Tuesday, June 28, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Jimmie Wedell, June 28, 1934


June 28 1934: Jimmie Wedell

And they lay to rest Jimmy Wedell. He died as a soldier in the discharge of his duty, for he was teaching somebody how to fly. Aviation is the greatest advancement in our times and America is spending the most money on it, yet our whole  government, whole army, whole navy, had to wait to see how fast they could fly till Jimmy Wedell (through his own personality and personal honesty got financial backing from generous and public-spirited Mr. Williams) made the plane.  Who knows but what aviation might not be permanently set back 100 miles an hour through the loss of this fellow, with the knowledge that was buried with him.  Such men should be grabbed up at once and put into our government service.  He had kept one thing that was in keeping with all great aviators and that was his modest.

Yours,
Will Rogers
Beverly Hills, Calif., June 28 1934

So who was this man Jimmy Wedell, of whom Will Rogers was so moved to write? Wedell blazed into the headlines in 1926, a barnstormer who had a need for speed and a heart turned to good works.  Like Wiley Post, he had one eye, but that didn’t prevent him from being one of the top racing plane designers and top racers of the romantic interwar aviation era. Together with his partner Harry Williams, he crafted the legendary Wedell Williams Specials, the stubby-winged all-engine monoplane racers that set speed records and thrilled aviation enthusiasts with their blunt, cartoonish appearance.

Friday, June 17, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: United Airlines Flight 624, June 17, 1948


June 17, 1948: Earl Carroll, Henry L. Jackson, Venita Varden, Berryl Wallace

Flight 624 “Mainliner Utah,” had originated out of San Diego with stops in Los Angeles and Chicago.  The DC-6 was one of a new generation of pressurized passenger aircraft developed by the aviation industry in the 1940s. The flight was a “red-eye;” it departed California in the evening of June 16, and had flown across the continent, headed for LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
As was the case in the glamour-days of air-travel, the flight was carrying glamorous people. Earl Carroll was a Broadway original.  A songwriter, producer, and director, he had helped originate the Broadway “review” musical show complete with scantily clad dancing girls, and he also produced the first ever-Broadway show featuring totally-nude female dancers. Some of the most popular Broadway standards and scores of Broadways Golden Era also came from his pen. Carroll’s shows displayed the talents of Sophie Tucker, Milton Berle and Jack Benny.

Monday, June 6, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Jessica Kaplan, June 6, 2003


All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, act II, Scene 7


Jessica Kaplan was nothing less than a creative prodigy. She sold her first screenplay when she was just sixteen, and had her first writing credit at 21. The first story she sold, “The Powers that Be,” was picked up by New Line Cinema in 1995 for $150,000.  It was a decade before it made it to the screen, as “Havoc,” directed by Barbara Kopple and starring Anne Hathaway in the role of the rich poseur who along with her frinds gets involved in the dark side of the Latino “gangsta” culture of Los Angeles.  She had also worked on a film adaptation of the Daniel Handler novel The Basic Eight and had sold a pilot, Telegraph Hill, to CBS. According to Variety, Kaplan and her then-writing partner Jamie Hawkins were developing further projects for television, while Kaplan also pursued poetry and short story development.  Hawkins told Variety that “She just wanted to tackle everything … I'm sure she would have. She was a visionary herself and was always able to inspire her friends.”
            On June 6, 2003, the 24-year-old screenwriter was a passenger on a Beechcraft Bonanza (registry N1856P), flown by her uncle Jeffrey Siegel.  Siegel was flying from Santa Monica to Sun Valley, Idaho, and was giving his niece a lift to Las Vegas.  Two other passengers were flying along to view some property of Siegel’s in Idaho. The flight left Santa Monica at 3:45PM Pacific Daylight Time.  Ten minutes later, the airplane crashed into an apartment house in the Fairfax district of L.A., killing all four persons on the aircraft plus one person in the building.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Leslie Howard, June 1 1943


The world still knows Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes, the thoughtful, angst-ridden object of Scarlett O’Hara’s affections in the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind.  In many ways, Howard was Ashley Wilkes – a shell-shocked veteran of World War I, a patriot in support of his country in time of war during World War II.  He had also played The Scarlett Pimpernel on screen (1934) and it is this latter role --acting as a rescuer of those terrorized by the French Revolution-- that parallels his other career as spy in defense of freedom: Leslie Howard was an agent of Allied efforts in neutral countries during the second war.  Did these activities lead to his assassination by the Luftwaffe as he flew from Portugal to London on June 1 1943?