Thursday, February 18, 2010

Amelia Earhart had nothing on Ruth Elder

There's only one thing yours truly cares to say about the recent flick "Amelia Earhart," starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere:


Ironically, the same day the DVD arrived in ye olde mailbox courtesy of our friends at Netflix, I stumbled across a kinnection to another pioneer aviatrix. (Yes, "aviatrix" is the appropriate feminine version of the word "aviator!")

Anyway, allow me to introduce you to my cousin (several times removed): Ruth Elder (1904-1977).

She left her first husband, a humble schoolteacher, to marry a member of the famous Byrd expedition to the Antarctic.

Then, inspired by Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, she left her second husband to attempt to become the first woman to cross the pond.

Good news and bad news to report on that attempt. Bad news first: It ended in a crash landing in the ocean beyond the Azores. Good news: A Dutch ship was nearby and able to rescue the intrepid Ruth and her copilot. They ended up getting a ticker tape parade in New York City.

Ruth continued flying after this setback. She placed fifth in the legendary "powderpuff derby," and was a founding member of the 99 Club. But, her good looks and charisma led her to take up a new career as an actress.

Initially, Ruth followed the vaudeville circuit, performing in towns all across America. Eventually, though, she ended up in California, where she starred in the silent film "Moran of the Marines." Her co-star Richard Dix would later be nominated for an Oscar for his performance in "Cimarron."

Anyway, I'd say Ruth Elder's life would have made for a much better script. Someone should alert Hollywood to that . . .

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