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327: This Week: Amelia, All the President’s Men, Lizzie

In this episode, we’ll learn about historical events that happened this week in history as they were depicted in these movies: Amelia, All the President’s Men, and Lizzie.

Events from This Week in History


Birthdays from This Week in History


A Historical Movie Released This Week in History

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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.

June 17th, 1928. Newfoundland.

The scene in our first movie starts with quite a beautiful view of nature. We’re looking down a river, the water is very calm and still. On the left side of the frame, trees line the bank of the river. On the right side, a big red building sits, partially hanging over the river. Even though you can’t feel temperature through a movie, the heavy fog sitting over the entire scene makes me think it’s probably a chilly morning.

In the next shot we can see two men and one woman standing on the bank of the river next to a dock leading out to a big, red airplane that’s sitting on the water. The word “Friendship” is written on the side of the plane.

One of the men walks down the dock and gets into the plane. The woman follows behind, then she turns around and calls to the man still on the bank of the river. She tells him to read tomorrow’s paper because we’ll both be in them!

Then, Hillary Swank’s version of Amelia Earhart gets in the plane. The engines on the plane roar to life as the last man runs down the dock and hops in the plane. The camera switches to inside the plane and we can see the two men in the cockpit with Earhart in the back. One of the men calls back to her to start the clock, which she does, just as they push the throttle forward and the plane takes off.

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

That is just the beginning of the sequence, but it’s showing how the 2009 movie Amelia shows an event that took place this week in history when Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger. They took off from Trepassy Harbour, Newfoundland, on June 17th, 1928, and then 20 hours and 40 minutes later they landed in Burry Port, South Wales.

To add a little more historical context, though, the event I just described wasn’t the first time Earhart pushed the limits of flying. For example, in 1922 she set an unofficial altitude record for female pilots at 14,000 feet. That’s about 4,267 meters. She also became only the 16th woman to get an international pilot’s license in 1923.

Then, after a few years off from flying because of her parent’s divorce, Amelia Earhart was really launched into the public consciousness with the flight this week in history, the one we saw happen in the movie.

And just like we see in the movie, the airplane she made this flight with was a seaplane named “Friendship.”

Wilmer Stultz was the pilot, the co-pilot was Louis Gordon and Amelia Earhart was a passenger. Although that brief little line in the movie where we hear Hillary Swank’s version of Amelia saying to keep an eye out for tomorrow’s newspaper because they’ll be famous…while it is true this flight practically made her an aviation star overnight, I saw something in my research where she was quoted afterward as downplaying the event.

After all, she was a passenger.

“Stultz did all the flying—had to,” Amelia Earhart was quoted as saying, “I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes. Maybe someday I’ll try it alone.”

And that she did.

A little less than four years later, in May of 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. We covered that event back when it happened in the month of May on BOATS This Week, episode number #248.

But if you want to watch the event that happened this week, the text on the screen saying it’s June 17th, 1928 starts at about 15 minutes and 10 seconds into the movie.


June 17th, 1972. Washington, D.C.

Except for the opening credits of the movie, the screen is pitch black. We can’t see anything, but if we listen closely…there’s a noise. It’s not a loud noise, but it sounds like someone is maybe fiddling with a door handle.

There’s still nothing on the screen, but the noise continues for a few more seconds. Maybe they’re having a hard time opening the door?

Finally, we can see something on the screen. Sure enough, it was a door that’s now being opened and letting some light in. Now we can see the camera is at the end of a hallway. The door that was just opened is on the other end of the hallway, and it looks like there are at least five men on the other side of the door.

All the lights are off, but one of the men is carrying a flashlight. I guess they’re not going to even try turning on the lights. After a moment, the camera cuts to an exterior view of the building we’re in. It’s nighttime out, and although we can see five or six floors of the building, it doesn’t look like any of the rooms in the building have their lights on. It’s pitch black inside, except for the one flashlight that we saw a moment ago. Now, from outside the building, we can see the flashlight through one of the building’s windows as it’s moving around.

Actually, wait, I think there’s more than one flashlight.

It’s hard to tell from the movie, but I counted five guys on the other side of the door when it opened so it’d make sense if there was more than one flashlight. The camera is still outside looking into a few floors of the building cloaked in the darkness of the night when we see a couple of the flashlights separating. Some of the guys must be moving off to another room while some are staying behind.

When the camera cuts, it takes us to a parking garage. It’s still nighttime, and the parking garage is completely empty. On the left side of the screen, there’s a ramp painted with double yellow lines that leads up to the darkness of the night. On the right side of the frame, it looks like there’s a cement pathway large enough for a car to go down and maybe around the corner. We can’t really see beyond that, but it does look like there are some big garage rollup doors along the wall on the right side as well. Overhead, a couple rows of fluorescent lights cast some dim light into the otherwise dark garage.

If I had to guess, I’d say this is the basement parking of the building where the men are.

Then we see movement on the left side of the camera frame as a lone person appears at the top of the ramp and walks down it. The sound of footsteps echo through the empty garage. When he reaches the bottom of the ramp, we can see a couple things thanks to those fluorescent lights.

First, we can see it’s a man. We can also see he’s wearing what looks like a uniform. Probably a security guard. He walks over to the wall on the right side at the far end of the screen to where a regular door is.

The camera cuts to a closeup of the doorknob and we can see there’s tape on the door’s latchbolt bore. It looks like someone taped the door to keep it from latching shut. The security guard puts his hand on the doorknob and pushes the door open. He doesn’t even have to turn the knob. He peels off the tape, and the latch pops out to its normal position.

Now the scene cuts to a car driving down the dark road.

We can hear a call go out over the radio, saying there’s a possible burglary at the Watergate building. Inside the car, the man in the passenger seat picks up the radio to reply. He asks if they should respond. They’re not wearing uniforms.

And sure enough, we can tell they’re not wearing uniforms. The driver looks like he has a maroon shirt with a denim jacket and the passenger with the radio is wearing a striped button down under a dark jacket. They’re both wearing different style bowling hats. In the back seat we can see another man, but it’s too blurry and out of focus to tell what he’s wearing. The point, though, is that they’re not wearing police uniforms. But these must be policemen. Maybe undercover?

Over the radio, the dispatcher tells them to take the call because the other cops nearby are getting gas.

Now the camera cuts back to the men with the flashlight inside the building. We can hear the same noise we heard to start our segment. Except this time we can see what they’re doing: They’re trying to jimmy open the doors. No wonder why it took a little bit of that noise for them to open the door before.

They’re breaking in!

Finally, the guy jimmying the lock gets it open. Inside the room we can see a couple black and white photographs above a black couch. One photograph looks to be President Harry Truman shaking someone’s hand, and next to it is a portrait of President John F. Kennedy.

There are four men who enter the room. They’re all wearing gloves as they go about whatever it is they’re doing there. One of the men pulls out a hand radio and calls, “Unit 1 to Unit 2. We’re home.”

Maybe the other guys we saw are one of the other units? There are multiple units breaking in?

On the street below, the unmarked car with the plainclothes cops inside stops out front of the building and the three men get out. A man watching from the building across the street speaks into the radio, “Base 1 to Unit 1. We have some activity here.”

We can see the four men in the room with the Presidents’ photos on the wall receiving the warning from the radio. The man with the radio shuts off the radio so it doesn’t make anymore noise. But the guy who identified himself as Base 1 keeps calling to Unit 1, saying there are lights on the 8th floor now. And now we can see the same shot of the building’s exterior that we saw before. Except this time, it’s obvious the lights are on in one of the floors of the building. We can see the shadows of the three cops as they’re looking around.

The Base 1 guy keeps calling over the radio, saying we might have some problems.

In the Presidential photograph room with the four men, they’re staying perfectly still to not make a noise. Another man quietly slips into the room and says “Somebody’s here!” as he rushes past the other four. Without saying a word, all the men pack up their belongings and start to rush off the camera’s frame.

The camera cuts to the plainclothes cops who are going room by room, turning on the lights. They have their pistols drawn. Just then, a couple of the cops enter the Presidential photo room. They see movement behind one of the interior windows and train their guns.

“Hold it right there! Police!” one of them yells.

The five men trying to hide in the darkness stand up as ordered by the policeman. They’ve been caught.

The true story behind this week’s event depicted in the movie All the President’s Men

That comes from the 1976 film called All the President’s Men, and the event it’s depicting is the Watergate break-in, which happened this week in history. Well, at least, that’s the break-in we’re seeing in the movie.

The reason I’m phrasing it like that is because this is one of those stories that we know more about now—and now we know they broke in multiple times. But, the time we’re seeing in the movie is when they were caught.

That happened at about 2:30 AM on June 17th, 1972, which is why the movie shows it happening during the cover of night.

The movie is also correct to show how they were discovered.

Basically, a security guard noticed tape over some of the door locks—we only see him discovering one in the movie, but that’s enough to get the point across. In the true story, the security guard noticed the tape and removed it. But he didn’t call the police at first. It wasn’t until he returned to the door and noticed someone had retaped it that he called the police. The cops who showed up were under cover just like we see in the movie, too.

Sgt. Paul Leeper along with officers John Barrett and Carl Shoffler were driving around looking for drug deals on the street. Since a police car would scare away any deal before they ever got close, that’s why they were driving a light-blue Ford dressed as hippies.

When they took the call, they showed up to the Watergate complex and found five men.

Another detail the movie got right was showing a man across the street in contact with the men breaking in. That was a guy named Alfred Baldwin, who had a room was supposed to be on the lookout. I say “supposed to be” because Baldwin got distracted with the sci-fi classic Attack of the Puppet People on TV and didn’t notice the police car with three undercover cops in it until it was too late.

The police found the men carrying things like lock-picks, door jimmies, cash, cameras, film, etc.—so they knew they were doing something they shouldn’t.

You know how I mentioned they actually broke in multiple times? Well, in the true story there were four attempts to break into the Watergate. After they were caught, the subsequent investigation by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at The Washington Post uncovered the scandal that led to the first time in U.S. history that a sitting president left office when President Nixon resigned.

But if you want to watch the event that kicked it all off as it’s shown on screen, hop in the show notes to find where to watch All the President’s Men. We started our segment today at just a couple minutes into the movie.

And if you want to learn more about what happened after the events from this week in history, we covered that entire movie back on episode #122 of Based on a True Story.


June 20th, 1893. Massachusetts.

A lone man stands on top of a roof while some birds fly overhead. It’s a peaceful scene. He seems to be wearing a uniform of some kind as he watches the birds flying. The camera then cuts to inside and we can assume this is inside the building the man was on. It’s a dark room, lit only by a candle. A woman is inside, sitting in silence.

The noise of metal doors banging can be heard in the background. This seems to be a prison or jail of some sort.

We’re only with her for a moment before going back outside, though, as the camera cuts to a beautiful blue sky with big white, puffy clouds. The sun is shining through the clouds.

This scene only lasts for a few seconds, too, as now we can see the same woman who was in the dark cell is outside now. Her eyes are closed as she seems to be soaking up the sun on her face.

Then, the movie cuts to black.

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

That is how the 2018 movie called Lizzie comes to an end, and although the movie doesn’t give us any indication of timeline, we can assume that those two scenes are on either end of this week in history because it was on June 20th, 1893, that Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.

And since we see Lizzie in her cell, and then free, that’s why I’m assuming we’re seeing the moments just around the trial itself.

Lizzie’s trial actually happened almost a year earlier, so not this week in history, to understand the trial we have to understand the events that happened that day.

To be honest, we probably will never know the full story.

But what we do know is that Lizzie Borden’s father, Andrew, was 69 years old and her stepmother, Abby, was 64. Lizzie herself was 32. The Bordens were a well-off family who, despite having money, lived a rather frugal lifestyle.

On the morning of August 4th, 1892, Andrew was napping on the couch. Upstairs in the house, Abby was cleaning. Bridget, the family’s maid, wasn’t feeling well so she was in her room. Lizzie said she was in the barn looking for irons, or those lead sinkers you put on a fishing line, because they were planning to go fishing. After looking for those, she came inside to find her father lying dead on the couch.

At 11:30 AM, Bridget said she heard Lizzie’s screams after discovering the body. Andrew’s face was unrecognizable as he had been hit 11 times with a hatchet. A little while later, they found Abby’s body upstairs. She had been hit 18 or 19 times with the hatchet.

When investigators showed up soon after, Andrew’s body was still warm while Abby’s was already cold, they determined the two murders happened at least an hour and a half apart. Initially, the police thought a male “foreigner” committed the crime. They found a hatchet at a nearby farm with blood on it. But it turns out that hatchet was used to kill chickens, so that’s what that blood was. Another man was seen nearby, but he had a good alibi for the time of the murders.

Lizzie had said she was in the barn eating pears in the loft.

Wait. I thought her reason for being in the barn was to look for irons. Her story changed. That’s odd. But, she didn’t have any blood on her and killing someone with a hatchet would be covered in blood. Looking into it more, perhaps she burned a dress in a stove. Maybe that had the blood? Lizzie claimed she burned it because it was stained with paint. And the day before she had tried to buy a poison? She wasn’t actually able to purchase it, but that seemed suspicious.

The questions started to add up, and about a week later, Lizzie was arrested. She made a “Not Guilty” plea and for almost a year, Lizzie was in jail as the case as well as a jury was put together. That’s the part of the movie we heard depicted at the start of this segment.

So, that was in August of 1892.

Lizzie’s trial started on June 5th, 1893. Her defense team, which included a former governor of Massachusetts, started poking holes in the prosecution’s case. Lizzie was well-liked. She was a churchgoer. She had fainted in the courtroom right before the jury’s eyes when they brought her parent’s skulls into the courtroom as evidence.

On June 20th, it was time for the jury to consider what they’d heard over the past few weeks. Women weren’t allowed to be on juries at that time, so the jury in this case consisted of 12 men. They adjourned and an hour later came back with the verdict that Lizzie Borden was acquitted.

The final sequence leading up to seeing Lizzie Borden being freed that we described for this week in history started at about an hour and 38 minutes into the 2018 movie Lizzie.


June 22nd, 1342. Middle-earth.

There are mountains in the background against blue skies with trees and rocks scattered among the green grass in the foreground.

The camera cuts to another beautiful landscape, this time most of the grass is yellow but there are still scattered trees and bushes here and there among the rolling hills. The focus of this landscape are the pretty purple flowers, some most obvious in the foreground of the camera. The only movement we can see are two horses in the middle of the frame. Or maybe it’s a horse and a pony, as the shot continues we can see one is larger than the other.

In the next shot, the same two riders are in a new landscape now. No more purple flowers, but an almost neon green grass covers the terrain. The big boulders stand out in even more contrast against the green. A peaceful stream is in the foreground, along with what looks to be some cows grazing nearby.

There’s another cut and now we’re in some woods. Tall trees with thick trunks. The two riders aren’t on their horses anymore as they walk toward the camera, laughing as they do. The taller one, wearing a grey cloak and hat, tells the shorter one that this is the border of the Shire—and here is where they’ll split up.

After saying a few words of farewell, Martin Freeman’s version of Bilbo Baggins tells Ian McKellen’s version of Gandalf that he doesn’t have to worry about the ring because he lost it.

Then, in the next shot, we see Bilbo walking along the road carrying his things. Among the rolling green hills, round doors can be found. Some others pass him carrying a heavy box. Bilbo takes a second glance—wait a minute, that’s my mother’s glory box.

Still more of Bilbo’s things are being carried away from his home. It seems he’s arrived home just in time as they’re selling off his things!

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

As you’ve probably figured out by now, this comes from the 2014 movie The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and it’s depicting something that happened this week when Bilbo Baggins returned to his home at Bag End on June 22nd, 1342.

Well, at least, it would’ve happened this week in history if The Hobbit were based on a true story. Haha! But, I couldn’t resist to include this because the date of June 22nd, 1342, by the Shire Reckoning calendar, was mentioned quite clearly in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.

According to Tolkien’s writing, the movie was correct to show that when Bilbo returned home he found his neighboring hobbits to be auctioning off all of Bilbo’s things. His home, called Bag End, was something his own relatives wanted for their own, so when he didn’t return for so long they assumed he was dead.

His return home on June 22nd stopped all this, and he was able to prove who he was by showing them the contract he signed with the dwarves for the adventure.

And while the story may be fictional, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some real history in there. For example, the name of Bilbo’s home of Bag End came from Tolkien’s aunt who lived in a farmhouse they called Bag End. He also described the home as being on a dead-end street. Or, in other words, a cul-de-sac. Or, in other words, the bottom of the bag. Or, in other words, Bag End.

Oh, and even though he says he lost the ring, we of course know he didn’t lose the ring. His finding the ring in The Hobbit set up the next trilogy—The Lord of the Rings.

But if you want to watch Bilbo’s return home you can find the journey home starting at about 2 hours, 24 minutes in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition. While we don’t see it as much, we get the hint of his return home with the ring at the start of the next trilogy at about 7 minutes and 33 seconds into The Fellowship of the Ring.

And even though they’re not ‘based on a true story’, The Lord of the Rings are my favorite books so we for three years in a row we covered the entire trilogy by comparing the movies to the books on April Fool’s Day. You can find that series over at

Oh! And if you want to dig into some real history…I had a chat with Tolkien scholar John Garth who wrote the definitive book on J.R.R. Tolkien during World War I called Tolkien and the Great War. We talked about the 2019 biopic simply called Tolkien. So, if you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings like I am, you’ll love hearing the real history behind the experiences that influenced the fictional stories! You can find that back on episode #141 of Based on a True Story.



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