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American Women's Club of Hamburg


Starts June 17

This docudrama by Mira Nair tells the life of pilot Amelia Earhart (played by Hilary Schwank). Born in 1897, she bought her first plane in 1921. Her first trans-Atlantic flight in 1928 was as passenger with two male pilots, who needed a token woman in order to achieve a new flight record. She returned to a ticker tape parade down New York City’s Fifth Avenue and went on to a successful career as a pilot; she encouraged women to follow her example. The film shows her as she comes in third at the Cleveland Women’s Air Derby in 1929 and makes her first solo trans-Atlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1932 (after 14 other people had died trying – five years after Lindbergh). She writes a book and is the center of attention at various press appearances – a veritable poster girl for aviation and for women. In 1937 she aimed to become the first woman to fly around the world. In 1937 she and her navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston) took off eastwards (after a false start) from Miami. On the last lap from Asia to the U.S. west coast, they were supposed to refuel at tiny Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. All possible safety precautions of the time were put into place, but still she was not able to communicate by radio with the island. She probably crashed on July 2, 1937; she, Noonan, and her plane were never found in spite of a massive search.

The film shows all of this and more. Hilary Schwank is probably the best possible actress to interpret Earhart, if indeed Earhart (as she also appears in various biographies) was a tomboyish, rather masculine, woman from Atchison, Kansas, who insisted on freedom in the air and on the ground, even in her marriage to George Putnam (Richard Gere) in 1931. I wonder why Gere was willing to play a milquetoast husband who hovers in the background and smiles a lot while his wife explores “no borders, just horizons.” The most interesting detail was her supposed affair with Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), who was a pioneer in commercial aviation industry and founder of several U.S. commercial airlines. He is the father of writer Gore Vidal, here as a child played by little William Cuddy. Also, very interesting were all the old planes, black and white photos, and references to Eleanor Roosevelt. However, you can research all of this on your own without having to watch uninteresting love scenes, which seemed very fake on screen. No doubt: Earhart was a unique person, but I am still waiting for the film or book which makes her actually come to life as a real person and not a wooden icon.

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