Amelia, Hilary Swank

Someone please tell me Amelia Earhart didn’t do a photo shoot in which she touted the virtues of a waffle maker.  Cigarettes, luggage, clothing, I’m okay with all that, but a waffle iron?  That’s not okay.  It’s a jarring moment in the movie.  Amelia, the feminist who bobbed her hair and wore aviation pants, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, a fearless aviator who died somewhere in the Pacific, I doubt she ever made waffles for her husband or any other man.  It just doesn’t fit the image.

Amelia, Hilary SwankHusband George Putnam, publisher and author, surely had enough money to buy his wife all the planes she wanted, but Putnam was also a first-class promoter.  Amelia  dutifully did book tours, gave motivational speeches, and posed for magazine ads.

There are nice moments in the movie: the promise Amelia extracted from Putnam before she would agree to marry him, tender moments with young Gore Vidal, the son of her lover, Gene, her unexpected landing in Scotland.  The flying scenes are dramatic.  Amelia in the cockpit, her plane being tossed by storms, lightening flashing all around her, is a heroic figure.

Yet there’s something missing from the movie.  You walk out of the theater feeling there was a lot more to Amelia Earhart than what you’ve been shown.  The version of her life presented is so sanitized, so without emotion, you do not know this woman.  The emotion has been drained away, the critical moments of her life smoothed over, the highs and lows all leveled out.

When she was in the air, in the cockpit, she was free.  Maybe it’s best that we remember her that way, still up there, still flying among the stars.  I hope the Pacific never gives up the secret of what happened to her that July night in 1937, keeps hidden the remains of the Electra plane she was flying.  It’s better to remember Amelia Earhart dressed in aviator clothes, in the sky, among the stars, in control of her life.

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