TV announcers giving a play-by-play, saying it’s Lauda with the lead into the first corner. Hunt is in second place. Now it’s Mass, storming past Hunt and taking the lead as he passes Lauda.
After only one lap, everyone decides to change tires, leaving Mass the chance to grow his advantage. But will the tires hold out on the wet track?
In the pit, we can see just the eyes of Chris Hemsworth’s version of James Hunt beneath the British flag on his helmet. Someone on his crew says Lauda made the same mistake with the tires and behind him we can see a red car pulling into the pit.
The tires on both cars are being changed at lightning speed. Hunt takes off first. Daniel Brühl’s version of Nikki Lauda yells at his pit crew to hurry up. Every fraction of a second counts in a race like this. A moment later, Lauda is off as well, both drivers trying to catch up to cars already on the track.
Engines rev. Gears shift. Lauda’s car zooms around the track, trying to catch up to Hunt and the rest of the pack. The TV announcer says the race has gone wrong for him so far as his championship rival, James Hunt, is a long way up the road.
Lauda keeps pushing his car, trying to gain every inch he can in the race. He passes one car. Two. Mario Andretti’s Lotus gets passed. Another car is passed and another.
We see more shots of the mechanics inside the car as gears shift, the engine revs, and tires spin at incredible speeds, and then…the sounds of the race start to fade away into a silence.
Then, the sounds come back as we see Lauda’s car go careening around the corner. It smashes into the side railing, spinning out of control before bursting into a ball of flame as it skids across the track.
This is how the 2013 movie Rush depicts an event that really did happen this week in history when Nikki Lauda crashed his Ferrari during the F1 German Grand Prix at Nürburgring.
The movie does a good job of showing the race, too, although there is more to the true story.
While the movie was correct to show the track was wet that day due to a rainstorm, that wasn’t the only reason the race wasn’t safe. The Nürburgring had a long history of racing dating back to when it was built in the 1920s. By the timeline of the movie, though, the track didn’t seem to be safe enough for the amount of power that Formula 1 cars had in the 1970s.
Nikki Lauda proposed a boycott of the circuit with the other drivers, but he was outvoted. Just like we see in the movie, the race was on. And just like we see in the movie, most of the drivers returned to the pit by the end of the first lap to switch to tires that’d handle the wet track better.
It was on the second lap of the race that Nikki Lauda’s car was coming around a corner when he lost control. Maybe there was a mechanical failure, maybe he simply lost control coming around the corner—I’ve seen some conflicting reports about that. After all, the corner was a notorious tight right-hand turn just after a long, fast section.
But, after the fact, Nikki Lauda was quoted as saying:
“I was going down the straight at 280 kilometers an hour when something broke. I went straight into the wall and my car turned into a fireball and I was in there for 55 seconds at 800 degrees, until they got me out. I was right on the point of death for days and I think I really did die once.”
For the record, 280 km/h is about 174 mph. So, you can imagine how difficult it is to time a tight turn at that speed.
So, the movie was accurate to show Lauda’s car burst into a ball of flames as it bounced back onto the track. To make matters worse, there were three other drivers who were also coming around the corner. One of them managed to miss Lauda’s flaming car. Two of them smashed right into it.
Thankfully, those drivers weren’t badly hurt, though, and all three drivers got out of their car to help get Nikki Lauda out of his car. Their quick reaction likely saved his life. He was rushed to the hospital where he continued to fight for his life for a few days. He lost his eyelids, half an ear, much of his scalp, he was in a coma for some time, even administered his last rites by a priest…amazingly, just six weeks later, Nikki Lauda made his return to racing. He’d only missed two events, and finished out the remainder of the season.
If you want to watch the event that happened this week as it was depicted in the movie, check out 2013’s Rush. The text on screen for the day of the German Grand Prix starts at an hour, six minutes and 26 seconds.
We covered that movie here on the podcast at basedonatruestorypodcast.com/70
Oh, and as the movie correctly shows, the event really was on TV…so there is real footage of Lauda’s crash. If you want to do your own comparison to how well the filmmakers recreated the actual event, I’ll throw a link to it in the Based on a True Story Discord community. Fair warning, though, it’s tough to watch knowing Nikki Lauda was inside.
August 3, 1943. Southern Italy.
The camera is looking at a light filling the center of the frame. After a moment’s pause, it pans down to reveal we’re in a medical tent. There are nurses and doctors attending injured soldiers lying on beds on either side of the tent.
Some have bandages on their heads. Some bandages are bloody, others are not.
George C. Scott’s version of General George S. Patton is walking in front of some of the doctors, going around to the beds to greet the injured soldiers. He walks over to one of the beds. There are no apparent bandages, although we can only see the soldier’s head and shoulders sticking out from the blankets on the bed.
Patton sits down next to the man, who he calls Gomez, and chats. He asks where he’s hit. In the chest, is the reply. Patton says, well, if it’s interesting to you, the last German I saw didn’t have a chest. Or a head. Gomez smiles. Patton smiles back, wishing him a quick recovery.
Then, he gets up and walks over to another injured soldier. This man’s face is covered with bandages and he seems to be on an oxygen tube. With everything hooked up to him, we can’t tell if he’s awake, asleep, or even aware of what’s going on around him.
But, we can tell the soldiers in the other beds are all watching what Patton is doing.
He kneels by the injured man’s bed and an officer nearby hands him a small box. Patton takes off his gloves, sets down his cane, and pulls a Purple Heart medal out of the box, pinning it to the soldier’s pillow. Then, leaning close, he whispers something in the man’s ear. We can’t hear what he says, and the soldier doesn’t seem to indicate he heard any of it.
Patton doesn’t say anything aloud, but he’s clearly in deep thought for a moment on one knee with his hand on his forehead. Then, he gathers his gloves and cane and gets up.
He’s just about to put on his helmet when he spots a soldier sitting at the end of his bed on the other side of the tent. This soldier is still wearing his helmet, and he doesn’t have any apparent bandages.
Patton asks what’s the matter with him.
The soldier says he just can’t take it anymore. Patton gets down on one knee.
“What did you say?” he asks, as he gets closer to the soldier.
Now the soldier starts crying as he says he can’t take the shelling anymore. It’s my nerves, sir.
Patton stares at the man. Your nerves? He gets up, calling the soldier a coward. Then, angrily, he yells at the soldier and slaps him with the gloves in his hand.
This is how the 1970 movie Patton depicts an event that happened this week in history when General George S. Patton slapped Private Charles Kuhl and called him a coward.
And the movie’s depiction gets the gist across, albeit in a dramatized way.
For some historical context not shown in the movie, Private Kuhl had been in the Army for eight months at that point and had been diagnosed with exhaustion three times. Doctors had noted that he kept getting returned to the hospital.
Just like we see in the movie, Patton happened to be at the hospital to visit patients when he noticed Private Kuhl didn’t seem to be injured. After Kuhl told Patton he was nervous and couldn’t take it—those really were things he said, like we see in the movie—Patton got angry.
He slapped Kuhl across the chin with his gloves, just like we see in the movie. What we don’t see in the movie, though, is that Patton dragged Kuhl to the front of the tent and kicked him on the backside. He demanded Kuhl both not be readmitted to the hospital, and ordered him back to the front.
In Alan Axelrod’s biography of Patton, chapter nine is called The Slap Heard ‘Round the World and digs into more depth, but in that book is a quote of the directive that Patton issued to the men under his command in the Seventh Army that said:
“It has come to my attention that a very small number of soldiers are going to the hospital on the pretext that they are nervously incapable of combat. Such men are cowards and bring discredit on the army and disgrace to their comrades, whom they heartlessly leave to endure the dangers of battle while they, themselves, use the hospital as a means of escape. You will take measures to see that such cases are not sent to the hospital but dealt with in their units. Those who are not willing to fight will be tried by court-martial for cowardice in the face of the enemy.”
So, what happened after this incident?
Well, General Patton had another incident a few days later, on August 10th, where he threatened a man under his command with a pistol for similar reasons. Word reached General Eisenhower, who sent a letter to Patton which said, in part:
“I clearly understand that firm and drastic measures are at times necessary in order to secure the desired objectives. But this does not excuse brutality, abuse of the sick, nor exhibition of uncontrollable temper in front of subordinates.”
There’s a lot more to the letter, which you can read in detail starting on page 329 Martin Blumenson’s book Patton Papers, but the gist of the letter was that Eisenhower didn’t formally do anything. The letter was a private one to explain why Eisenhower was going to break up Patton’s Seventh Army and Patton himself would no longer be a part of the plan for the invasion of Italy by the Allies.
If you want to watch an on-screen depiction of the event that happened this week in history, check out the 1970 film Patton and the slapping sequence starts at about an hour, 23 minutes and 39 seconds into the movie.
And if you want to dig deeper into the true story behind that movie, including that event, the aftermath and how Patton may not have been directly involved but still helped with deceiving the Germans in times leading up to the D-Day landings, you can hear our episode covering the Patton movie over at basedonatruestorypodcast.com/163.
August 5, 1305. Scotland.
Mel Gibson’s version of William Wallace is riding a horse into a village. Besides the castle, which seems to be a small castle—but a castle nonetheless—the rest of the village seems to be made of wood houses with straw roofs. A few villagers are scattered around, going about their daily business.
Inside the castle, Angus Macfadyen’s version of Robert the Bruce is pacing on top of a table when Wallace’s presence is announced. Robert turns and hops off the table. Following him outside is Craig, who is played by John Kavanagh in the movie.
Outside, we see Wallace still on his horse, passing by the castle’s open gate. Robert and Craig start descending the stairs from the castle, and Robert raises his hand to greet him. Wallace responds with a wave.
Robert and Craig continue walking down the stairs as Wallace starts to get off his horse. Hopping to the ground, someone leads the horse away just as Robert and Craig reach the bottom of the castle stairs. Then, the music in the movie reaches a moment of pause…
In the castle courtyard, Robert and Wallace are walking toward each other. The young boy leading the horse looks away suspiciously. Wallace notices this and he looks to the side. Robert notices it, too, and he turns to look at Craig. For his part, Craig looks as if he’s about to signal someone with a slight nod.
Wallace’s head turns back to Robert who yells out, “No!”
Just then, a rush of armed soldiers tackle William Wallace, knocking him to the ground. At least five or six soldiers are hitting him with their wooden clubs, not to kill him but to beat him into submission. Robert rushes forward, trying to push the soldiers off. “You lied! You lied!”
The soldiers start beating him, too. Craig rushes in, pulling Robert aside. As he covers Robert the Bruce with his own body, Craig yells to the soldiers, “Bruce is not to be harmed, that’s the arrangement!”
This is how the 1995 film Braveheart depicts the event that happened this week in history when William Wallace was captured by the English near Glasgow.
And right up front, I should say that there are a lot of details about how William Wallace was captured that we just don’t know. It was 1305 after all, so we’re not going to know the amount of detail we do of more recent events.
With that said, while it is true that William Wallace was betrayed, it’s pretty safe to say what we see happening in the movie is not how it happened at all. There’s a memorial in the suburb of Glasgow called Robroyston where Wallace was captured, the plaque on it gives us some clues about just how different the real thing was:
“This memorial erected 1900 AD by public subscription is to mark the site of the house in which the hero of Scotland was basely betrayed and captured about midnight on 5th August 1305 when alone with his faithful friend and co-patriot Kerlie who was slain.
Wallace’s heroic patriotism as conspicuous in his death as in his life within nine years of his betrayal the work of his life was crowned with victory and Scotland’s independence regained on the field of Bannockburn.”
So, it happened about midnight. Not daytime like in the movie. It says he was with his faithful friend who was killed. Not alone, like we see in the movie. Other sources suggest he was sleeping in a cottage when they captured him, not walking to meet with Robert the Bruce.
But, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a castle involved.
As the story goes, a Scottish nobleman by the name of Sir John Menteith conspired to capture William Wallace in exchange for land and titles. After William Wallace was captured in the cottage, he was taken to Menteith’s Dumbarton Castle.
Actually, come to think of it, the real castle looks more like what you’d think of as a castle than the one in the movie does, haha! I’ll include a photo of that in the Discord community so you can see for yourself what Dumbarton Castle looks like.
But if you want to watch the event as it was shown in the movie Braveheart you’ll find the sequence starting at about two hours, 27 minutes, and 21 seconds into the movie. We covered that movie many years ago on the podcast, so you can find our Braveheart episode at basedonatruestorypodcast.com/45