Amelia Earhart Soars at the Movies and the Smithsonian

Amelia Earhart’s mystique has captured imaginations for generations. Her disappearance during a 1937 flight around the world still holds pop culture clout

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Amelia Earhart's mystique has captured imaginations for generations and the story of this groundbreaking aviator who disappeared during a 1937 flight around the world still holds some serious pop culture clout. Her life has been memorialized in literature and song—with offerings from everyone from balladeer cowboys and Joni Mitchell to the rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive—but only rarely has it graced the silver screen. (And this includes 1943's Flight for Freedom with Rosalind Russell, a highly fictionalized treatment of Earhart's life.) That said, 2009 has been a red-letter year for big screen interpretations of the famed aviatrix carried out by not one but two Academy Award winning actresses. As some of you may recall, the summer kicked off with Night at the Museum 2: Battle for the Smithsonian and featured a bubbly Amy Adams filling the flight boots. Starting today, audiences get to see Hilary Swank climb into the cockpit and take a spin in a more serious look at Earhart and her accomplishments in the film Amelia.

As is the case with most biopics that grace the movie theaters, there are going to be those eagle-eyed viewers who relish in nitpicking over what the movie got right and what details were fudged during the creative process. I personally have high hopes for the film (it was produced by Fox Searchlight, which provided gems like Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine and Juno), but just the same, it never hurts to bone up on your Earhart history before heading to the box office—and the Smithsonian is a pretty darn good place to get a crash course (please pardon my phrasing). On view at the Air and Space Museum is the candy apple red Lockheed Vega 5B, in which Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and later across the United States. Also on display alongside the airplane is Earhart's oh-so-stylish brown leather coat, flying goggles, radio and a bust. (A display case of smaller artifacts—like pins and medals—is on display at the Udvar Hazy Center.) For those of you who can't make it out to the museums and would like a quick introduction to Earhart, check out Smithsonian magazine's piece on her flight jacket. And for younger readers, I strongly recommend Amelia Earhart by Susan Reyburn, which is a part of the larger Women Who Dare series of books from the Library of Congress Publishing Office in conjunction with Pomegranate Publications.

Below, a video from Earhart's last flight:

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