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284: This Week: Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure, From Hell, All Quiet on the Western Front

In this episode, we’ll learn about historical events that happened this week in history as they were depicted in these movies: Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure, From Hell, and All Quiet on the Western Front.

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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.

November 9th, 1888. London, England.

It’s the dead of night. It’s so dark you can hardly see anything. The only thing we can see are some dim lights seeping through the windows of what I’m assuming is a house. The camera pans up and we can see some more lights from other houses until we can see the skyline of the city silhouetted against the moonlight.

After a moment looking at the city’s skyline, we can hear a commotion of people talking and shouting.

The camera then cuts and it’s brighter now, and we’re among a crowd. It looks like many of these people we’re among are police officers, but there’s also some ordinary citizens. We’re following a man in a suit with long hair as he pushes his way through the crowd toward a brick building. There’s an opening in the building guarded by two policemen on either side who are holding back the crowd.

The man we’re following isn’t wearing a police uniform, but the officers guarding the entrance let him pass by anyway. On the other side, he’s about to turn around the corner just to the right when he runs into another man who stops him. It’s Robbie Coltrane’s character, Sergeant Peter Godley. Now that we’ve stopped moving, we can see the man we were following is Johnny Depp’s character, Inspector Frederick Abberline.

That explains why the police officers let him pass by while holding back the crowd.

Sgt. Godley grabs Inspector Abberline tells him not to go in there. There’s no need.

Even though Abberline has stopped, the camera takes us past both Godley and Abberline to another entrance just behind Godley. An older man is standing by the open door looking into what I’m assuming is a house. He asks a uniformed police officer how bad it is; the reply is simply that the officer has a hand to his mouth as if he’s trying to stop himself from vomiting.

He composes himself quickly, and taking off his hat, he mutters that she’s in pieces. Then he walks out of the house and off the view of the camera. With a little better view now, we can identify the older man by the door as Ian Richardson’s character, Sir Charles Warren.

Warren turns to Godley to say that Abberline can go in now.

The camera follows Abberline as he walks through the doorway into the house and almost immediately, we can see the back wall is splattered with blood. The movie cuts to a closeup of Abberline’s face as he’s shocked to see what has to be a gruesome scene.

The true story behind this week’s event depicted in the movie From Hell

That sequence comes from the 2001 movie called From Hell. The event it’s depicting is when Mary Kelly was found murdered. She’s widely believed to be the final victim of the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper. Mary’s body was discovered this week in history on November 9th, 1888.

Just before the sequence that I described, the movie shows the murder taking place and that’s something the movie does a lot of: Filling in the gaps. The truth is that we still don’t know with absolute certainty who Jack the Ripper was, so even though there have been a lot of people who have dug into the story and come up with a lot of theories and hypotheses—at the end of the day, it’s a mystery we don’t have all the answers to.

What we do know, though, is that Mary Kelly was working as a prostitute at the time of her murder. Unfortunately, her profession in the 1800s meant that a lot of society looked down on her and today that means we simply don’t know a lot about her other than things the investigators uncovered after her death.

For example, we don’t know for sure when or where she was born, although the investigators talking to someone that she lived with said she was born in Ireland, probably around 1863. So, that would make her 25 at the time of her murder.

In the movie, Mary Kelly is played by a red headed Heather Graham as she and Johnny Depp’s character, Inspector Abberline, have some sort of a romantic relationship going on.

That relationship is made up for the movie, but she might have had red hair. There were reports of that. Others said she had blonde hair. Still others said she had black hair. Or maybe she changed her hair color; we don’t really know.

What’s less likely is a relationship between Mary Kelly and Inspector Abberline.

While Frederick Abberline was a real person, and he really was the inspector on the Jack the Ripper case.

But there’s nothing to suggest Abberline had a relationship with Mary Kelly.

Remember when I said just a moment ago that Mary Kelly had lived with someone? That was a man named Joseph Barnett, and he is not in the movie at all, but he was the one to recount some of the final moments of Mary’s life.

He revealed that on the evening of November 8th he was with Mary but had left at about 7 or 8 o’clock that night. She wasn’t alone when he left; there were a couple other women with Mary—Maria Harvey and Lizzie Albrook. When investigators talked to them, one of the women named Lizzie said Mary was sober even though others had said they saw her having a drink earlier in the evening. Other witnesses said they saw Mary having a drink at a nearby pub with a couple of friends. I’m not sure if that was Maria and Lizzie or someone else. Apparently, she had enough to drink to make her drunk. By 11:45 PM, Mary was seen being drunk and returning home with a man.

Mary’s night wasn’t over, though, because she was seen again at about 2:00 in the morning by a man named George Hutchinson—that wasn’t the man she took home earlier, but George was someone who knew Mary. She asked him for some money, but he didn’t have anything to give her. He told police that he saw Mary walking away before being approached by another man. The two disappeared into the night and George didn’t think anything of it.

Others who lived around Mary said they didn’t hear anything coming from Mary’s place. Maybe someone left around 5:45 AM, but because of Mary’s occupation no one thought anything of it and nothing seemed to be amiss.

At about 10:45 in the morning, the landlord’s assistant went to collect rent—the place Mary was staying was the kind of place you rented by the day. When he knocked on her door there was no response. The door was locked, but he managed to look through the broken window and saw Mary’s mutilated body on the bed.

The assistant told his boss, the landlord, first, who went to make sure the assistant was telling the truth before the police were called. The police arrived, including Inspector Abberline, and the investigation began.

If you want to watch the event that happened this week in history as it’s shown in the movies, check out the 2001 movie called From Hell. We started our segment today at about an hour and 46 minutes into the movie.

And if you want to dig deeper into the true story, we covered that movie back on episode #93—and we also did an extra bonus episode that’s almost three hours of additional historical context from newspaper reports at the time, too!

I’ll throw a link to both of those in the show notes for this episode if you want to check them out.


November 11th, 1620. Atlantic Ocean.

We’re under the wooden deck of a ship. There are three men in the room, two of which are sitting. Right away we can recognize the actor Anthony Hopkins as the only man who is standing. He’s cast as Captain Jones in the movie. He’s also wearing something different than the two men who are sitting; they’re wearing a black shirt with a huge white collar.

Between them on a table is a map, and all three men are looking at it as if they’re figuring out where they are on the map. Then, someone calls from above. Rushing to the deck, Captain Jones makes it there just in time to hear the lookout call, “Land Ho!”

A flurry of activity can be seen on the ship now as everyone looks, too. We hear some of them calling out, “Land! Land!”

The camera cuts to a view of the water, panning to the left we can see a thin strip of land on the horizon.

Back on the ship, everyone is cheering the sight of land. Men, women, and children are excited at the news. The women are wearing head coverings and most of the men are wearing similar outfits to the two men we talked about a moment ago—the black shirts with huge white collars.

In the next shot, we can see the ship’s sails are up as it floats in the water near a row of trees along the beach. The camera focuses on one of the young men named John Alden on the ship as he talks to a young lady named Priscilla Mullins.

Alden is played by Michael Beck in the movie while Mullins is played by Jenny Agutter.

He says she must be wondering the same as he is: What the future holds in this place. She says she knows what she wants, but that’s not always what you get. He goes on to start talking about another on the ship named Myles Standish, but she cuts him off. Putting her hand on his, she starts talking about a future of the two of them, together.

He smiles at this, saying that when she goes ashore he’ll be there—to welcome her home.

The true story behind this week’s event depicted in the movie Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure

That sequence comes from the 1979 made for TV movie called Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure. The event it’s depicting is when a group of English settlers that we now know as the Pilgrims landed on what is today the United States on November 11th, 1620.

The movie’s depiction is very dramatized, but I suppose that’s to be expected for a movie that’s basically about a bunch of families stuck on a ship for a couple months—66 days to be precise.

Anthony Hopkins’ character, Captain Christopher Jones, really was the name of the man who was in charge of the Mayflower. The other two people the movie mentions by name in the segment we talked about, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, were also real people. And they really were a couple, John ended up marrying Priscilla the following year in 1621.

The reason for the Pilgrims’ leaving England was entirely religious. Basically, they weren’t happy with the Church of England. They thought it had become just as corrupt as the Catholic Church was. So, they moved to Holland in an attempt to leave the religion of England behind. But they encountered a new foe: Non-religious people in Holland. Basically, some of the children decided not to follow their religion, they started learning how to speak Dutch instead of English, and this all terrified the parents. They didn’t want their children to be seduced by a non-English, secular life.

So, they decided to move again. This time they wanted to go where there would be no distractions and what better place than the New World across the Atlantic Ocean?

They went back to England to get prepared for the trip across the ocean, and in August of 1620 they set sail on two ships: The Mayflower and another ship called the Speedwell, which had launched from Holland and planned to meet up with the Mayflower for the voyage.

But, the Speedwell started leaking.

It obviously couldn’t make the trip, so they had to return to England. They repaired it, set out again, and it started leaking again. They decided to ditch the Speedwell, and everyone piled into the Mayflower for the trip. There were now 102 passengers on a ship that’s 80 feet by 20 feet; that’s about 24 meters by 6 meters.

On top of that, the delays meant they left in September instead of August and they encountered a lot more storms as the weather changed. They sighted land on November 9th, so also this week in history, and then made landfall on November 11th. But they didn’t land where they wanted to. They had planned on landing in Virginia, which had been colonized by the English since 1606. Well, I guess 1585 was when the Roanoake Colony was established but that didn’t last, but that’s another story.

For our story this week, though, by the time the Pilgrims were going to the New World in 1620, they had permission to go to the Virginia colony. But they missed the mark and instead landed near what is now the state of Massachusetts. That’s roughly 450 miles, or 720 kilometers, to the north.

When the Pilgrims landed there, they established a colony in Plymouth. In fact, Plymouth, Massachusetts is a town that still exists today…and although a lot of people think it was named by the Pilgrims, it received its name from English explorer John Smith, who named the area in 1614 after the town of Plymouth, England. It was a coincidence that the Pilgrims, after their fiasco dealing with the leaking ship we talked about earlier would end up leaving from Plymouth, England in 1620. But, they were the ones who founded the Plymouth Colony—John Smith mapped the region and named it, he didn’t settle a colony there.

If you want to watch the event that happened this week in history as it’s depicted in the movies, check out 1979’s Mayflower: The Pilgrims’ Adventure. We started our segment about an hour, 26 minutes and 12 seconds into the movie.


November 11th, 1918. France.

We’re in a French village. There are three yellow buildings, one on either side of a brick plaza with one in the center blocking our view of anything beyond but the blue sky above. In the foreground of the buildings, a bunch of German soldiers are milling about. They look dirty, scuffed up, and rather defeated. A medical truck with a white flag and red cross on it sits off to the left as soldiers continue walking through the plaza. The camera cuts to a different truck as more German soldiers hop out.

Church bells are tolling throughout the town, as if to announce something.

In the next shot, we’re inside as a German officer sits at a large desk. He has a stern look on his face.

Now we’re back outside with the soldiers and with an overhead shot, we can see all the soldiers are walking the same direction, from the left side to the right side of the frame. We follow one of the soldiers from behind as we can see a big building up in the distance. All the soldiers gather beneath the building just as we can see the German officer who was behind the desk emerging from the second story window. We can identify him now as Devid Striesow’s character, General Friedrichs.

He looks out over the soldiers as they’re called to attention. A moment later, Friedrichs begins a speech to his men. In a nutshell, his speech asks them if they want to return home as soldiers and heroes, or as weaklings? He then orders them to make one last charge before it’s over.

A few soldiers refuse, and they’re dragged away by other soldiers. As the rest of the men slowly turn and walk the opposite direction, we can hear the gunfire as the soldiers refusing the order are shot.

The camera cuts now and we’re not in town anymore. We’re in a trench filled with what look like French soldiers just standing around, talking to each other. The soldier in the center of the frame hears something, though. And we can hear it in the movie, too. It’s a rumble and people shouting, although it’s not anywhere close. They’re muffled as if they’re a ways off from where we are in the trench.

It seems to have caught the soldier’s attention, though, and he turns to the camera to listen a little more intently. Then, after a brief moment, he shouts out to his colleagues, telling them to get into position. The soldiers behind him jump into action, putting on their helmets.

Then the camera cuts to where the noise is coming from. We’re following scores of German soldiers running through the muddy ground. We can’t see how many there are exactly because it’s so foggy out that the men off in the distance just disappear into the fog. But they’re shouting, and it must be enough to cause the rumble we heard a moment ago.

Back inside the trenches, the soldier is yelling to his men to open fire at the oncoming attack. A blast hits somewhere nearby, raining dirt down on the men. They grab their rifles and run down the trench toward the enemy. A siren goes off in the trench, alerting even more soldiers of the attack as we can see soldiers standing up at the top of the trench taking aim with their rifles.

The camera cuts to a machine gun placement as it opens fire.

The sprinting German soldiers start getting hit by the machine gun, and we see some of them fall. An artillery shell hits, sending dirt sky high. It’s hard to tell if there was anyone close enough to get hit by that, but the machine gun keeps shooting and more men fall.

Now the camera switches angles to be right behind the two soldiers operating the machine gun and we can see the German soldiers just off in the distance. It’s hard to see how many are close by with the fog, but they’re getting closer to the trenches.

The closer they get, the closer they are to the machine gun. Even more Germans are hit at what’s point blank range now and fall to the ground.

The camera follows one of the German soldiers as he keeps running forward. Men to the left and right fall as they’re hit by bullets, but he doesn’t even look. He seems unphased by the death and carnage around him as he just looks forward and runs. There are others like him, too, who keep running. When he gets closer to the trenches, he falls on his hands and knees and crawls the rest of the way.

Hiding behind a dead horse for cover, he grabs a grenade and tosses it in the direction of the enemy. There’s no strategy behind the toss, it’s obviously just throwing it that way because the enemy is that way.

The true story behind this week’s event depicted in the movie All Quiet on the Western Front

That sequence comes from 2022 movie called All Quiet on the Western Front. The event it’s depicting is the armistice that ended World War I, which happened this week in history on November 11th, 1918.

While we didn’t cover the part of the movie with the armistice being signed, the timing of the segment we talked about happened after the armistice was signed at 5:45 AM and when it would go into effect at 11:00 AM. So, there was a few hours when everyone knew peace was happening and yet, in the movie, we see General Fredrichs ordering his men to make one last charge; to return home as heroes instead of weaklings.

How much of that happened?

Well, I posed that exact question to Dr. Christopher Warren back on episode #218 of Based on a True Story.

Dr. Warren is the Vice President of Collections and Senior Curator at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and he shared a lot of great insights into the real history behind the whole movie, but here’s an excerpt from my chat with Dr. Warren about the part of the movie we talked about what happened this week in history.

Dan LeFebvre: Was the movie be correct to show this literal last minute, last second fighting that we see happening in the movie being ordered by General Friedrichs?

Dr. Christopher Warren: So well, first of all, he’s not a real character and he’s not actually even in the original novel. Oh, okay. Okay. It’s true that units on all sides were fighting right up until the last minute. Lots of units have like I said, pulled back and decided they weren’t going to attack each other.

But there were some that kept fighting, that commanders that were trying to position their units, grab some glory at the end, that type of thing. So that absolutely happened to my knowledge that there wasn’t any German or any other offenses that occurred that we’re supposed to start within that.

Close to the end of the war, 15 minutes. I think that’s a little bit dramatic. Interjection. So that’s a little bit probably not quite as accurate, but certainly they were fighting right up and inserts. It’s right up to the last minute there. I didn’t as a historian that was a little bit, historical, but I didn’t have a problem with it because I understood what the filmmaker was trying to do in terms of.

You notice that when the commander says, we’re going to keep fighting, there’s some German soldiers who protest and they dragged him off and they shoot him and get the building. Paul doesn’t even read, he, he’s being portrayed as he’s so warned, he doesn’t care. It doesn’t even influence him whether he lives or dies at that point.

So he’s not mad at anything that despair and desperation and just his soul has been crushed to that point. So I understand why they were trying to do that because that was absolutely soldiers on all sides, how they felt by the end of the war.

If you want to learn about the historical accuracy of the rest of the movie, you can find the full interview with Dr. Warren by scrolling back to episode #218 of Based on a True Story. Or if you want to watch the event as it’s shown in the 2022 movie All Quiet on the Western Front, and we started our segment today near the end of the movie at about two hours and four minutes into it.



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