Amelia (2009) Poster

(2009)

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  • The film is a biopic about Amelia Earhart [1897-1937], the famous aviatrix (woman aviator) who became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and the first to attempt to fly an equatorial route around the world. Near the end of her trip, on a leg that started in Lae, New Guinea and was scheduled to land for refueling on Howland Island, a tiny speck of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, went missing. Her remains have never been recovered, and her disappearance is one of the most puzzling mysteries of the 20th century.

  • Amelia is based on a script written by American screenwriter Ronald Bass. However, the screenplay was based on Bass' research utilizing Earhart biographies such as East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart (1997) by Susan Butler, The Sound of Wings (1989) by Mary S. Lovell, and Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved (1999) by Elgen and Mary Long.

  • After flying from Miami, Florida and making various stops in places like Africa, Calcutta, and Bangkok, Amelia (Hilary Swank) and Fred (Christopher Eccleston) arrive at Lae, Papua New Guinea on 29 June with 6,866 miles to go before reaching their final destination in Oakland, California. The day before they leave Lae, Fred makes a subtle pass at Amelia, but she refuses him. "All you need to do is just show up tomorrow morning," she tells him. "Show up sober, and get me to Howland Island." In a tear-jerking call to husband George Putnam (Richard Gere), Amelia promises him that this will be her last flight. On 2 July, after lightening the Electra of all excess weight, Amelia and Fred set out for Howland Island where the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca awaits them, ready to guide them to the island with a direction finder once they get near. At take-off, the headwinds are strong, causing them to lose 9% of their fuel, but the flight is so far smooth. Unbeknownst to Amelia, the direction finder on the Itasca has gone dead, having been left on all night. At about 200 miles from Howland, Amelia radios her position to Itasca and the fact that the sky has become cloudy and overcast. When Itasca attempts to radio her back, however, all Amelia gets is static. For the rest of the approach, Amelia cannot hear Itasca's transmissions, although they can hear hers. Itasca tries using Morse code, not knowing that Amelia tossed out her Morse receiver when lightening the plane. Amelia radios in again when 100 miles out, requesting that Itasca take bearings on her, but she hangs up too quickly for them to do so. Itasca requests that she change from a frequency of 3,105 kilohertz to 500 kilohertz, but she doesn't hear the message, so they continue to transmit on both. Itasca sends up a smoke signal from their smokestack, which should be visible from 20 miles away, but Amelia doesn't see it through the overcast. Itasca requests that she transmit on 7,500 kilohertz, but Amelia does not receive that message. In her final radio message to Itasca, Amelia informs them that she is on position line 157-337, running north and south. She is not heard from again. In the final scene, Putnam sits along the California coastline, looking out to sea and up to the sky. In a voiceover, Amelia says, All the things I've never said for so very long, look up, they're in my eyes. Everyone has oceans to fly, as long as you have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries? Just before the credits roll, captions read, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan vanished somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on July 2nd, 1937. The U.S. Government mounted the largest rescue mission in history, but no evidence of the Electra was found. The fate of Amelia Earhart has intrigued the world for generations. This is followed by photos of the real Amelia Earhart and another voiceover saying, "I think about the hands I have held, the places I've seen, the vast lands whose dirt is caked on the bottom of my shoes. The world has changed me."

  • A direction finder uses two receivers, spaced apart, to locate the source of a transmission via triangulation. For more details about the workings of a direction finder, see here.

  • As the movie states, her disappearance was never solved. Neither her remains nor any part of the Electra have yet been uncovered. There have been several theories and even some leads that have, so far, proven fruitless. The most likely explanation is that she ran out of fuel and went down somewhere over the Pacific. The Electra then sank to the bottom of the ocean, and Amelia and Fred were either killed in the crash or drowned. In the aftermath of her disappearance, searches of various islands in the vicinity were conducted to no avail. In 1940, several artifacts and a skeleton thought to belong to a tall female were found on Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro), but the bones have since been lost. Urban legends also abound, one of them being that Amelia was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese. Another is that she survived the flight, took on a new identity, and moved to New Jersey. After investigation of both of these claims, they were denounced as false.

  • Elinor Smith [1911-2010], licensed as a pilot when she was 16 years old, had a long career as a test pilot and record-breaking aviatrix.

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