Film appears from before Amelia Earhart disappeared
It was a clear spring day in 1937. Amelia Earhart was ready to make history by flying around the world. She brought her personal photographer to a small Southern California airport. He was going to document the beginning of the journey.
Al Bresnik took dozens of still photos. They included a few that have likely been seen by millions. His brother John tagged along. John shot movie film. It made a 3.5-minute home movie. The film was very dark and grainy. Until now, almost nobody has seen it.
The film is being called "Amelia Earhart's Last Photo Shoot. It is being released this month by The Paragon Agency publishing house. An 80-page book of the same name will also be included. It documents a journey that ended very sadly, short of the finish line. Earhart's plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
A downloadable copy of the film is being given to those who buy the book. Paragon publisher Doug Westfall said he eventually plans to donate the fragile original to an archive or museum. It was given to him by John Bresnik's son.
The film was taken with a 16-millimeter camera. It sat on a shelf in the office of his father for more than 50 years. Bresnik died in 1992, said Bresnik's son. His is also named John. After that, it sat in the younger man's home in Escondido, California. It was there for about 20 more years.
"I didn't even know what was on the film until my dad died and I took it home and watched it," Bresnik said recently. "It just always sat it in a plain box on a shelf in his office. And on the outside it said, 'Amelia Earhart, Burbank Airport, 1937.' "
He can't say with certainty that his father took the film. But he knows his uncle didn't. That's because he's in it.
So is Earhart. She is looking jaunty and more playful than the public image she sometimes showed. She was dressed in a smart pantsuit rather than her standard flight jacket. She shows people around the plane. She climbs on top to pose for still photos. She occasionally grins broadly. That was something she rarely did in her official photos.
"It shows a more feminine side of her," says Nicole Swinford. She wrote the book that goes along with the film.
Like all things Earhart, it comes with disagreements.
Richard Gillespie is the executive director of the International Group For Historic Aircraft Recovery. He said the film is clearly genuine. But he believes it was taken in March 1937 and not in May, as Swinford thought.
It was in March that Earhart made her first attempt to become the first woman to circle Earth. She left from California. But she only got as far as Hawaii. There, she crashed her twin-engine Electra L-10E on takeoff. The plane had to be shipped home to be fixed.
"You can tell from the way the airplane's configured," said Gillespie. He has studied Earhart for nearly 30 years. "The airplane as shown in the film is very clearly the pre-repaired airplane."
Whatever the date of the photo shoot, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, left what's now known as Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on May 21, 1937. It was their second try. This time they headed east. Gillespie doubts there was a photo shoot before that flight. That's because she left quietly that time.
Earhart and Noonan were about two-thirds through their trip when they left New Guinea on July 2. They were bound for Howland Island. It is a tiny speck of land in the Pacific. It is midway between Australia and Hawaii. In one of her last radio transmissions, the pilot said she thought they were near but couldn't see the island. And they were low on fuel.
The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Earhart was one of the most recognizable celebrities of her time. And Westfall admitted that plenty of people may have taken her photo during stops on that trip.
But this appears to be the final film announcing her departure from California on the first leg of what would be her final flight.
"Then she left us forever," Westfall said.
Critical thinking challenge: Why might this sentence not be true: This appears to be the final film heralding her departure from California on the first leg of what would be her final flight.