Airplanes and movies were born during the same decade and have been intertwined since. In fact, back in the day, the way most people were first exposed to aviation was through the movies and newsreels, which usually ran preceding the featured movie.
If you are a vintage movie buff and aviation fanatic, “Aviators in Early Hollywood” by Shawna Kelly is a book you should read. It is one of the Images in America series (the paperbacks with the sepia-tone covers) that seem to be growing in popularity.
As the book notes, the early on-screen aviators were the celebrities of the time, sort of first-generation action heroes and stunt men and stunt women who risked their lives to entertain. Very often the pilots had a specialty, such as the airplane-to-airplane transfer, automobile-to-airplane transfer, wing walking, and even crashing. This was decades before computer animation. Even special effects using miniatures was still a few years out, while some directors — such as Howard Hughes — forbade it in their productions because the action wasn’t authentic.
The book begins with the birth of film and continues to modern times, showcasing actors such as Jimmy Stewart and Christopher Reeves, who really were pilots and played famous aviators in films.
Some of the pilots seen on screen went on to become producers and directors. Cecil B. DeMille, for example, had an accomplished aviation career in addition to his lavish cinematic productions.
Published by Arcadia Publishing, the book is available at ArcadiaPublishing.com and online booksellers.