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My View: Thumbs up for ‘Amelia’

My View
Jim Malone

Fasten your seat belt at the opening of "Amelia." A Lockheed aircraft thunders on takeoff heading directly for the viewer of this film about aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

Suddenly, you are 1,000 feet up as the trimotor craft banks over tidy farmland and coastal terrain. It's the first of a number of memorable flights you'll take with cool Hilary Swank at the controls.

There are so many records to this slender flier's credit, the film leaves it wisely to clips taken from Movietone News: "She has already set a woman's world altitude record. Last year (1927) Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic. Will Miss Earhart be next? ..."

The film risks balancing two or three different flights but generally pulls it off. Early on, there is a lovely foreshadowing sequence of a pre-teen Amelia, the so-called "Kansas tomboy," riding a farmhouse as if in a race with a biplane.

Not all of real-life Earhart makes the cut. The book "The Sound of Wings" reveals ties to family in Medford and work at a Boston settlement house. Every spare dime went for flying lessons at Squantum air base in Quincy.

Amelia was recruited by George Putnam (played by Richard Gere), her mentor and later her husband. The film dialogue shows her great love of flying and determination.

After the float plane churned out of Boston Harbor to the jumping-off area in Newfoundland, in a weather delay the pilot went drinking again. Stern Amelia somehow hauls him aboard. She has the right stuff.

The pontoon plane's landfall on the Wales shoreline comes with Welsh villagers rowing out and singing their welcome, a special moment.

London embraced Amelia; ticker tape and book deals followed in New York City. And Amelia finally gave in to marriage (though "We're both still free," she advised George).

Ever restless, one morning she asked her husband, "Would you mind if I flew the Atlantic?" Seven women had been killed trying, but a meteorologist gave the OK.

Now a solo pilot, the camera follows her May 20, 1932, return to Newfoundland, Europe-bound into a storm front that roiled and thundered around her.

Her plane laden with ice, she barely recovered from a deadly oceanward spin. But the sun broke through to light up her landing on the rich green fields of Northern Ireland.

Her final flight, departing Miami on June 1, 1937, with navigator Fred Noonan, aimed to encircle the globe at the equator, another woman's "first."

Wrote author Paul L. Briand Jr. in "Daughter of the Sky," by June 30 the 22,000 miles of flying had taken an "unremitting toll." The 2,566-mile leg from Lae, New Guinea, to tiny Howland Island in mid-Pacific was marked by long radio silences.

Near dawn from about 200 miles out, the Coast Guard cutter Itasca heard her request a bearing, then at 100 miles, perhaps closer.

The film captures the drama as the Lockheed's gas runs low, though there are no precise theories on the cause of its disappearance.

Describing an imaginary "line of position" on Howland, the intrepid Amelia advises that their aircraft would search up and down that navigation "ladder."

"We are running north and south" were her last words. Ahead lay Valhalla.

*Jim Malone is a freelance writer from Middleton.

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As Big as the Sky

Chandra Prasad's Amelia Earhart is bigger, grander, and more dramatic

Wednesday, November 04, 2009
By Donald Brown

She disappeared forever, seemingly, after a transmission on July 2, 1937. But Amelia Earhart is back. With the aviatrix currently on the big screen in Mira Nair's Amelia, and with new conjectures about her disappearance surfacing, these are favorable conditions for Chandra Prasad's Breathe the Sky, a fictional rendering of major events in Earhart's life and career.

The dramatic focus of the novel, indeed half its length, is a tour de force presentation of her fatal attempt to circle the globe. Having learned Earhart made a visit to New Haven shortly before that flight, Prasad gave the famed pilot a cameo in her earlier novel On Borrowed Wings, set at Yale, where Earhart speaks in Woolsey Hall. Prasad "continued to read about her out of personal curiosity," soon "had a miniature Earhart library" next to her desk, and planned to "write about [Earhart] on a larger scale."

Prasad initially set out to write a novel balancing Earhart's presence with fictional women of the period influenced by Earhart, but found, in writing, that Earhart's story was "simply bigger, grander, and more dramatic." And, as Prasad notes, "Earhart tends to experience a marked surge in popularity every decade or so. It has been this way ever since she disappeared."

So the challenge became how to make her own distinct version of Earhart's story, "an ode to Amelia."

In focusing on Earhart, Breathe the Sky brings us into her consciousness, shaping the relationships in the book — particularly with husband George Putnam, and with Fred Noonan, her navigator on the final flight — through Earhart's point of view. And yet there are nice novelistic touches outside Earhart's perspective, such as views of the heroine as seen by the Putnams — George, his first wife Dorothy, their son David — when she stays at their grand home in Rye, N.Y. And late in the book there's a memorable glimpse of Noonan's final hours. Indeed, Prasad invests Noonan with a certain stalwart pathos. He is the person closest to Earhart in her bid to circle the globe, but seems never completely simpatico with his demanding boss. He is also the one person to share her uncertain fate.

To give us Earhart, Prasad must also give us the rigors of aviation at the time, but without bogging her narrative in too much technical detail. She keeps everything rolling along, much as Earhart herself seemed to do. In Prasad's hands, Earhart is neither a daredevil nor a stickler for caution. She operates on instinct, on talent, and on a belief in herself and in her equipment. Aviation and Earhart's love for it dominate the book.

At times, we might almost say flying becomes a metaphor for a woman's effort to set herself apart from the reigning expectations facing women at the time. Or we might try to see Earhart as, to use a potent phrase the narrator lets fall when estimating what captured the public's attention, "an entire nation's raw potential poured into female form." But whenever we might be tempted to read Earhart as a symbol, Prasad brings us back to the logistical problems facing her heroine — whether flight paths, fueling problems, or the many projects her husband G. P. uses her fame to promote.

We find that living at risk, by courage and skill, is a heroic calling, but also an exhausting one, taking its toll on relationships, and even on Earhart's ability to see herself, on the ground, as anything other than the sum total of her fame and her flights. Only in the air is she herself.

The novel provides a gritty, unglamorized, or as Prasad says, "resolutely unsentimental" account of a unique and determined woman who succeeded, though not without misgivings and set-backs, on an unprecedented scale in a dangerous and exciting field.

Novels are, for Prasad, "daring, creative ventures ... meant to take readers to places they didn't expect to go." Breathe the Sky takes us into the cramped space of that Lockheed Electra, and then into a do-or-die situation on the last leg of that journey, trying to reach tiny Howland Island. It's a trip you'll be glad to have made with her.

Donald Brown is a regular contributor to the New Haven Review.
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What Happened to Amelia Earhart?

Amelia Earhart disappeared July 2, 1937. Earhart was an aviator and pioneer. She became the first woman to win the Distinguished Flying Cross after being the first woman to solo across the Atlantic. Earhart worked to inspire and help women interested in flying careers and formed the Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. She disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to circumnavigate the world. Her mysterious disappearance has been a source of speculation and conspiracy theories since 1937. However, Earhart probably ran out of fuel and ditched either in the ocean or on an island and perished.

On March 17, 1937, Earhart’s first attempt to circumnavigate the world did not get far. After traveling from California to Hawaii, her plane experienced mechanical problems and was grounded. The plane ended up severely damaged and had to be transported back to California for repairs. Earhart made her final attempt two months later.

Quietly, Earhart and crew member Fred Noonan left California for Miami beginning her second attempt at circumnavigation. On June 1, she took off from Miami and traveled 22,000 miles before arriving in New Guinea. Earhart had 7,000 Pacific Ocean miles left. On July 2, the pair left Lae, New Guinea for Howland Island.

Earhart experienced technical difficulties on the Howland Island approach. There are several theories about what happened ranging from a damaged antenna to confusion on Earhart’s part. There is no way to know for certain. Whatever happened, Earhart and Noonan missed the island and began to run low on fuel. Soon after, the plane crashed.

Amelia Earhart tried to inform rescuers of her location. Transmissions continued for a few days after they ditched. However, rescuers could not make use of them to find the downed plane. The U.S. Navy joined the search, but turned up nothing. There was some evidence of a crash on Gardner Island, but since the island was considered uninhabited, it was discounted. Instead, the navy focused on the open ocean. After the official search ended, Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, continued the search on his own. Eventually, he gave up and had her declared dead in 1939.

Following her disappearance, several conspiracy theories emerged. Some claimed Earhart and Noonan were American spies captured and executed by the Japanese. Others believe the Japanese captured the aviators and murdered them, but they were not spies. One bizarre theory claims she returned to America and lived under an assumed name. Still another, popular after World War II, argued Earhart was the infamous Japanese propagandist, Tokyo Rose. There is no evidence to support any of these claims.

For years, most researchers believed the plane ditched in the ocean. However, recent examinations of Gardner Island have turned up intriguing evidence. For example, a skeleton of a white woman was found in 1940. Unfortunately, it has disappeared. Additionally, makeshift tools, Plexiglas, a zipper, the heel from a woman’s boot in Earhart’s size, and an aluminum panel have been found. Although nothing placing Earhart on the island directly has been uncovered, the artifacts are tantalizing.

What happened to Amelia Earhart will remain a mystery until her remains are found and identified. Until then, there is only speculation. The Gardner Island finds provide circumstantial evidence that point to a crash and subsequent attempts at survival. Unfortunately, the skeletal remains found by the British have been lost. Whatever happened, Earhart was a skilled pilot and inspiration to men and women aviators everywhere. Like John F. Kennedy, Amelia Earhart should be remembered for what she accomplished and not how she died.

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“Amelia” Earhart: A Different Kind of “Chick Flick”

I had the opportunity this weekend to catch a movie filled with adventure, romance, suspense and period glamor. As with so many films, the story literally flew out of the pages of our history books and onto the silver screen. Hilary Swank is a revelation as "Amelia" Earhart, the barrier-breaking female aviatrix who captured the world's attention in the 1920s and 1930s before her tragic disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

While she passed away before I was born, like many Americans, I grew up with a special affection for Earhart, who was a fellow Kansan who'd made good. From small-town roots, she struck her own unique and independent path--with confidence and without apology--inhabiting an increasingly glamorous world, yet never losing her down-to-earth ability to call too much fuss and bluster a load of "hooey."

Her achievements buoyed a nation that had fallen on hard times. Yet as she soared to megawatt international stardom, she was keenly aware of the struggles of working families in the depths of the Great Depression. Indeed one of the more dazzling (and true) scenes from the film involves Earhart taking then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on an impromptu late-night flight over the nation's capital--two iconic women leaders looking down over the most powerful city in the world.

Earhart handled the more than occasional dig at her gender with unflappable grace and infectious brio. In doing so, she broke barriers and inspired generations well beyond the world of aviation. She did well by her home state, too. A key early booster of commercial air travel, Earhart helped vastly expand an industry that today is one of Kansas' leading job creators.

Fox Searchlight deserves kudos for bringing this important American story to the big screen, particularly at a time when strong female leads in major motion pictures are believed by many to be too few and far between.

Movies are incomparable in bringing history to life and to the masses. And, this one certainly boasts an on-time arrival as women leaders convene in Southern California this week for The Women's Conference. Central to the conversation there, undoubtedly, will be The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything. This groundbreaking document, produced in partnership with the Center for American Progress, explores the "new normal" in our society where women now make up half the work force and, nearly as often as men, are the chief breadwinners in their households.

We may love our "Mad Men" on television. But increasingly our society is moving beyond "the problem that has no name," as Betty Friedan once famously put it. According to The Shriver Report, from the kitchen table to the conference room, men and women increasingly are negotiating together a new balance of work and home. There, too, Earhart was ahead of her time, striking the word "obey" from her wedding vows and noting firmly but with affection that her marriage was a "partnership" of "dual control."

Growing up in Kansas, the Earhart legend was fresh in the minds of the people around me. She faced danger and courage at a time when this was not encouraged in women, and she changed history, women's lives and our society in the process. Throughout her life, Earhart continually exhorted women to "take to the skies." In the decades since her disappearance, they have answered her call in a virtually limitless abundance of ways. Now, through the power of movies, Amelia Earhart's real-life heroism is inspiring a new generation. I hope they remember her as I do--head held high, looking to the horizon.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-glickman/amelia-earhart-a-differen_b_333658.html


Earhart’s Final Resting Place Believed Found

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

Oct. 23, 2009 -- Legendary aviatrix Amelia Earhart mostly likely died on an uninhabited tropical island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, according to researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR).

Tall, slender, blonde and brave, Earhart disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937 in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator. Her final resting place has long been a mystery.

For years, Richard Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director and author of the book "Finding Amelia," and his crew have been searching the Nikumaroro island for evidence of Earhart. A tiny coral atoll, Nikumaroro was some 300 miles southeast of Earhart's target destination, Howland Island.

A number of artifacts recovered by TIGHAR would suggest that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, made a forced landing on the island's smooth, flat coral reef.

According to Gillespie, who is set to embark on a new $500,000 Nikumaroro expedition next summer, the two became castaways and eventually died there.

"We know that in 1940 British Colonial Service officer Gerald Gallagher recovered a partial skeleton of a castaway on Nikumaroro. Unfortunately, those bones have now been lost," Gillespie said.

The archival record by Gallagher suggests that the bones were found in a remote area of the island, in a place that was unlikely to have been seen during an aerial search.

A woman's shoe, an empty bottle and a sextant box whose serial numbers are consistent with a type known to have been carried by Noonan were all found near the site where the bones were discovered.

"The reason why they found a partial skeleton is that many of the bones had been carried off by giant coconut crabs. There is a remote chance that some of the bones might still survive deep in crab burrows," Gillespie said.

Although she did not succeed in her around-the-world expedition, Earhart flew off into the legend just after her final radio transmission.

Books, movies and television specials about her disappearance abound as well as speculation about her fate. Theories proliferated that she was a spy, that she was captured by the Japanese, that she died in a prisoner-of-war camp, and that she survived and returned to live her life as a New Jersey housewife.

A new biopic about Earhart's life, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, opens this weekend.

The general consensus has been that the plane had run out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean, somewhere near Howland Island.

But according to Gillespie, the "volume of evidence" TIGHAR has gathered suggests an alternative scenario.

"Propagation analysis of nearly 200 radio signals heard for several days after the disappearance make it virtually indisputable that the airplane was on land," Gillespie said.

Eventually, Earhart's twin-engine plane, the Electra, was ripped apart by Nikumaroro's strong waves and swept out into deep water, leaving no visible trace.

"The evidence is plentiful -- but not conclusive yet -- to support the hypothesis that Amelia landed and died on the island of Nikumaroro," forensic anthropologist Karen Ramey Burns told Discovery News.

The author of a book on Earhart, Burns believes that the strongest of the amassed evidence comes from the report related to the partial skeleton found by Gallagher.

"The skeleton was found to be consistent in appearance with females of European descent in the United States today, and the stature was consistent with that of Amelia Earhart," said Burns.

According to Burns, another piece of documentary evidence comes from the accounts of Lt. John O. Lambrecht, a U.S. Naval aviator participating in the search for Earhart's plane. Lambrecht reported "signs of recent habitation" on what was an officially uninhabited atoll.

Lambrechet's report begs the question: Why did no one follow up?

"I have stood in plain sight on Nikumaroro in a white shirt waving wildly as a helicopter flew over me and was not noticed until the video tape of the flight was examined," Burns said.

"I find it very easy to believe that Amelia and Fred would not have been seen by the pilot. If the Electra was not visible at the time, their last chance of rescue was lost in Lambrecht's notes," she added.

Abandoned on a desert island where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees, even in the shade, Earhart and Noonan likely eventually succumbed to any number of causes, including injury and infection, food poisoning from toxic fish, or simply dehydration.

The coconut crabs' great pincers would have done the rest, likely removing some of the last physical traces of this pioneering aviatrix.

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Purdue has close ties with Amelia Earhart legacy

Posted: Oct 21, 2009 4:11 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 21, 2009 7:08 PM EDT

Purdue's Amelia Earhart ties

West Lafayette - A whole new generation is about to be exposed to Amelia Earhart. The movie Amelia is scheduled to be in theaters this Friday. Her story is very familiar to Indiana because of her close ties to Purdue University.

Nearly three quarters of a century, 72 autumns to be exact, have passed over the Purdue campus since she was here. Purdue has close ties to the life and the legacy of the woman who died trying to fly around the world.

"She wanted to see if she could do it," said Dr. Robin Jensen, communications professor.

"To me Amelia Earhart is like a comet that shot across the 1930s," said John Norberg, Purdue aviation author.

Amelia Earhart had already "arrived" by the time she arrived at Purdue University in 1935, at the invitation of then President Edward Elliott. She was plucked out of obscurity as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic with two male pilots in 1928. In 1935 she flew solo across the Atlantic, five years after Lindberg.

"She really loved Purdue. Loved the atmosphere. She loved that this was the first university to have an airport," said Norberg.

Her statue on the campus calls her an inspirer of dreams, mentor and aviator. Flying certainly attracted Earhart to Purdue but she also took her job to help woman prepare for careers very seriously. She handed out a survey and found 92% of the woman on campus wanted a career. Her job was to help their dreams take flight.

"The women on campus saw her and they all wanted to copy her. They wanted to be like Amelia," said Norberg.

Norberg says they went to the dean of women to ask if they could wear slacks and were told, "When you fly an airplane solo across the Atlantic, you may wear slacks on the Purdue University campus."

Much of her life at Purdue and beyond is captured in the world's largest Amelia Earhart collection donated to the University Archives by her husband George Palmer Putnam.

The Purdue Research Foundation actually funded the plane for the ill-fated mission around the world. It cost $80,000 but the hope was in the long run that she would be able to write a book about her successful exploits.

The fascination with Amelia Earhart has always been the mystery of how she died. At Purdue the focus is on how she lived.

"You have to find the adventure in life that seems to be interesting to you and you have to follow them no matter where they take you," said Dr. Jensen.

"We have women students here today who are living Amelia Earhart's dream. She started it here just about 75 years ago," said Norberg.

Seventy-two years ago, most of the women enrolled at Purdue could only dream of a career in aviation. Now that dream is a reality - and they are free to dress how they please and pursue whatever career they want.


Aviator style from ‘Amelia’ lands on runways, too


NEW YORK — Before they became staples of the runway, bomber jackets, flight suits and protective aviator sunglasses were born in the cockpit of an early — and cold — airplane.

They were necessary in drafty flying machines with metal doors that were a struggle just to keep closed. But as aviation pioneers such as Amelia Earhart brought their style around the world, they sparked fashion trends that have been with us ever since.

The leather bomber jacket shown in the new Earhart biopic "Amelia" starring Hilary Swank marries function and style in a way that finicky fashion has embraced through the years, says Franco DiCarlo, executive vice president of Belstaff USA, the brand that collaborated with the filmmakers on key wardrobe pieces.

"A lot of the aviator jackets are timeless in style and they perform under a great variety of weather. ... They say fashion is cyclical, but this is timeless," he says.

But when the styles landed in the 1920s and '30s, it was uncharted territory, allowing for a woman like Earhart to help craft the image and vocabulary of a flyer's style, says "Amelia" costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone.

"The whole history of aviation was really being invented and part of that was inventing the new language," she says.

At first pilots borrowed silhouettes from horseback riders, race-car drivers and motorcyclists, later adapting jodhpurs, goggles and the zip-front leather jackets, among other items.

Early on, Earhart wore these things, too, but she had a lifelong interest in fashion so many of the more stylish, more feminine adaptations came from her. At one point, she had her own clothing line — a second career to support her flying.

"She wore clothes with a natural ease and elegance," says Maimone. "I did love her evening gowns as much as I loved the flightwear. I loved the combination of the super practical flight clothing and the elegance of the eveningwear. I loved that it was one closet for the same person."

The movie's director, Mira Nair, says time, effort and money went into capturing the right visuals of Earhart's time. "We wanted to make the costumes seems as modern as they were then. ... We didn't want it to look like a `costume movie.' We wanted wearable, practical clothes with great style."

She was a fan of a white silk charmeuse tank top and winter-white trousers Swank wore, as well as an open-back, pewter-colored gown. "So often I moved the camera to shoot the dress and the plane. The plane was horizontal but I wanted to show off the full figure of Amelia because there's such enjoyment of her silhouette."

Nair adds, "If I had the figure, I'd wear the brown-leather catsuit thing she wore." She'll still have her chance: slim jumpsuits in stores this past spring are back in designer collections for 2010.

And Nair is still mulling a leather bomber and tie-up boots for her shopping list this season. "I'm pretty amazed to see what's happening in fashion magazines. In the last six weeks, I've seen so many with the aviator look."

The vintage bomber silhouette has a cropped length and slim sleeve — and it looks great with boyfriend jeans and heels or a maxi dress, says Belstaff's di Franco. The company is currently offering it in both a sleek, urban-vibe black calfskin as well as broken-in cognac. Belstaff said it is selling exceptionally well, after similar success offering a version of the leather jacket in "The Aviator," the 2004 Oscar-winning movie.

Aviator eyewear was also born of necessity for pilots who needed to be shielded from both the sun and external agents.

The Italian brand Persol has been making aviator eyewear since 1917, and some pilots still choose Persol, says brand manager Chiara Bernardi, but new lenses with photochromic and polarized lenses allow for protection without the original, more gogglelike look.

Of course, most people wearing contemporary aviator sunglasses, with their trademark fuller lens and flatter frame, aren't battling tough elements. "We're more on the `completing-your-outfit' part of life now," Bernardi says. "It's a fashion accessory, but the aviator shape influences the whole industry."

DiCarlo says aviator and motorcycle looks become more influential in times like this, when tastemakers and consumers have a craving for authenticity, longevity and value.

"A leather jacket is something we've done for 85 years," DiCarlo says. "It comes and goes in fashion, but it plays in our favor that it's a `trend' that kind of lasts forever."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Earhart’s Mystique Takes Wing Again

Published: October 16, 2009

FAME is fleeting, of course, but certain forms of it are stickier than others. More than seven decades after her death the aviatrix Amelia Earhart still fascinates. Called Lady Lindy for her willingness to attempt ill-advised, even foolhardy feats, she has been the subject of more than 100 books, and her name is plastered on bridges, Navy ships, museums and festivals throughout the United States and points beyond. Now she is the subject of a biopic, “Amelia,” directed by Mira Nair, starring Hilary Swank and opening Friday, which reverently portrays a celebrity who remained remarkably irreverent and curiously humble until her death while trying to circumnavigate the globe.

Her disappearance in 1937 and its attendant mystery account for some of the ongoing allure, but she endures because she was a pioneer whose adventures went beyond personal aggrandizement. Earhart took on the laws of nature (humans were not meant to fly) and the conventions of the time (adventure was a man’s business) and seemed to soar above both. “I want to do it because I want to do it,” she said, as a way to explain her desire to accomplish what no woman had.

Her pluck is a matter of record, but parts of her life remain tantalizingly out of reach. And that knowledge gap convinced a number of Amelia-philes — including Ted Waitt, the co-founder of the computer maker Gateway — that there were enough complications behind the legend to make for a motion picture. Earhart was her own thing, but she was also ripe for the projection of others — a goad not only to dream big, but to live large.

Ms. Nair, director of Indian-theme movies like “Salaam Bombay!,” “The Namesake,” and “Monsoon Wedding” (a story soon to be on Broadway), calls Earhart as America’s first modern celebrity. A hero of the protofeminist movement for her single-mindedness, Earhart was also commercially shrewd and aware that her fame had uses beyond her own gratification.

As her flying exploits mounted, bringing hope and adventure to the dreary decade of the 1930s, Earhart wrote books, magazine stories (she was a contributing editor at Cosmopolitan), starred in newsreels, endorsed numerous products and, yes, designed her own line of “active living” clothing. But what put her in the cockpit of all those endeavors in the first place was an ability and willingness to fly airplanes, often over long distances, at a time when flying was considered a sport, and a risky one at that.

“In the last week I have flown from Los Angeles to Italy, back to L.A., then a few days later I flew to Dubai, then Dubai to London, and in two days I will be flying back home,” said Ms. Swank, who won best actress Oscars for her performances in “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby.” “We take all of that for granted, but people paid a price to make that a reality. Amelia Earhart found something that she loved, a passion, and went after it. All of us, especially women, are the better because of it.”

The magic of flying, the improbability of it, is restored in “Amelia,” which is kind of an origins story of how civil aviation came to be a commonplace part of American life. In the same way you can see the birth of modern media management as George Putman, who had published a successful book on Charles A. Lindbergh, asked Earhart, then obscure, to be part of a transatlantic flight attempt in 1928.

A former newspaper publisher, he had a book concept (Lindbergh in a skirt) in the works and more or less cast Earhart as the heroine. “I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes,” she observed ruefully, but in 1932 she accomplished the feat on her own, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for her bravery. She and Mr. Putman were a powerful promotional team and eventually fell in love and married, but “Amelia” makes clear that she continued to navigate according to her own compass, striking up a separate romantic relationship with Gene Vidal, an aviation pioneer (and father of Gore Vidal).

Born in Atchison, Kan., in 1897, Earhart was the daughter of one of the first women to reach the summit of Pikes Peak, and her father, although crippled by alcoholism, was a lawyer and inventor. Earhart received her flying license in 1921, broke the women’s altitude record in 1922 and in 1928 flew as a passenger across the Atlantic, writing about it in “20 Hrs., 40 Min.,” which established her fame. After her solo flight across the Atlantic she became the first pilot to fly solo to California from Hawaii in 1934.

But if Earhart’s life was lived in a very bright light, her death remains a mystery that people still try to unravel. Celebrities who die today end up in a video on TMZ before their bodies are cold, but Earhart, who disappeared at 40 during a flight over the Pacific, has never been found.

Mr. Waitt, now retired from Gateway, is among the legions of people drawn to that mystery. Something of an adventurer himself, he has spent many hours and no small amount of money investigating her death. “Amelia,” with a budget of about $20 million, became the first feature film produced by Avalon Pictures, a subsidiary of Avalon Capital Group, a private investment company he runs.

“The more I researched her disappearance, the more fascinated I became by her life,” he said. “What she did at the time she did it is extraordinary. At the time flying was considered an extreme sport, and the risks that she faced took an incredible amount of guts. She was an amazing role model, and the more I learned, the more I thought this would make an incredible film.”

Mr. Waitt’s company bought the rights to two books about her life, Susan Butler’s “East to the Dawn” and Mary Lovell’s “Sound of Wings,” and hired Ron Bass (“Rain Man”) and Anna Hamilton Phelan (“Gorillas in the Mist”) to write the script. He retained Elgen M. Long, co-author of “Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved,” and his now-deceased wife, Marie K. Long, to serve as technical consultants.

Earhart’s life and death have attracted myriad collectors and history buffs, but Mr. Long may be among the most avid. A commercial pilot and experienced navigator, he lives in Reno, Nev., in a home that is partly a shrine to the young girl from Kansas who fell in love on her first flight and never let go of the stick. Mr. Long, 82, has thousands of pieces of memorabilia, including 145 of the original transcribed radio messages signed by the radio operator from her last flight, as well as letters, pictures, even her last will and testament.

“Amelia is responsible for so many things that we take for granted these days in terms of what has happened in aviation and in the rights of women,” Mr. Long said. “I was thrilled that Mira directed the film because she is something of a pioneer in a man’s field, and I think a lot of the insights into Amelia’s character came to her quite naturally.” He was especially pleased that Earhart’s actual radio transmissions narrate at the end of the film.

On July 2, 1937, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from New Guinea, about 22,000 miles into their effort to circumnavigate the earth. They aimed for Howland Island, a sliver of an island 2,500 miles into the Pacific. Almost everyone, even today, is aware that they never made it; they most likely ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. The United States government spent $4 million (close to $60 million today) looking for her, the most it had ever spent on an air search and rescue, but the plane was never found.

For the producers and creative team behind “Amelia,” the forces that compelled Earhart to take those risks are common, even if hers led to uncommon ends.

“The more I read about her, the more I thought she is like I was,” said Ms. Nair, who comes from a small village in India. “Beyond the enigma of how she died, I’m hoping that people will see themselves in her decisions to set aside her fears and live her life to the fullest.”


Airplanes In ‘Amelia’ Movie Made By Mo. Man

Airdrome Aeroplanes In Holden Known For Historic Aircraft Models

POSTED: 7:59 pm CDT October 16, 2009
UPDATED: 8:11 pm CDT October 16, 2009

HOLDEN, Mo. -- Two of the model planes that appear in a new movie about Amelia Earhart are sitting in a local airplane hangar.

The airplanes featured in the movie "Amelia" were made by Robert Baslee, of Airdrome Aeroplanes in Holden.

"It's just some passion about building something that doesn't exist -- just take raw materials, build a flying airplane, recreate history -- that's really neat," Baslee told KMBC's Maria Antonia.

Baslee said he started building planes when he was 15. By 1989, he had designed a Fokker triplane, which is a World War I fighter aircraft.

Baslee has built 20 different designs of World War I airplanes.

In 2005, the makers of the movie "Flyboys" asked Baslee to create the Nieuport 17 plane models that fly in the film.

"We actually created four airplanes in 52 days," Baslee said.

Then, the producers of "Amelia" came calling. Baslee created a Bleriot XI and another aircraft for the film. Both planes are used in scenes that show how Earhart, played by Hilary Swank, became fascinated with the idea of flying.

"To me it's about creating the aircraft. The (movie) glitz that goes around it just happens -- I don't get too tied up into that," Baslee said.

However, he said his daughter enjoyed meeting actor James Franco on the set of "Flyboys."

Meanwhile, in Atchison, Kan., where the aviation pioneer was born, the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum is offering $10 tickets that will get people in to see both the movie and the museum next weekend.

"Amelia" opens nationwide on Oct. 23.

To view original article, please click here.

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Hilary Swank Becomes Amelia Earhart

Updated: Friday, 16 Oct 2009, 6:57 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 16 Oct 2009, 6:54 PM EDT

MYFOXNY.COM - Two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank plays the legendary aviator in "Amelia," a new film from the acclaimed director Mira Nair.

The two spent some time in at Airbound Aviation at the Essex County Airport in New Jersey to present props, costumes and mementos from the film to be taken to the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, in Kansas.

Fox 5's Anne Craig attended the event interviewed Swank about her latest role and asked the actress what is was like to actually take flying lessons.

"Amelia" opens Friday, October 23, 2009.

ABOUT THE FILM: An extraordinary life of adventure, celebrity and continuing mystery comes to light in AMELIA, a vast, thrilling account of legendary aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank). After becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Amelia was thrust into a new role as America's sweetheart - the legendary "goddess of light," known for her bold, larger-than-life charisma. Yet, even with her global fame solidified, her belief in flirting with danger and standing up as her own, outspoken woman never changed. She was an inspiration to people everywhere, from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Cherry Jones) to the men closest to her heart: her husband, promoter and publishing magnate George P. Putnam (Golden Globe winner Richard Gere), and her long time friend and lover, pilot Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor). In the summer of 1937, Amelia set off on her most daunting mission yet: a solo flight around the world that she and George both anxiously foresaw as destined, whatever the outcome, to become one of the most talked-about journeys in history. AMELIA is directed by Mira Nair (THE NAMESAKE, VANITY FAIR, MONSOON WEDDING) from a screenplay by Academy Award winner Ron Bass (RAIN MAN) and Anna Hamilton Phelan. The film is produced by Ted Waitt, Kevin Hyman and Lydia Dean Pilcher with Ron Bass and Hilary Swank serving as executive producers and Don Carmody as co-producer. AMELIA opens Friday, October 23, 2009.

For more information and to watch the trailer, please visit: www.myfoxny.com.